The UK throws away approximately 9.5 million tonnes of food waste in a single year. With 8.4 million people in the UK living in food poverty, we wondered why the figure remains so high.
With the cost-of-living crisis remaining rife, shoppers are continuously scoping out the best food deals. Likewise, rising transport and packaging costs are making imports more expensive, meaning our food is no longer the prices we’re so fond of.
We spoke with Laura Gaga, also known as the Reduction Raider, to hear all about her journey, her top tips and just why yellow-sticker hunting is the way forward.
Having worked in the public sector for almost 20 years, Laura’s day to day includes full time working, part-time cat mum, running, seeing friends and a whole lot of yellow sticker searching. For Laura, shopping from the reduced section is a frequent hobby of hers.
“I [also] tend to pick up food for free by using food sharing apps like Olio – getting surplus food, looking for food deals,’ she says. But how did this hobby start?
Growing up, Laura describes herself as an “extremely fussy eater”, one who “couldn’t cook” and who wasn’t “very good at managing money – especially at uni.”
Choosing what to eat – or what not to eat – is a part of our development. Discovering what we like and dislike can take years and food shopping is not something people find themselves familiar with until they first leave home.
Food is an unavoidable expense and one which takes a fair amount of time navigating. Hungry eyes can often lead to over-spending and failing to create a shopping list prior to your visit will likely do the same. But under-shopping can lead to the same problems.
Laura explained that her first time living solo was eye-opening for her. Having to plan the meals she was eating, the ingredients required, and how to make a meal was a shaping moment for her. Although, admittedly, she did still have to get in touch with her siblings for that sibling-advice that you can’t get elsewhere…
However, just over ten years ago, Laura’s good – frugal – friend had shared with her the glory of discount shopping. “He explained that supermarkets reduce food when they’re near their sell by date and I had been completely oblivious to that. I then started looking in the supermarket for yellow stickers and it put me on a massive high[KM2(1] . I couldn’t believe how much I was saving.’
This introduced a whole new penny-saving world for her and more! She says: “It opened me up to new foods and would get me cooking. I started planning my meals in reverse by seeing what I’ve got [that was reduced] and then working out what I could make with all of it through recipe books and googling things.
“I would come home and work out how much it would’ve cost before the discounts[KM2(2] . It really changed my relationship with food and the way I cook. And money and sustainability!’
Laura’s Instagram, which features countless how-to videos and recipe recommendations, has gained over 10,000 followers since she started her journey.
Her yellow-spotted feed is helpful for anyone looking to save a few pounds on their weekly shop or even learn how to effectively stop wasting so many food products.
In the last 5 years, her account has showcased the meals that she’s made from offers and what she’s picked up reduced. She promotes reducing food waste and eating well. Laura is also the host a podcast in which she talks with guests about their relationships with food and how to reduce food waste.
Laura’s habits have since developed: “Initially it was the high from saving money but then it’s made me more conscious about how much food is, how much waste there is, and made me more mindful of food. For the last five years now, I’ve been vegan, so it’s had all of these knock-on effects,
“I’ve extended [bargain hunting] to my clothes shop. I try not to buy anything new. Day-to-day I’ll try and buy stuff that’s second hand. In the office I worked in, a lot of us would bring in stuff that we didn’t wear anymore. I also go to clothes shop and I’m into the Vinted app as well.”
Laura’s Instagram allows her to share her top tips and recipes with likeminded followers. She shared with us her best tips: “Most people’s first point of call is to go to the supermarket before they look through what they’ve got. I think people need to be more mindful on what they’ve got and what they can use. [KM2(3] We really need to try and use up all the stuff we’ve got at home. I don’t know that enough of us do that.
“Another top tip would be to substitute ingredients! Use alternatives. Play about with what you already have at home. Food sharing apps are brilliant. You’d be surprised at what’s available. Apps like Too Good To Go are ok too! You can also pick up fruit and veg boxes from Morrison’s for example.
“In terms of shopping from the reduced section – go with an open mind. You can’t go with a food shopping list! Try and think a bit further down the line too.’
But when is the best time to go?
“Around 6 – 7 will be the best time to go. But just observing in every shop you’re in is a great habit to get into. There’ll be shops that surprise you – like petrol stations! Financially it’s not in a stores interest for the food to be collected and disposed of so it’s worthwhile them reducing it. [KM2(4]
“It’s also worth asking! Maybe feel a bit embarrassed to ask but they’re more than happy to tell you.
Overall, supermarkets should be making a conscious effort to ensure that all food – regardless of how aesthetically pleasing it may be – must be sold and eaten.