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Can ‘short date’ shopping seriously help you save?

Lots of tins with different best before dates

Would you shop for food that’s just passed its best before date? A flurry of new websites specialising in older goods are springing up – but is ‘short date shopping’ going to make you serious savings?

I get all manner of press releases every week with companies trying to convince me they have the next money-saving tip for hard-pressed consumers.

The latest one initially had me reaching for a sick bag. ‘The rise of the short date shopper – the new trend saving families £3,500 a year.’

Ah, ‘short date shopping’ – the concept of buying food that’s close to the end of its shelf life, or even out of date, at a major discount. Buy now before it rots, or pay even less while it’s putrefying.

Approvedfood.co.uk, which sent round the release, says that it can cut grocery bills by up to 80%, and that its website includes over 1,000 different products to choose from.

Want some tinned celery hearts with a best before date of September 2011? Yours for 49p. Grab some of Ainslie Harriott’s Spice Sensation Couscous (past its best before date in November last year) for a quid.

Challenging ‘best before’ date preconceptions

While on the face of it this sounds disgusting, and really not worth the savings you’re going to make, the NHS provides some interesting information about best before labelling on food. Its website states:

‘Except in the case of eggs, “best before” dates are about quality, not safety. When the date is passed, it doesn’t mean that the food will be harmful, but it might begin to lose its flavour and texture.

Every year in the UK we throw away 8.3 million tonnes of food and drink, most of which could have been eaten. So think carefully before throwing away food past its “best before” date.’

Not only that, but our Chief Policy Adviser Sue Davies recently wrote about the estimated 5.3 million tonnes of food we throw away every year in the UK, costing the average family with children about £50 a month:

‘WRAP has called for changes to the date marking on food because their research shows that we throw food away unnecessarily when it’s past the date shown.’

Creative ways to cut food bills?

A few months ago, we posted a piece on misshapen vegetables, which challenged the preconceptions people have about what they can and can’t eat. So, if you’re really finding it a struggle with your grocery bills, and you want to reduce food waste, this could be an alternative means of shopping, albeit perhaps a skimp on quality?

I’ve even dabbled in this in the past. A couple of years ago, my flatmate was writing an article about ‘freeganism’ – rifling through the bins of supermarkets for food that had been thrown away – and I decided to participate for a week. Although the freeganism movement has lots of anti-establishment motives, we just wanted to see if we could live off what we found in the bin.

While we managed to survive (thanks to a lot of roasting and sauces), it didn’t feel particularly nourishing, nor something that’d make a habit of. So perhaps being a short-date shopper would be a decent compromise?

Would you buy food that’s gone past its best before date and do you think it could make you some serious savings?

Angus McKay says:
4 February 2013

I have ordered from sites like this for years, have never had any issues with the dates and have saved a small fortune.

I can see you menstion approvedfood.co.uk, but you may want to also vist their competitors which is http://www.foodbargains.co.uk, what you can’t find a approved food you are sure to find a food bargains, so great bargains on the csite currently.