“L’Allée Breeteesh” – The British Supermarket Aisle Abroad

When abroad, taking a look at the international aisles in supermarkets can be such an eye-opener. Sure there’s the sheer fact that a whole culture can be defined by a few jars on a shelf, but that’s even before you’ve taken a look at the astronomical prices.

So imagine how excited I was, when rocking up at my local Carrefour, I stumbled upon a veritable plethora of British goods. So this is what defines British cooking and presumably, if we are to believe the 13th century principle of supply and demand, it also denotes what we Brits abroad simply can’t live without and for which we are willing to pay through the nose.

 

We may have tried to invade France before and failed but these 8 shelves are all ours.

Some of what I could make out (apologies for the wobbly picture – people were getting suspicious around me)

  • Robinson’s squash
  • Various HEINZ products including: baked beans, tomato soup, minestrone soup, baked beans with sausages (over 3 Euros for these!), macaroni cheese
  • Apple sauce
  • Tinned peas
  • Marmite (but no Bovril – shame – vegetarians win again!)
  • Branston pickle (2.65 euros)
  • Bird’s custard powder
  • Ambrosia of some form
  • Cadbury drinking chocolate (sorry, if you’re reading this in a few years and it’s now “Kraft”, as a Birmingham girl: grrr)
  • Carr’s savoury biscuits
  • Fig rolls?!!
  • Pancake mix (highly offensive on our part I feel – the French definitely know how to do a good crepe!)
  • Green’s various ready-made cake mixes (the just add water and an egg kind)
  • Shortbread
  • Lemon curd
  • Various jams and marmelades (again offensive to the French – what about Bon Maman jams?)
  • HP sauce
  • Cranberry sauce
  • Go Natural cereal bars
  • Sarson’s malt vinegar
  • Mint jelly (for the princely price of 2 euros and 53 cents – ouch)
  • What looks like a Fray Bentos Steak and Kidney Pie for what looks remarkably like 4 euros and 90 cents – shocker!
  • Colman’s mustard – the French make without a doubt some of the best mustard in the world
  • Piccalilly?! Never eaten this in my life and at over 2 euros, don’t think I will.
  • PG Tips and various other brands of tea, presumably French strength…

So I can only conclude from this that our attitude to food whilst abroad is as follows:

Never mind what it is, so long as I can smother it in some kind of sauce.

 Because just look at the amount of condiments and sauces the aisle has to offer: HP Sauce, mustard, Sarson’s vinegar, and not just savoury; sweet too: cranberry, mint jelly, even custard – no course is spared from our compulsion to cover it in another strong tasting sauce.

And even more controversially, this aisle settles the age old argument of what is the best brand of tea. In one fell and conclusive swoop, Carrefour has named the winner of this title: PG Tips. And given that it’s priceless, who knows how much us foolish Brits are willing to part with to get our mitts on it. Well, I always prefer Yorkshire Tea personally, but that’s a topic not only for another blog post but for a whole new blog!

Apologies for the blurriness - taking photos in supermarkets is a tricky business!This is how obsessed we are with tea - again apologies for the blurriness.

This is how obsessed we are with tea - again apologies for the blurriness.

Raiders of the Reduced Aisle Crosses the Channel

After months of silence, slogging away to finish my studies, I’ve popped over to work in France for a little while and what better way to celebrate an arrival with our continental cousins than by visiting my nearest supermarket and having a good snoop.
I’m extremely lucky to have an excellent Lidl right by my place here in Paris and as I have previously reported it’s sometimes easy to consider Lidl as one great big reduced aisle. But my god do they go one better here in France. Now surely we all agree that French food is ruddy bloody delicious (save the fact that every vegetable is overcooked and covered in herby butter) well imagine how they trump us in the reduced aisle. And of course it’s all about style and quality over quantity here, so sure I only found 2 things which I had to hunt for but check out what they are:

"It may not be Wednesleydale but it's very nice cheese Gromit"

So, delicious cheese and then I found some amazing steak….there is no hope for healthy eating here.

Pavés Marinés: aka bloody deliciously herbed hunks of steak

And then for your pleasure and delight I present my reduced aisle antics and travels over the past few months:
  1. A trip to a smallish Liverpool Tesco shows how other Tescos aren’t pulling their weight…
  2. A long journey back down the M50 calls for a stop at a prolific service station….
  3. Frantic scenes at Cardiff Tesco Extra at 7pm feeding time – definite scenes of shoving
  4. The wonderfully mental reduced aisle witnessed throughout July in Crwys Road Co-Op
 

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Co-Op takes the biscuit for strangest array of reduced items including: shampoo, pasta and air freshner.

THE BIG EXPERIMENT:When’s Best to Stock Up? FINAL DAY 16:30

Piled high to the rafters - those pizzas had disappeared by the time I came back for my final check!

After a week of going to my same Tesco Express on City Road at different times of the day to check the reduced aisle, I’m sad to say the experiment has come to an end. But in more positive news, I’ve now got loads of food and indeed data to digest so I can give some great tips on how best to raid your local reduced aisle.

I’m going to spend the next week looking at the results to see any patterns but for now, have a look at what I found today at 16:30, following that coveted second reduction (for more info on this, see yesterday’s post):

THE RESULTS:
Total items found: 14
Breakdown: 3 Fresh Vegetables/Fruit, 4 Meat/Fish, 0 Side Dishes, 1 Ready Meal, 6 Baked Goods, 0 Sandwiches, 0 Dairy/Yoghurt, 0 Inedible, 0 Drinks

All found in the aisle, as the staff were doing a great job of making sure it was all in one place:

  • Breaded Cod Fillets – £3 to £1.25 Saving of £1.75
  • Chicken and Gravy Pie – £2.98 to £1.19 Saving of £1.79
  • Cheese & Tomato Pizza – 48p to 19p Saving of 29p
  • BBQ Chicken Pizza – £2.35 ro 95p Saving of £1.40
  • Chicken & Stuffing Slices – £2.65 to £1.09 Saving of £1.56
  • Whole Roast Chicken – £5.25 to £2.09 Saving of £3.16
  • French Fancies – £1.87 to 49p Saving of £1.38
  • Lemon Bakewells – £1.77 to 45p Saving of £1.32
  • Pear – 44p to 19p Saving of 25p
  • Cauliflower – £1.27 to 55p Saving of 72p
  • Chicken and Broccoli Pie – £2 to 85p Saving of £1.15
  • Savoy Cabbage – 76p to 35p Saving of 41p
  • Finest Pappardalle – £4 to £1.65 Saving of £2.35
  • Chicken Fillets – £3 to £1.25 Saving of £1.75

 

Total potential saving: £19.28.

I couldnt resist this last time and boy did I get some bargains there!

 

Having come to the end, it’s most definitely time to get eating. I’ll be back very soon with a more detailed overview of my results.

Let me know if you can add to any of the results and analysis you’ve seen this week by posting a comment below and I’ll make sure to get back to you.

The BIG EXPERIMENT, signing off, for now…

THE BIG EXPERIMENT:DAY 6 15:30 The Manager Reveals!

Saturday, the lovely weekend, and not only did it bring a lovely summer’s day, it also brought in the weekend staff at the local Tesco, who were much more intrigued by what a strange lady was doing with a notepad and a cameraphone in their shop. The manager very politely asked me if I needed any help and in the end, she was more than helpful, but more on that later.

Here’s what I found in today’s raid at 15:30:

But as ever, more bargains to be had elsewhere in the shop!

Mini Chocolate Roll Bites - £3.07 to £1.99 Saving of £1.08

Tulips - £3 to £1.79 Saving of £1.21

Plums - £1 to 70p Saving of 30p (but they are usually £1.45 anyway)

Pleased to see theyve got the bread in the aisle as well as in the bread section.

THE RESULTS:
Total items found: 12
Breakdown: 4 Fresh Vegetables/Fruit, 0 Meat/Fish, 0 Side Dishes, 0 Ready Meals, 4 Baked Goods, 1 Sandwich, 0 Dairy/Yoghurt, 1 Inedible, 2 Drinks

Found in the aisle:

  • Ploughman’s Sandwich – £1.55 to £1.09 Saving of 46p
  • Pineapple Chunks – £1.30 to 95p Saving of 35p
  • Mouthwatering Melon – £1.30 to 95p Saving of 35p
  • Cabbage – 76p to 55p Saving of 21p
  • Chocolate Birthday Cake – £4.16 to £2.75 Saving of £1.41
  • Tesco White Bread – 69p to 49p Saving of 20p
  • Carling (2 cans) – £4.67 to £2.10 Saving of £2.57
  • Strongbow (3 cans) – £3.64 to £2.18 Saving of £1.46

Found elsewhere:

  • Plums – £1 to 70p Saving of 30p
  • Hovis Wheatgerm – 60p to 45p Saving of 15p
  • Mini Chocolate Roll Bites – £3.07 to £1.99 Saving of £1.08
  • Tulips – £3 to £1.79 Saving of £1.21

Total Potential Saving: £9.75

But, more interestingly whilst speaking to the manager – a very helpful lady might I add – she revealed the thing that this experiment has been looking to find….the pattern and the Tesco protocol for reducing items.

In her own words:

We try to get all the reduced stock ready between 11 and 1pm but it depends on how busy we are with deliveries. The whole purpose is to avoid any waste.

I then asked her about why some items aren’t put in the reduced aisle but, rather left on their original shelf.

Good question, what we do quite often is put things in two places. Some people come in and go straight for the reduced items, others know what they want specifically and this gives us the best possible chance to sell them and reduce our waste.

So there you have it – that definitely makes a lot of sense. For those who don’t normally go specifically to the aisle, it means they get the chance to buy what they orginally came in for, for a bit less and for raiders like us, we also get the opportunity to look at all of what’s on offer in one place. Smart move. But that only works when there is more than one of the item in question so it’s not a hard and fast rule, certainly.

For me, the million dollar question was this: when do you then put an extra reduction on what’s left?

You should stick around because we’ll be reducing them again in about half an hour. We have to reduce anything that’s left between 3:30 and 4:30. The machine does it all automatically.

Right, so potentially the best time to go is between 15:30 and 16:30, particularly if you’ve seen that the reduction’s just happened. That’s certainly a step forward for me.

To add to that, my highly scientifc week-long research has shown so far that in most cases in Tesco on a first reduction, you’re looking at anything between 27% and 34% off but we’ll have to wait til tomorrow to find out how much off you can expect for that magic second reduction.

THE BIG EXPERIMENT:When’s Best to Stock Up? DAY 5 14:30

Bit of a disappointing day today for raiders, a mere 3 items in the aisle and the biggest crime of all; someone had put 3 sandwiches in there to fool us, that hadn’t even been reduced! That has to be one of my pet hates.

But here are the results of today’s 14:30 raid of Tesco Express on City Road:

Slim pickings today folks

Did we see something similar yesterday?

These sandwiches werent even reduced! Quiche Lorraine - £1.88 to £1.35 Saving of 53p

 

THE RESULTS:
Total items found: 3
Breakdown: 0 Fresh Vegetables/Fruit, 0 Meat/Fish, 0 Side Dishes, 0 Ready Meals, 1 Baked Good, 0 Sandwiches, 0 Dairy/Yoghurt, 0 Inedible, 2 Drinks

  • 2 cans of Carling – £4.67 to £2.10 Saving of £2.57
  • 3 cans of Strongbow – £3.64 to £2.18 Saving of £1.46
  • Quiche Lorraine – £1.88 to £1.35 Saving of 53p

And I searched all around the shop but found nothing elsewhere.

Total potential saving: £4.56, not so bad considering the few items available.

You know, my hypothesis was going so well until today…I had predicted that the best time would be 14:30 as the number of items had been steadily going up since Monday but alas, I was disproved.

It seems to me like the reduced aisle today offered just enough for an afternoon in the park: beers and a quiche but not really enough to get this seasoned raider excited I’m afraid.

Let’s hope day 6 of the BIG EXPERIMENT will be worthy of the caps lock…

THE BIG EXPERIMENT:When’s Best to Stock Up? DAY 4 13:30

When’s best to stock up? 13:30 is!

 

Just to recap on the BIG EXPERIMENT: every day this week I’ve been going to my local Tesco Express’ Reduced Aisle at a different hour each day – so Monday 10:30am, Tuesday 11:30 am and so on.

13:30 has been the most prolific time to visit so far, only just pipping 12:30pm with a total of 29 different items found. And remember this doesn’t include duplicates. This means 29 different varieties of food were available reduced, what a result!

Slim pickings in the aisle but...

As predicted, the beauties and bargains were not to be found in the reduced aisle itself but elsewhere in the store.

Dotted around I found fruit, curry, moussaka, cheesecake and even flowers.

Once again I will let the pictures and the bargains speak for themselves…

Strawberries - £2.19 to £1.55 Saving of 64p

Baby plum tomatoes - £1.50 to £1.05 Saving of 45p

Whole Roast Chicken - £4.68 to £3.26 Saving of £1.42

Posh Curries - £4 to £2.79 Saving of £1.29 on each

Cadburys Buttons Chocolate Mousses - 82p to 59p Saving of 23p

Tulips - £5 to £1.25 Saving of £3.75 - the biggest mark-down so far.

THE RESULTS:
Total items found: 29
Breakdown: 9 Fresh Vegetables/Fruit, 3 Meat/Fish, 1 Side Dishes, 5 Ready Meals, 7 Baked Goods, 2 Sandwiches, 1 Dairy/Yoghurt, 1 Inedible, 0 Drinks

Found in the aisle:

  • Sausages and Mash Ready Meal – £2 to £1.39 Saving of 61p
  • Roast Beef Slices – £2.20 to £1.55 Saving of 65p
  • Southern Fried Chicken Wrap – £2.08 to £1.45 Saving of 63p
  • Chicken Caesar Wrap – £2.30 to £1.65 Saving of 65p

but more so, look at the amount and variety of items found elsewhere in the shop:

  • Pineapple Chunks – £1.30 to 95p Saving of 35p
  • Mouthwatering Melon – £1.30 to 95p Saving of 35p
  • Juicy Fruit Twist – £1.30 to 95p Saving of 35p
  • Mini Fruit Platter – £2.08 to £1.45 Saving of 63p
  • Strawberries – £2.19 to £1.55 Saving of 64p
  • Avocado – £1.03 to 75p Saving of 28p
  • Red Grapes – £2.30 to £1.65 Saving of 65p
  • Baby Plum Tomatoes – £1.50 to £1.05 Saving of 45p
  • 2 Courgettes – £1.20 to 85p Saving of 35p
  • Finest Cumberland Sausages – £3 to £2.09 Saving of 91p
  • Whole Roast Chicken – £4.68 to £3.26 Saving of £1.42
  • Chicken Katsu Curry – £4 to £2.79 Saving of £1.29
  • King Prawn Red Thai Curry – £4 to £2.79 Saving of £1.29
  • Chicken Fajita Set – £2.80 to £1.95 Saving of 85p
  • Mini Indian Selection – £1.45 to £1.05 Saving of 40p
  • Finest Lamb Moussaka – £2.70 to £1.89 Saving of 81p
  • Braces Malted Grain Bread – £1.25 to 89p Saving of 36p
  • Hovis Wholemeal Bread – £1.05 to 75p Saving of 30p
  • Baker’s Soft White Bread – £1 to 69p Saving of 31p
  • Hovis Best of Both Bread – £1.05 to 75p Saving of 30p
  • 4 Birthday Cupcakes – £1.56 to £1.05 Saving of 51p
  • 2 Cheesecake Slices – £2 to £1.29 Saving of 71p
  • Cadbury’s Buttons Chocolate Mousse – 82p to 59p Saving of 23p
  • Cadbury’s Caramel Cake Bars – £1.35 to 89p Saving of 46p
  • Tulips – £5 to £1.25 Saving of £3.75

Total potential saving: £20.49 if you were really hungry. Personally I went for the curries as I’ve always wanted to try them, but one little tip from a seasoned reduced-aisle raider…

Don’t forget that when you’re looking for bargains, look carefully – I could have quite easily missed this hidden avocado or, more drastically the cupcakes!

Wheres the bargain?

Oh wait, there it is! Avocado - £1.03 to 75p Saving of 28p

Could have missed these birthday cupcakes as well! 4 Cupcakes - £1.56 to £1.05 Saving of 51p

THE BIG EXPERIMENT:When’s Best to Stock Up? DAY 3 12:30pm

It was a veritable frenzy at the reduced aisle today at 12:30pm as I noted down a massive 25 different items on offer, some with sizeable reductions.

As I arrived, the aisle looked almost fit to burst:

Practically overflowing compared to recent days!

Look at it all!

 

Not only have we got almost a dozen sandwiches, but oodles of cakes and desserts – it brings me to question whether Tesco knows what people who are popping out from work need to get through the afternoon!

But as I then took a closer look round the shop I found even more stuff on the shelves (as I predicted at the start of the week):

Green grapes - £2.67 to £1.89 Saving of 78p

2 Sweetcorn Cobs - £1.95 to £1.39 Saving of 56p

Bananas - £1.29 to 95p Saving of 34p

 

Mopping my brow, I returned to the meat section for a final sweep when a man brandishing a trolley load of reduced items ready to be put out, brushed past me. I have to say, I nearly squealed – where would he put them?!
Some got squished at the back, some I obviously snapped up, and then he had to stand and wait for the crowd to empty the shelf in order to create more room.

Take note of the oodles of pies and scotch eggs that are waiting for their moment. Also notice the dream machine that created the little yellow stickers of joy and the 2 gents who are looking excitedly at the potential bargains.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a buzz around this reduced aisle as today. It’s only one tiny shelf but people were hovering and jostling like old biddies at a Daniel O’Donnelly concert.

So, THE RESULTS:
Total items found: 25
Breakdown: 8 Fresh Vegetables/Fruit, 1 Meat/Fish, 3 Side Dishes, 2 Ready Meals, 7 Baked Goods, 4 Sandwiches

Found in the aisle:

  • Pineapple Chunks – £1.30 to 95p Saving of 35p
  • 4 Cookies and Cream Cupcakes – £1.82 to £1.19 Saving of 63p
  • Selection of 4 Cream Cakes – £2 to £1.35 Saving of 65p
  • Raspberry Swirl Cheesecake – £3.39 to £2.25 Saving of £1.14
  • 2 Strawberry Jam Doughnuts – £1.09 to 75p Saving of 34p
  • 2 Apple Turnovers – £1.13 to 75p Saving of 38p
  • Apple Crumble – £2.27 to £1.49 Saving of 78p
  • Finest Moroccan Couscous – £2.10 to £1.49 Saving of 61p
  • Cheese Salad – £1.25 to 89p Saving of 36p
  • Juicy Fruit Twist – £1.30 to 95p Saving of 35p
  • Roast Chicken Sandwich – £1.70 to £1.19 Saving of 51p
  • Tuna Sandwich – £1.35 to 95p Saving of 40p
  • Smoked Ham and Mustard Sandwich – £1.35 to 95p Saving of 40p
  • Hoisin Duck Wrap – £2.40 to £1.69 Saving of 71p

plus these added later:

  • King Prawns – £3 to £2.09 Saving of 91p
  • Tomato and Mozzarella Pasta Bake – £2.08 to £1.45 Saving of 63p
  • Scotch Eggs – £1.68 to £1.19 Saving of 49p
  • Pukka Steak Pie – £1.55 to £1.09 Saving of 46p
  • Chicken Tikka Massala and Rice – £3.20 to £2.25 Saving of 95p

and these found elsewhere in the shop:

  • Green Grapes – £2.67 to £1.89 Saving of 78p
  • Grape Selection – £2.38 to £1.69 Saving of 69p
  • Babycorn – £1.56 to £1.09 Saving of 47p
  • 2 Sweetcorn Cobs – £1.95 to £1.39 Saving of 56p
  • Bananas – £1.29 to 95p Saving of 34p
  • Cabbage – 76p to 55p Saving of 21p

Total potential saving: £14.10 a whopping number, reaching double figures!

The sheer volume of produce was astounding, I would estimate that in reality, forgetting duplicates, there was around 60 items reduced in store today – what a day!

Come back again tomorrow to see how I get on at 13:30 as the BIG EXPERIMENT goes post-lunch hour…

Also if anyone can think of a better way to categorize the food types, let me know as scotch eggs were really hard to place with the current system!

THE BIG EXPERIMENT:When’s Best to Stock Up? DAY 2 11:30am

So it’s day 2 in my experiment to find out when is the most fruitful time to visit the reduced aisle.

11:30 arrived and with an excited hop in my step, off I popped to Tesco Express on City Road, this time accompanied by my trusty sidekick and companion in the art of looking dodgy in supermarkets: Momma Samways.

A number of people have asked me whether I get funny looks walking into Tesco with a notepad and start taking photos. In all honesty, the answer is no. I think they’re just worried I’m from the council, or worse one of those secret customer agencies but anyway today’s results were as follows:

Huzzah, some items to be found!

So, in the aisle I found 2 small loaves (is that the right word?!) of Soreen reduced from 82p to 55p. That’s a saving of 27p.

As with yesterday, my quest did not end here as the worrying trend continues of ditching the reduced aisle and choosing to make us hunt for things on the original shelves.

Here’s what joint forces between mama and daughter Samways found with their beady little tiny, bargain-hunting, scavvy eyes…

Tesco's Finest Pizza - £3.98 to £2.79 Saving of £1.19

2 Varieties of Sausage Rolls: with pickle or spicy pepperami, both - £1.49 to £1.05 Saving of 44p and both REGULARS in the REDUCED AISLE

Debbie and Andrew's Sausages - £2.68 to £1.89 Saving of 79p

RESULTS
Total items found: 5
Breakdown: 0 Fresh Vegetables, 1 Meat, 0 Side Dishes, 1 Ready Meals, 3 Baked Goods
Total potential saving: £3.13, fewer items gathered then yesterday but a larger saving, especially on that pizza.

Come back again tomorrow to see how I get on at 12:30 pm as the BIG EXPERIMENT enters the afternoon…

THE BIG EXPERIMENT:When’s Best to Stock Up? DAY 1 10:30am

With a little time on my hands it’s now time to launch the largest and most scientific experiment I have ever undertaken that didn’t involve visking tubing and cylinders of potato.

Over the next week, I am going to be visiting my local Tesco Express on City Road at different times throughout the day so I can definitively decide what time is best to try and bag a bargain from the celebrated reduced aisle.

The method shall be as follows:

  • Make notes and pictures of all items found to be reduced.
  • Make the visits an hour later each day, starting from 10:30am.
  • If there are more than one of the same thing, only note one of each.
  • Categorize each item as to its foodtype.
  • Make a note of the price, the original price and therefore, the saving. 
  • Reserve the right to eat whatever you find!

Then at the end of the week, I’m going to have a good old faff about on Excel and see if I can come up with some fancy looking science to reveal THE optimum time.

No experiment can start, however, without a hypothesis and I think it’s going to be fun anyway to predict how this is going to go…so…

I wager that the most lucrative time of day to look for items in the reduced aisle will be found to be 2:30pm and that the most common foodtype will be of the “ready meal” category. I will add to this that more items will be available at 2:30pm but that the biggest savings will be made at the latest time in the day.

And today was DAY 1.

So, at 10:30am off I trundled and here’s what I found:

Absolutely nothing.

But, I did not give up there. As I recently reported, there’s been a worrying new trend of late, in various supermarkets, of not putting reduced items in their dedicated aisle. Instead, you have to hunt along all the aisles of fresh produce separately to find them. And this morning certainly proved that as I found a wealth of things on the shelves rather than in the aisle:

THE RESULTS
Total items found: 6
Breakdown: 1 Fresh Vegetables, 1 Meat, 2 Side Dishes, 2 Ready Meals, 0 Baked Goods
Total potential saving: £2.76

Come back again tomorrow to see how I get on at 11:30 am as the BIG EXPERIMENT continues…

Finest Chunky Coleslaw - £1.04 to 75p Saving of 29p

Asparagus - £1.50 to £1.05 Saving of 45p

4 Chicken Kievs - £2 to £1.39 Saving of 61p

Onion Bhajis - £1 to 69p Saving of 31p

Chicken and Broccoli Pie - £2 to £1.39 Saving of 61p - VERY WELL HIDDEN BUT NOT WELL ENOUGH!

Lasagne - £1.74 to £1.25 Saving of 49p ALSO VERY WELL HIDDEN