Get discounts when you buy foods close to expiration date

Those who enjoy finding ways to cut corners have probably already discovered this method – buy foods on a short date.  Yes, especially now, when they are discussing changing the “Best by” and “Use by” dating system.

Many supermarkets have a scheme in place, where they offer foods on a short date at incredible discounts.  This is to clear their shelves and prevent waste.  Nevertheless, they may still end up throwing out a lot of good food just because they are now “expired”.  As a result of lobbying, there is talk that they will do away with expiration dates and increase education on home storage in order to keep foods fresh and safe.  The use of the dating system was for health and safety issues, but it has gone overboard.

It’s not the first time that people have stepped forward to proclaim that a “Best by” date does not mean that the food goes bad after that.  It is just a recommendation on freshness and flavour.  I’m sure I’m not the only one to have eaten food past their so-called expiration date and I did not get sick from it.  That’s not to say I always take the risk.  There is an element of common sense in all this.  If the food looks bad, smells bad or tastes bad, don’t eat it.

Similarly, if you buy meat on a short date and it is starting to brown, think twice before you buy.  Check to see whether there would be sufficient meat left if you cut out the “bad” areas.  It may be worth the discount.  Remember that some foods may be frozen, so freezing it before the “best by” date still keeps it fresh.  Bread is a good example of this.  There are people out there who already have this down to an art.  Like the guy who claims to have witnessed a man buying a pack of 6 scones & 2 packs of kippers for only 15p.  Now, there’s a bargain-hunter.

But, if the government plans to make changes to the “Best by”, “Use by” and “Expires” dating system, we may see an end to the discounts on foods with short dates.  So, it’s best to take advantage of that now.

Why buy new clothes?

I can never understand a parent’s need to make their children fashion-conscious. If you have the money to do so, I guess you can choose to do what you like.  But, there are others who lack the money, but insist that their children wear designer labels, etc.  Why?

First of all, children outgrow everything very quickly.  Not only do they outgrow the, they outlast them.  Children are usually quite rambunctious, so their clothes are often well-soiled and well-worn.  If you are short on cash, it makes no sense to continuously buy expensive clothes.

The last few jumble sales I’ve attended, I’ve managed to find some decent clothes for my girls to run around in.  They still had plenty of wear left and these were meant for them to wear for play.  Needless to say, if there were nicer clothes, meant for church or school, I would have bought them as well.  (But, sometimes, it is nice to get them a nice dress for the holidays.)  Yet, how can you resist good everyday clothes for 20p each?  Even charity shops can’t offer that.

Now, I wouldn’t do the same for shoes.  Shoes take on the shape of their owner’s feet, so used shoes never fit well.  Besides, I always worry about the cleanliness of worn shoes.  Sometimes, I feel the same about hats, but it’s not often that we buy hats, anyway.  Used socks and underwear?  No thanks.

Morrison’s rewards card

We’ve mentioned the supermarket chain Morrison’s before on this blog, in particular how they offer great value for money on weekly grocery shopping. 

Our local Morrison’s has a Morrison’s gas station, not quite attached, but nearby and they offer petrol at a rate that is comparable to, and often below, neighboring stations.  Until recently, we’d been using Morrison’s some of the time to buy our gas and others stations as and when we needed it. 

On a late evening visit, we got talking to the counter clerk and asked about the small yellow card many people present when paying for their petrol.  It turns out Morrison’s run a reward scheme based on purchases made at their gas stations.  For each purchase, the customer is rewarded with a proportionate number of points and when the points total reaches 5000, automatically qualifies for a GBP 5.00 voucher for use in Morrison’s supermarkets.

Since Morrison’s gas prices are invariably competitive, we now buy all our gas at Morrison’s and have already claimed and spent our first reward voucher.

Thrifty grocery shopping

It is unfortunate that when it comes to saving money on grocery, we sometimes have to sacrifice goodness. This is one reason why people’s health declines during times of recession. However, in order to survive financially, it is something one must do sometimes. On the other hand, there are ways to circumvent the negative effects of eating less than healthy diets, but it does require diligence and hard work (e.g., exercise). Recession teaches us a lot about thrift, and everyday we are learning new ways of being thrifty.
Buying cheaper alternatives when it comes to meat means that you will get fatter cuts of meat. If this is the best you can do, you should remove as much visible fat before cooking and always drain the fat after the meat is cooked to avoid a high intake of fat and cholesterol. Similarly, canned meats may be full of sodium and other preservatives. To my surprise, Morrison’s carries their own brand and a few lesser known brands, some of which are low in fat and/or sodium, and are quite inexpensive.  Jamie Oliver can say what he may about cheap sausages, but we cannot afford to pay 10GBP for 20 sausages.  We buy the 1GBP pack, which lasts us a week, and probably contains the worst parts of pork and chicken, but we like it.  There does not appear to be much fat that comes off when we cook it, either.
Buying in bulk makes good financial sense. This is especially true when there is a special and no buyer limits. Morrison’s often have ‘buy one get one free’ offers, or even larger bulks. The same product may be on offer several times a year, with a different offer each time. These items should be purchased when there is a special. If they are nonperishable, you should stock up well until the next special. It may sometimes mean that you will have to rearrange your dinner menus to incorporate the specials.

Although it is difficult to buy fresh fruits and vegetables in bulk, it is best to buy them when they are on special. This is usually the case when said fruits and vegetables are in season, which makes it reasonable to eat healthy and cheap at once. If fresh fruits and vegetables are difficult to obtain, frozen or tinned fruits and vegetables are available. They may not be as healthy, but they are a cheaper and non-perishable alternative.

These are only a few ways to save money when shopping for groceries. We have managed to follow some of these ways in order to feed a family of four on around 50 GBP a week. Hopefully, in future blogs we can include some recipes that are simple and use cheap ingredients.

Charity, not thrift, shops

Charity shops are another option for second-hand, and sometimes even new, goods. In Britain, there are numerous charitable organizations that have an affiliated high street shop. These organizations run the gamut from local charities benefitting the elderly and children to national organizations for different hospices and medical groups to international groups for different cultural groups.
The goods found in these shops range from clothes to household items, music, books, furniture, etc. You can also find new items, usually Fair Trade items and others produced in Third World countries. It is obvious that the second hand goods are donated items from the public sector; however, it is unclear whether the new items are donated for the benefit of the charities.

Although some may liken the charity shops to thrift stores, their prices are not always very “thrifty”. New items are priced similar to other high street shops selling similar items. Used items, although relatively inexpensive as compared to new, are priced higher than would be expected in a “thrift store”.

Charity shops are meant to benefit their own charities. They are not there for the convenience and support of the common man who may be of meager means. Knowing that you are supporting a good cause is the underlying principle of these shops.

House clearance shops

Another option for second-hand shopping is the house clearance shops. These are especially useful for buying furniture and appliances.
Unfortunately, in these credit-crunching days, more and more people are losing their homes and possessions. Others are taking advantage of the situation and setting up house clearing businesses. These businesses thrive from people going bankrupt because they have to sell off everything. Of course, they are not the only ones who are clearing entire households. Sometimes, it’s because someone has died or moving away and don’t want their stuff. These house clearers pay very little (if at all) for the stock and resell it in shops, usually at low prices. Some house clearance businesses will separate the wheat from the chaff and sell the good stuff at much higher prices. However, they are still worth checking out because thrift stores are practically non-existent.

Although auctions exist for antiques and property in the UK, it has not spread to the contents of an entire household. A house clearance business in essence is like a household auction, except that there is only one buyer. That buyer then takes it out and resells the items to the public.

Save at Jumble Sales

Another great way to shop for second hand goods is at Jumble Sales. These are set up by charity groups, such as churches or Boy Scouts. Some can be quite good. Unfortunately, the number of Jumble Sales have decreased over the years as the population in Britain has changed; therefore, the communities and cultures have changed. Jumble Sales are similar to Rummage Sales or Trash to Treasure Sales in the US, except their prices are not marked and items are just piled up rather than spread out.

Jumbles are usually advertised locally, but you can also find them in newspapers and magazines, such as the Friday Ads. These would be under the “What’s On” section. If you want to find Jumbles in areas outside where you live, you will need to look there.

Jumble items are donated by private individuals, usually the members of the organizations. All proceeds would go to the designated charity. Sometimes, especially near Christmas, there will be tables selling new items for those Christmas shoppers. These charities may also have raffles to raise money. The prices at Jumbles are usually quite low and are made up on the spot by the workers. Some haggling can be found, but for the most part, people will pay the price or refuse the item. Jumbles provide the double advantage of giving you low prices and you know that your money goes directly to the charity.

For the most part, Jumbles are well-attended. You practically have to elbow your way in to see items on a table. Sometimes, there is a mad dash at the end as the organizers try to get rid of everything and sell at rock-bottom prices.

Check out the Friday Ads

If you want to live on a budget, you should plan on buying second-hand furniture and appliances, provided they are still in good working condition. There are many ways to go about this, and this is one of them.
Our first advice would be to seek out the Friday Ads and Advantage Ads. These magazines come out weekly, on Fridays and Thursdays, respectively. They are very popular and if you are not quick, you might miss out on the issue at your favorite newsagents. However, many shops do carry them, as long as you know where to find them. The Friday Ads are more abundant. We have only found the Advantage Ads at our local grocery shop in Hartfield. Most of the ads are found in both.

These magazines offer free advertising to private customers who are selling items under a certain value, usually around 50 GBP. For items that are more expensive, there is a per word fee for listing. It appears that the magazines are paid for by advertising by companies. There is a different Friday Ad for each county, so if you live near several, you should collect one for each.

The best way to shop would be to check out the Free to Collector section in the Friday Ads. It’s unbelievable what deals you can find there. These are items listed as free as long as you collect it yourself. Although some ads are put in the wrong sections, check this section out first. Sometimes, you may find free items under other categories, so if there is a particular item you want, be sure to view those sections in their entirety for free items. You can find almost anything in the Friday Ads and they are usually very good prices because most people would like to get rid of their items at the least cost to themselves.

Things to consider when viewing the ads would be the location, price and condition. Of course, how desperately you need them may affect how you view these individual considerations. You really don’t want to have to drive a long distance just to get a dirt cheap appliance when a better one at a slightly higher price will do. However, if you can save a lot and get a better deal at a slightly further location, go for it.

Friday Ads also offer online classifieds at their website.

Lidl’s shopping

Lidl’s (sounds like, Little’s)

Neither of us had ever heard of Lidl’s before. My mother-in-law actually introduced us to it. Lidl’s is a German-based grocery store that offers many products from various EU countries. It reminds me a little of Aldi’s (also found in the UK). Whereas Aldi’s sold things in bulk, Lidl’s is mostly for smaller consumption.
Lidl’s is a small store, selling a little of almost everything, but not a lot of any one thing. Selection is, obviously, limited. Yet, the prices are quite incredibly affordable. It definitely caters to the working class. You can get brand name products from other EU countries without having to pay the high prices. There are a few generics, but they are not common. (We bought generic body gel for 13 pence – can you top that? – and no, we did not break out into rashes.)
Before we became settled, we were able to shop at Lidl’s for only 35-40 pounds sterling a week. That fed our family of four. Unfortunately, once we became a little more settled, there were other expenses to consider and our spending went up a bit. That is why we have learned to shop around for the best prices on practically everything. Lidl’s still plays a big part in our normal weekly routine but we have added a few other shops to our limited list in order to supplement our growing needs.

Morrison’s, a new way to save

Having been an ardent Walmart shopper, we have found it very difficult to find a single entity in the UK that fulfilled all our needs as our local Walmart did in the US. Although we have found multiple shops that together form a good substitute, the amount of driving to each of these shops individually reduces the amount of discount that each provides. Nevertheless, any amount of savings is worth it.

I had never heard of Morrison’s until one day I had a discussion with my mother-in-law about the various grocery stores, and how I no longer see any Safeways. She told me the story of how Morrison’s took over. Oddly enough, a few days later, we were driving through Crowborough and found a Morrison’s petrol garage (gas station ,for us Yanks). We had not noticed it before. Also, we did not realize that the grocery store was behind it. We did not discover that until some time later, when we were shopping in the town and I needed to find a toilet. I saw the signs for Morrison’s, went up a flight of stairs and found myself on another level, at the Morrison’s car park.

We didn’t start shopping Morrison’s right away. At the time, we still shopped mostly at Lidl’s. However, one day we needed something that Lidl’s did not carry, so we went over to Morrison’s. It was an eye-opener because we found some things that were cheaper than Lidl’s. Shortly after, we did some price and taste comparisons. It turned out that Morrison’s generic brand, namely Morrison’s Value, was cheaper on many items, especially canned goods. In addition, we did not sacrifice on taste. Soon, we were discovering values on many other items, including some frozen goods, like sausages.

Although Morrison’s has been invaluable, we have found that prices vary quite a bit from time to time between the several places we shop. Therefore, we need to keep an eye out for specials everywhere we go. We still cannot rely on one place to give us the best prices all the time.