Looking out for yellow stickers on reduced food items could shave a few pounds off your shopping bill, but snapping them up before others do is easier said than done.
When food is nearing its use-by date, supermarkets often reduce it to help clear the shelves and cut waste. It's still perfectly fine to eat, and you can get some real bargains. We looked into the best times to get reduced foods from your favourite supermarkets.
First, some top tips
Choose your timing
Although all stores vary, it makes sense that you’ll start to see reduced items near the end of the day, just before closing.
But with many shops staying open for 24 hours, it can be hard to get the timing right. Some stores start reducing items in the morning, and others do it after lunch on products like sandwiches. Some supermarkets wait until the evenings. So, it can be a bit of a potluck. We've looked into some of our favourite supermarkets below, but there is no guarantee, this is based on our experience.
If you regularly shop in one store, politely ask the staff - often they'll be able to tell you the best time to find reduced goods.
Locate the bargain bin
Some stores will have a specific area that they place reduced goods - like the end of an aisle for non-chilled goods or one of the bottom shelves in a fridge. Look out for it next time you're shopping.
Best time to get reduced food at...
Now let’s investigate each supermarket in more detail. Although, remember that ultimately, it’s down to the manager in each store to set the schedule for reductions.
The later you leave it to shop, the bigger the discounts you could find, but then you also run the risk of others getting there before you - it’s a balancing act!
Aldi and Lidl
Even though they’re known for being budget supermarkets, Aldi and Lidl do reduce items. Usually, it happens in the morning, so getting there when stores open could be worthwhile - although they discount throughout the day as well.
Note: Aldi use red reduction stickers and Lidl use orange ones.
Asda's known to reduce food in the mornings too, but they'll also start reducing items from around 7pm.
It varies with Co-op - they may reduce any time of the day, but looking near closing time is usually the best time to find reductions.
Marks and Spencer
M&S bring out the yellow reduction stickers later afternoon or early evening. Sunday afternoon can be a great time to find a bargain in M&S!
The best time to hunt for reduced items in Morrisons is late in the afternoon. Go after 5pm, or just before the store closes for the big savings.
Items will start to getting reduced from around 1pm, with the biggest discounts appearing later in the day.
Tesco could reduce items at any time during the day, but the evenings are usually most profitable.
Reductions tend to start appearing after lunchtime, continuing until the store closes, and smaller stores might offer bigger reductions than larger ones.
What time are supermarkets quiet?
The quietest times for supermarkets tend to be very first thing in the morning and then early afternoon - after the lunchtime rush but before the school pickups start.
If you’re a night owl, then going late at night should see fewer other shoppers too. As you may guess, weekends are the busiest times, so try to shop during the week. If you can, then Tuesdays are usually the quietest day.
What gets reduced?
Items that are approaching their use-by date usually get reduced, but you'll also find supermarkets reducing discontinued items so that they can make shelf space for another product.
How to save even more money
If you often buy an item and suddenly find it reduced one day, think about stocking up on it. Tinned food lasts a long time (but double-check the dates) or pop fresh food in the freezer. You could save yourself more money in the long run but only do this with food you regularly eat, or you might find it going to waste at home.
Another great way to save is to keep an eye out for bargains on apps like Too Good To Go and Olio, which some supermarkets use to list food that would otherwise go in the bin. There's no guarantees on what will be listed, but it's worth keeping an eye out. You might even find the odd freebie!
Learn more tactics to help you shop smarter in the supermarket.
Disclaimer: All information and links are correct at the time of publishing.