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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Ah, ‘short date shopping’ – the concept of buying food that’s close to the end of its shelf life, or even out of date, at a major discount.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?

Comments
Member

Best Before is a quality thing. Yet there it is on a bag of apples. And there are people ready to throw food away – these apples away – just because of the labelling – without even looking at the food itself.

If those apples weren’t labelled like that they might look at the apples to see if any were going bad – or needed eating fast because they were starting to wrinkle.

Last night I used up some Coxes that had been in the fruit bowl since Christmas – cored them and roughly chopped and stewed then piled onto pork chops (seasoned and grilled both sides – top less than bottom) then another sliced and arranged on top and a sprinkle of sugar and grilled again. Nigel Slater thank you for best pork chops we’ve ever had..

When you are eating your apple do you rate the shape higher than the taste? Why do something different when buying?

Why would buying tins with a short Best Before life be disgusting? They are not going to go bad overnight. Just make sure they are not the ones you push to the back of the cupboard and keep for years AND they are things you ARE going to eat. It is a great way to sell – to people who want to and are prepared to buy rather than those who don’t. You may find a speciality you like at a great discount if you’re lucky. Oh those sun-blush tomatoes… and cherries in kirsch….

Member

I don’t think that egg labelling was ever changed after the Edwina Currie & the Eggs episode. Other legislation and/or guidelines re egg production were changed. It is ridiculous that it hasn’t been if salmonella is still such a problem.

Member

I have bought Italian Panatonne (sp?) 750g and Hellmann’s Real mayo
very close to or a little past sell-by date real cheap and they seem to
taste OK, at a 99p shop (2 x 400g as to latter) but I would not buy
again packaged ground coffee whatever brand name nr sell-by date
irrespective of price charged, for reasons that many wd have
guessed why… was a total waste of money what little I spent.

Good freshly roasted coffee is not something I wd compromise on.
Both for their superior flavour and aroma.

If oxidation has not occurred or too much, wd consider buying
at a significant/substantial discount, but not as to stuff that
contain nitrites and/or nitrates and whatever else deemed
harmful.

As to tired-looking fruit and veg, there’s a thing called reconstitution
thereof.

Member

Isn’t there a difference between ‘sell by date’ and ‘best before date’

Member

I’m always on the lookout for date-expiring bargains and reckon I save thousands a year. Sometimes they’re reduced by up to 90%, so the saving is significant. I buy multiple quantities when I can and freeze the excess. Sometimes it takes over a year till I get around to eating some things from the freezer, but they always taste fine and haven’t poisoned me (yet!), and I’ve been doing it for many years.

If people learnt to use their noses and eyes when testing the safety of food, rather than date labels, we would see a lot less food wastage.

Member

Have used one on-line “short date” store – no problems at all – qualities of the biscuits bought excellent – but the quantity bought meant I ate the same biscuits “forever”

I often buy short date goods from Sainsburys – they seem fine – To be honest I haven’t found a difference in taste between in date or out of date food.

At home I never throw any food away unless it is very visibly rotten or mouldy – (often simply cut the bad bit away) never bother about the date – after all when I started buying food in the 1940s it never had a sell by date on it – never had a problem.

My only stomach problem was eating too many unripe pears that I “scrumped” when I was a boy..

Member

Opps sorry – the on-line shop was Approvedfood

Damn the lack of an edit facility.

Member
par ailleurs says:
6 February 2012

I agree with richard 100%. What on earth has happened to commonsense? Look at it, smell it and eat it or not. We make a point of shopping in the stores that do a proper discount on fresh foods (M&S and Waitrose) which are on or near their sell-by date. Result-perfectly good food which will either be eaten within a day or two or frozen and used whenever convenient. The potential savings are huge, especially as with the cost reduction it means that we can buy the best free-range and/or organic produce too. Much nicer all round. Furthermore let’s not forget what will happen to the food the store doesn’t sell. It will end up in landfill. That’s bad for the environment and an insult to the farmer who produced it. It’s also an insult to any animal which died for food production.
I might add too that I can’t remember when there was last an outbreak of any stomach bug in this house. We don’t use anti-bacterial cleaners either but that’s another issue which could make me rant even more!