Confessions of a Yellow Sticker Shopper

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Sweet and Crunchy Stir Fry tonight, reduced from £1.27 to just 9 pence. © Southampton Old Lady
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Supermarket own brand essentials are cheap. Many products these days taste almost as good and sometimes even better than high-brand labelled foods.

I am a yellow sticker shopper. I haven’t always been. I have been almost rich; I have been almost poor. When I am on a limited budget, I become a strict Budgetarian, surviving on very little money, but eating quite well on a mixture of in-season vegetables and supermarket brand basics, coupled with reduced-price meal packs with yellow stickers because they are at the sell-by or best-before date.

When I was a student, I worked as a waitress for Southampton’s Top Rank Bannister Ballroom in the evenings which included a free burger each shift and weekly cinema tickets.

My College provided cheap lunches during the week; On Saturdays, I would take it turns with five other students to cook a meal for all six of us. I would always look for these yellow-stickerred food packs on the day to decide what we were having and shop late at the vegetable market (Kingsland Square), buying bruised fruit and veg. The menu each weekend was interesting.

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Chicken, chargrilled peppers with Moroccan Style Cous Cous. A healthy take-away Snack Pot reduced from £1.60 to 15 pence. And you don’t even need to do the washing up after.

 

One pot stews and curries were common because they were easy, and anything could be put it them. There was an Italian student who cooked delicious pasta sauces, and once someone made a pie using a tin of dog food (Pedigree Chum) as the filling – which was awful – but I could taste the beneficial added vitamins!

Those were very happy, memorable times and very different to today whereby students seem to live on expensive take-aways delivered to the door.

I hope that with these days of student loans, I can offer this article as advice – “Throw away those pizza delivery leaflets, that bombard your letter-boxes, immediately”.

Once I had a full-time job, I ate whatever I wanted and ate out at restaurants quite often, sometimes three times a week.

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A year after my chemo I went back to work, but after a year or two, chemo brain (which is slang for a cognitive problem following certain types of Cancer and its treatment) came knocking and I was forced to give up working. So I currently have no income. My husband is paying off a £12,000 debt due to a mistake made by the DWP (pensions department) in 2007. So we are currently back to living a thrifty lifestyle.

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My husband often makes our own bread, but we often take advantage of reduced priced bread when we need extra.
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One pint of beer each at The Cowherds pub on Southampton Common – a treat not taken for granted.

We are back to yellow stickers, shopping coupons and free entertainments other than television. By free entertainments, I mean free festivals and walks – local seniors were allowed in free to Southampton Boat Show.  So we went to that last week.

Because we are careful, we are able to treat ourselves to little luxuries, such one pint of beer in a pub or perhaps a discount meal at a restaurant once a month.

My husband was brought up on war rationing, which was really difficult, so he learned many budget cooking skills and how to grow our own vegetables.

Do you have any food shopping confessions?

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37 thoughts on “Confessions of a Yellow Sticker Shopper

    • I agree! I have shopped in M&S etc on Christmas Eve and have had a wonderfully rich Christmas food fest at wildly reduced prices!! Going on well into the New Year. It takes a little bit of courage as you could get there too late and end up with nothing, but that, in reality, has never happened :))

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    • M&S so really great bargains if you are willing to go there at the last minute on Christmas Eve. They once donated lots of oven-ready trussed and decorated turkeys to a homeless organisation that I volunteered to serve at one Christmas Day. There was no oven or microwave there just a gas ring – so it all had to be broken up and put in a stew.

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  1. Since my husband died and I was left with two young children to bring up, yellow sticker shopping has been my modus operandi for many years. I start at the yellow sticker area then plan the rest of the week’s meals/tonight’s supper around what I find there, simply adding a couple more ingredients at full price if I have to. Most yellow stickers items can be frozen too so the freezer receives the fish/meat/bread etc items and they are eeked out throughout the month.
    It is a fun, fresh way to eat and yes, throw those takeaway menus out students and young people, and get your cookery skills honed!!

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    • So sorry about your husband. We used to have a deep freezer full of yellow-stickers too but it broke down and as we are moving eventually we haven’t replaced it. Our small freezer space is full of frozen essentials such as peas, french beans, rhubarb from our garden, vanilla ice-cream, home-made burgers and chapattis – all expensive to buy individually to accompany meals. I can’t imagine students ever living out of a freezer properly.

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  2. Interesting blog, Sol. These days I am trying to save as much money as possible so I can bring the family to join me here. I am a promotion items shopper. I buy things at half price or two for one etc. It makes a huge difference to my monthly shopping budget.

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  3. It certainly does. I remember when I was in Lisbon, where you are, there was a macro-biotic cafe. I was surprised to find so many working-class labourers in there, thinking it would be a young persons thing. When I got the bill I was shocked, it was about a tenth of the price I thought it would be. Then I learned that it was subsidised by the Communist Party. It might be worth finding out if it still exists! When I worked in the Algarve, the wages were so low. I used to go out with the girls and have just soup for lunch – it was so cheap and included all that lovely home-made bread. My neighbour then was quite poor and cooked fresh sardines on her balcony barbecue every day. They were as cheap as chips.

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    • Staff or stuff? He he! Safety dates can be ridiculous sometimes can’t they? One Xmas Eve I went out to get some cream that we had run out of. There was a woman buying up lots of meat pies at 15 pence each and some people jumping up and down saying “We can have a good Christmas, after all” – She was inviting all the homeless people she knew to her home for Christmas and feeding them and letting them have baths. I handed over mine that I had put in my basket too. My father always used to invite a homeless person in for Christmas (usually drunken sailors) – as kids we thought it ruined our day – but looking back these are wonderful charitable things that really make Christmas.

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  4. I’m eating out of the garden at the moment, but that will come to an end soon. I’m a vegetarian, so my supermarket shop tends not to be terribly expensive anyway, unless I buy Quorn, or ready meals, which I used to do before I retired.

    I do buy yellow sticker stuff occasionally.

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  5. Absolutely! When my kids were tiny, every once and a while they would play nicely while I was cleaning up, and once I got to eavesdrop on their game of playing ‘store’. The youngest wanted to buy something but was told she couldn’t. About to get upset, she asked why. My oldest daughter explained it didn’t have a yellow sticker; that it wasn’t on sale, but directed her to the imaginary clearance rack instead lol. I obviously had trained them well

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  6. Different stores here have different systems, but, yes — I do keep my eye out for bargains. Yogurts and cottage cheese often will have half-price stickers on them. One store has meats that will be reduced as their sell-by date approaches, and though I’m not a huge meat eater, if there’s some chicken or stew meat, I’ll pick that up, make soup, and freeze portions. And one local store is very good about reducing veggies that might be a touch limp — but who cares, if they’re going into the soup pot?

    There was a time in my life when my grocery budget was almost nothing. Now, I spend more, but it’s hardly a large amount. I don’t buy prepared or processed foods, no box mixes, and so on. Of course, being raised by parents who had been very poor, during the Depression, I learned a lot of tricks. Cooking from scratch is #1.

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    • So do I. The only time I found those was when a local Co-op closed down – they were still a little more expensive than other supermarket own-brand ones – but they were some of the best I had tried in a very long time.

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      • Ah, the co-op. I remember when the co-op in Birstall closed down and the staff were taken completely unawares by the crowds. Unawares to the point of hiding in a back room while the place was looted. Extraordinary scenes of low level violence and peasant cunning.

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      • My grandma lived opposite and had a grandstand view. there were people barrowing washing machines and fridges out before the police came and stopped it. In most places they call it looting.

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  8. My favourite household job (well actually the only one i really like) is shopping. I love comparing price to price, working out what is the best deal per 100g, playing supermarkets off against each other to get the best deals. I always shop as late as possible to clean up on the reduced food. Even if i don’t need it at the time, it goes in the freezer.
    The best vbargain day always used to be christmas eve but nowadays with shops barely closiing one day (if even that) they’re not so desperate to clear out their chilled section at give away prices.

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  10. As a student, I’ve had to start doing this to get more of a variety in my diet! I’m going to have to follow you, even though I’m a Pompy girl, I miss it down south!

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    • Where are you studying? You should visit home often to keep real. There are so many students here that I am thinking of doing an advice column – It will be totally different to what your lecturers and parents recommend – that’s all I’m saying. I know I’m an old ‘Scummer’ but I wish students would stop worrying so much and enjoy this unique time in their lives… keep in touch.

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    • Yes! That is a problem it can get too addictive and without a list one can be drawn towards other expensive things that aren’t needed – You can buy too much – especially if you have a big freezer. When you haven’t the money though – it can keep you in check. Best thing I did was not replace my broken deep-freezer.

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  11. Great article I can relate to living on a budget being in law school! I recently started a blog about my law school experience check it out if you have a chance.
    Talesofanaspitinglawyer.com

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