Updated: Mar 2
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.
Here are our 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 Latestdeals.co.uk 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.