Supermarket snobbery is an old tale but it’s got a new twist. People used to take pride silently in how much more they paid for the better Sunday joint; now they publically brag about bargains. Supermarkets have changed as well.

Oxford Mail:

Chris Waites, manager at Sainbury's Summertown

Sainsbury’s policy is probably typical. They would rather reduce the price of perishable items and not send any waste to landfill. Their aim is to throw nothing away at closing time. I talked to Chris Waites, manager at their Summertown store. “We would rather reduce something to 5p than throw it away. Our Sainsbury’s has three reductions on the sell-by date – lunchtime, mid-evening and by 10.30pm if the item has not yet sold, it will be priced down to pennies if need be.”

The technique involves a computer report that calculates how many individual items are going out of date and how many of these they are forecast to sell so the price balance Sainsbury’s staff have to strike depends on the amount of products and the likelihood of selling them.

Every Sainsbury’s store has two targets: to sell as much reduced food to customers as possible without any sales target on this, and to throw away no edible food at the end of the day.

Not many people know that the policy of supermarkets has moved on. People like Kevin Wallington, 48, from Cowley reflect the old way of thinking. “I have friends who work in supermarkets and they say they’re throwing away loads of meat every day. Why don’t they sell it at a reasonable price in the first place that people can afford?”

The reality is supermarkets do reduce food and if you are time-rich and money-poor you can make a killing at supermarkets right now.

Oxford Mail:

Waitrose in Headington

Take my local shop, the Headington Waitrose, which usually closes at 9pm. By 8pm the bread goes down to 6p for rolls with five different kinds of seeds, baguettes go for 19p and loaves – rustic, spelt and sourdough – sell for 29p.

The milk bargains are terrific.

I got six litres of semi-skimmed for 29p.

Potatoes are so cheap I haven’t grown my own for years. Reductions vary on Charlotte, King Edward and new potatoes, but I’ve bought 1.5kg for as low as 25p.

Even the flowers go for a song. On Monday I bought two bunches of gladioli at the Waitrose store: “12 stems for the price of 9 from Lincolnshire guaranteed for 7 days, displayed until September 15.”

They cost £5 each and were reduced first to £2.49, then to 99p and finally ten minutes before closing time on their sell-by date the price came down to 19p per bunch. I bought both; so for 38p I have £10 worth of flowers in three vases in peak condition, just coming into blossom.

The plant food also goes down in the autumn. Enough Miracle Gro for 80 watering cans dropped from £3.49 to £2.95.

The biggest bargains are the meat cuts. At 8.52pm I bought a topside of beef weighing .58kg.

The first reduction was from £7.35 to £6.25 and the third reduction was to a succulent 58p for a joint I cooked for dinner that night.

Another, not quite so good bargain was “extra trimmed Welsh rack of lamb” on June 21, originally priced at £10.95 with a first reduction to £3.34 and a second to £1.53 which was a delicious price. I invited friends over that evening.

I spoke with George Whitley, team leader of operations, the head honcho on reductions to you and me. “The policy of Waitrose is to cut down as much as possible on what goes into the waste bin and we aren’t so worried about the money involved in the reductions. If the customer wins, that’s great “When I first started with Waitrose three years ago we had six wheelie bins in the back of the shop and they were all in regular use. Now three are turned upside down and only two are in regular use.

“Timings are important. If around 6pm something costs £1 and it will be out of date tomorrow, we might reduce it to 60p. At around 8.30pm we will reduce it further.

“There are special occasions, like Christmas. We reduce all the turkeys to half-price in the afternoon and then at the close of day on Christmas Eve, the ‘partners’ – staff – can buy any leftovers for a fiver. We do this because last year people stole turkeys out of other shopper’s baskets.

“It was turkey wars.”

Don’t mention the geese. A few years ago I brought this Christmas goose priced originally at £54.25.

It was reduced to £39 and finally on Christmas Eve it fell to £12.15.

I took my goose to the checkout. The woman at the counter, Glynis Phillips, scanned it, looked me straight in the eye and said “you must have nerves of steel to wait till it fell from £54 to £12”.

We’ve become good friends. She’s now an Oxfordshire county councillor and still as outspoken.