Master the art of the supermarket reduced sticker aisle

Reduced supermarket food

If you're passing by the yellow sticker sections of the supermarket without a second glance, you're missing a massive opportunity to save a small fortune on your shopping.

Extreme bargain hunters say they save up to £65 a week making the most of these sections, but even the casual yellow sticker shopper can easily shave £20 or more off their shopping bill every week - without trying. In a recent shop, I picked up more than £10 worth of fruit and vegetables for 63p (pictured).

SEE ALSO: Revealing the secrets of the supermarkets

See also: 10 tricks to cut your grocery bill in half - without coupons

There are 10 golden rules to mastering the art of the reduced sticker aisle.

1. Time your shopping
At the end of the day, the supermarkets want the fresh fruit and vegetables that are expiring that day to be off their shelves. If they don't sell, they have to be marked down as waste. If they can sell them, even for a tiny fraction of their original price, they can mark them as sold. It means that items that usually cost £1-£3 will be marked down to as little as 3p.

Tom Church, co-founder of has put together a guide to when supermarkets do their final reductions. He found the Co-op and Morrisons tend to do it at 7pm, Sainsbury's and Tesco at 8pm, and Asda at 9. However, it's worth checking with a member of staff, because each store will vary.

2. Know where all the reduced sections are
There will be yellow sticker sections for fruit and vegetables, and separate reduced sections for chilled food, bakery items, flowers and plants, the deli counter, damaged items and the seasonal aisle. It's worth checking each of them.

3. Check the reduction
The logic supermarkets use for reductions can be hard to fathom. You can have a tin of beans with a huge dent, with 1p knocked off the price, or a perfect magnum of champagne reduced to half price because it's January. Check each item, compare it to the supermarket own brand at full price, and any special offers running at the time, and only buy it if the discount is good enough.

4. Only buy what you will use
Quick Quid has produced a guide to yellow stickers, and warns that it's essential not to get carried away with a saving. If you're not going to use something, then buying it is not saving you anything - it's a waste of money.

5. Consider the freezer
Think carefully about what you can freeze, and what you can cook up and freeze in portions. Church did an experiment last year where he only bought yellow sticker items for a whole year (and saved £3,400). His big tip was to buy and freeze. If you're not sure if something will freeze, take your smartphone and do a search.

6. Don't be afraid of the unfamiliar
Often the fruit and vegetables or chilled fish or meat that has been leftover will be something you are unfamiliar with - and unsure how to cook. Don't be afraid to ask your fellow bargain hunters for tips if you see them picking it up.

7. Check for seasonal savings the following day
Easter eggs and Christmas chocolate will be sold at a massive discount the day after the big event - and even less a week later. If you are shopping for chocolate - or for baking ingredients - they can be the cheapest way to snap up a bargain.

8. Be prepared to try other supermarkets
Some are better with their stock control than others, but in any area you will find some that massively over-order and have plenty for sale at highly reduced prices. Don't assume that posher supermarkets offer worse discounts - some branches of Waitrose and M&S have just as many fruits and vegetables for 3p as Asda.

9. Mix it up with full price bargains
Quick Quid recommends the 'world food' aisles, where staples are often cheaper than elsewhere in the supermarket. You may be able to pick up large containers of rice and spices for a fraction of the price of smaller containers on other aisles. They may not have a yellow sticker or a big red 'reduced' badge, but may still represent a brilliant bargain.

10. Be considerate
It's great to snap up a bargain, but if you are hovering around the fruit and vegetable aisle with a group of other bargain-hunters for the final reductions to emerge, then don't get too carried away that you deprive someone else of a cut-price dinner. You never know who wants a good deal, and who is depending on it in order to be able to eat. There's plenty to go around if everyone shows a bit of consideration for one another.

Save money on shopping: ten great tricks
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Save money on shopping: ten great tricks

The more work you are prepared to put in, the more you stand to save. If you put your shopping list into, you can identify where each individual items is cheapest, and can technically buy every single item at its lowest possible price.

If that sounds a bit too much like hard work, a reasonable compromise is to shop at two supermarkets: once at the weekend and once mid-week. You can buy each item at the cheapest of the two shops, and save money without devoting hours to shopping.

There are several deal-sharing sites, including and Most of them have a ‘freebies’ section, where you can get items completely free, and all have a section where they post fantastic deals that are well worth taking advantage of.

They will often point the way to coupons for brilliant discounts too.

The more time you have spare to spend looking for these, the more you can save.

It’s worth following your favourite brands on Facebook or Twitter. It’s also important to pick up in-house magazines, try your free local paper, and check any letters from supermarket loyalty schemes for your vouchers. If you have a Nectar card, visit the website before you shop, so you can upload the latest deals to your card.

While you’re in-store, keep your eyes peeled for promotions on packets, and on receipts. Often the deal-hunting websites will offer a short cut to many of these, but if you have the opportunity to do some legwork, you will find plenty of others.

Compare the price of your branded goods (after you use the coupon) with the cheapest supermarket alternative. If the discount makes it the cheapest option, then feel free to use it immediately.

However, if it doesn’t bring the price down below the own brand price, then don't throw it away. Hang onto the coupon, and check every few days to see if there’s an offer running on the brand at any time before the coupon expires. A deal plus a coupon is often the cheapest option.

Prices change all the time, but it pays to have a shopping list annotated with the usual price - or an old receipt - on hand when you are shopping. When something is on sale, compare it to the usual selling price from your list, to decide if it’s really as good value as it purports to be.
The frugal experts have decent storage areas at home, so if there’s a very special deal on washing powder or toilet paper, tins or toiletries, they can stock up for a few months at a knock-down price. It’s not generally worth doing on fresh produce, or packets with a short shelf life though, because throwing something away that’s out of date will undo all of your good work.
There can be some incredible bargains in the ‘yellow sticker’ sections of the supermarket. Most stores will have a spot for fruit and vegetable reductions, somewhere for chilled food price cuts, one for bakery products, and a final one for those with a longer shelf life that may be a bit battered, or separated from the outer packaging. Check them all for a possible discount.

The ’yellow sticker’ items will usually be reduced at least twice a day: once in the afternoon and once later in the evening. If you can wait to shop at around 7.30pm or 8pm you can get astonishing discounts.

If you want to time your shop exactly, then your best bet is to ask in store when they do their final reductions - don't be shy!

Get to know the rules around freezing ‘yellow sticker’ items, so you can buy when they are cheapest and use over the following weeks and months.

Don't assume something is perishable without checking. Everything from cheese to beansprouts is fine to freeze as long as you treat them correctly (beansprouts need blanching, chilling in ice water, and freezing immediately).

It’s never worth buying something just because it’s cheap: you also have to be able to factor it into your life. If you can't immediately think how you would use that over-ripe avocado, a pack of cut-price tongue or kippers, then don't buy them.

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