Monday, 4 July 2011

You'll find me in the reduced section

I was watching some crap Saturday night telly – just realised how many of my blogs start with “I saw something on telly” - anyway, the idea was that Loraine Kelly, Jimmy Carr, and that guy from Gavin and Stacey would settle couples disagreements. One woman absolutely loved buying reduced food. She saved them an absolute fortune (although they both repeatedly said they didn’t “need” to so they must be minted), but the panel actually sided with the guy and she is now no longer allowed to shop in the reduced section. Harsh.

She was a bit of an extreme case but I absolutely love getting stuff reduced. There’s nothing quite like the thrill of getting something really cheap. Not just the half priced, half hearted “offers” the supermarkets are constantly throwing at us (although I’m not one to look a gift horse in the mouth) but it’s when you get something for just a few pence that really gets me going. I’ve been known to actively stalk the person with the reducing machine, and often walk down the same aisle five times in order to get that pizza that is already half price for even less because I just know it’s going down even more. Strangely, the reducing person is usually quite crabby and doesn’t appreciate being stalked.

I’ve seen a couple of episodes of an American show (telly again, but I write about popular culture, it’s my job to keep up to date with the current zeitgeist) called Extreme Couponing, where people were getting hundreds of dollars worth of shopping for a few dollars by seriously exploiting coupons. They also have days when coupons are worth double, and taking advantage of in-store offers, they were regularly getting paid to take stuff away. The shop staff loved it! Even the manager was laughing and giving them a round of applause.

That would never happen in this country. In Sainsburys that little printer regularly spews out about fifty little slips of paper which clog up my purse and usually end up in the bin. I actually tried to use one the other day and the till lady looked at me like I was trying to pay with a dog turd. She got her glasses out and read the small print, checking the date and the T&C’s, desperate to find a reason to refuse it. Seriously, you give them to me woman! It’s not even as if it was a coupon cut out of a magazine, although god forbid how they would react if I tried to pay with one of those. Maybe one day I’ll be organised enough to give it a go, I expect they have some kind of alarm system for those situations; I will be prepared to be escorted off the premises.

Shops actually get paid by manufacturers to use coupons, it just takes a bit more administration to process them. Clearly the supermarkets are rolling in so much cash they don’t need to spend an hour or two logging coupons to earn themselves a few extra quid. 

The man didn’t get my obsession with yellow labels until about a year ago when I sent him off to Tesco late one Saturday night with a short list of essentials. He happened to arrive just as they were doing the last of the reductions and got an obscene amount of stuff for a ridiculously low amount of pennies. He came back positively buzzing, fresh from popping his reduced food cherry. Finest sausages were the best buy at 49p a pack, straight in the freezer for them, 4 bags of slightly brown lettuce for 4p each, not quite so good as the man doesn’t eat lettuce and frankly I didn’t fancy it.

I watched another programme a few months ago (seriously, I have to get out more) about this guy who spent a month living off out of date food. He never once got ill, even when he ate some slightly green week past its date mince. I wouldn’t take a risk on the green mince, but most of the stuff I buy reduced just goes in the freezer. But I would stay away from dairy products that you can’t freeze, I think even my kids (who have been known to eat week old rice and peas from a drain and lick hose water off the patio) would question a lumpy yoghurt. But fruit, vegetables and freezable stuff is fine. It’s not as if the clock strikes midnight and food is suddenly sprouting mould and maggots anyway.

Reduced shopping is not without peril though. There have been a few times when I’ve come home with really random items that we would never eat, which technically means I’m wasting money rather than saving it. An old housemate had an obsession with reduced shopping, and one night he came home all excited because he had bought two tiny octopuses for 10p. They were too small to do anything with, and spent weeks going smelly in our fridge. 10p down and a smelly fridge? No thanks.

All danger of stinking your fridge out and making the kids ill with lumpy yoghurts aside, there’s nothing quite like the thrill of seeing those little yellow labels. And it’s great fun coming up with ways of using stuff that you don’t usually cook. Octopus and lettuce soup anyone?

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