I know we all love saving money so I hope you enjoy this series on how to change the way you think while shopping. Since learning to coupon my entire mindset when it comes to the grocery store has drastically changed! Not every shop contains a coupon, and you may not have coupons to use, follow me each Friday as I share what I’ve learned in my frugal lifestyle.
Don’t be afraid of the discount stickers; Frugal Friday Tips
What does that mean? In our house it’s a pretty regular occurrence to find % off stickers on our groceries, my freezer is full of meat we bought on discount and it’s pretty likely you’ve eaten something at my house that was purchased on a clear out discount. Should you be scared I poisoned you somehow? Absolutely not!
Grocery lingo can get confusing on the best of days, throw in best-by, use-by, sell by and expires by and your head can start to spin. Growing up most of us were taught about food safety in high school but they neglected to share that most of these dates have nothing to do with the food safety aspect of the product, it’s strictly a freshness factor.
Let’s start by dissecting the lingo:
Expiry/Expires by: This when a product is no longer at it’s peak freshness and may not have the same nutrient content as claimed on the label. Most food with an expiration date should NOT be eaten past it’s date and generally include dietary supplement drinks, infant formula and some meats.
Best By/Use by/Best if used by date: This label has nothing to do with food safety so much as food quality. The manufacturer cannot guarantee that the product will meet their standards when used past this date, it however does not affect how long you can use it. Use your best judgement!
Sell by date: Another one that is not so much about safety as quality. This is a guideline for stores to know when a product is approaching the end of it’s freshness cycle, a lot of products don’t make this date visible so always try to find the latest date you can to make sure you will get the best quality possible.
Okay! Seems pretty straight forward, a lot of different names meaning the same thing! Who came up with that!?
When you are going through the grocery store and see discount stickers DON’T shy away!
Instead, remember a few key rules;
- Always purchase PRIOR to the expiry date. If the expiry date is the same day as you are shopping it’s not worth the risk with meats unless you plan to cook them that same day. Always use your judgement and check for discoloration, smells or mold. Expiry dates rely on the the product being stored at an acceptable temperature it’s entire shelf life, so any changes along the way can affect how long it will last.
- Yogurt? Completely safe to purchase the day of it’s expiry date, it can generally last up to 2 weeks after the date and make a fantastic treat if frozen! We buy quite a bit of discounted yogurt and use it in smoothies.
- Milk can last up to 7 days past it’s sell-by date, not sure? Try the sniff test or just look for a change in color and consistency.
- Don’t make a dozen stops. Plan your grocery shopping LAST and get those products home as quick as possible. The longer a chilled item stands at room temperature the shorter it’s expiry date becomes. Not planning to use the meat the same day? Immediately package and toss in the freezer.
- When it doubt, throw it OUT.
So food is pretty straight forward, be wary of approaching expiry dates but don’t shy away from them. When items are close to expiry/sell by dates grocery stores will discount them to still make a profit off the product and have less waste. If you are really looking to stock your freezer make friends with the stock people at your local store and find out when they usually do their mark-downs!
This is an example of an older shop of mine but if you peek in the left hand corner you’ll see some pink stickers on body wash. Stores don’t just mark down food, pretty much anything will be marked down at some point. If you see advertisements for new packaging, higher or lower count or a new flavor, chances are things will be marked down to make room for it. We just happened to luck out on Gillette changing their packaging so I scooped them up!
Do make sure if you are purchasing discounted electronics or open boxes that you confirm what is or isn’t included before paying for it, most clearance items are a final sale; regardless of if you have left the store or not.
Lastly, keep an eye on end of season sales! Big box stores will do a major clear out after each holiday and sticker everything down. It’s a great time to stock up on items for the following year and save a bundle.