Saving money and the planet in a single shopping trip

  • 01/02/2018
Buying food that would otherwise have gone to landfill can give  you and your family plenty to smile about.
Buying food that would otherwise have gone to landfill can give you and your family plenty to smile about. Photo credit: Getty

If you're a parent, you'll be aware back-to-school week can be tough on your bank balance.

On top of uniforms, books and rising fees, there's the cost of filling their lunchboxes day in, day out.

But did you know there's a way to do that cheaply, and also ensure they'll have a planet to live on when they grow up?

A new breed of supermarket-style shops are sweeping New Zealand - they sell stock that would otherwise have gone to landfill.

"A product within three months of the best-before date, sometimes supermarkets go, 'Hey, we won't take that… we want fresh stock," Reduced to Clear founder and chief executive Sean Hills told Newshub.

He set up Reduced to Clear in 2008 after a "little light" went off in his head.

"There was an opportunity there. We thought hey, if we can move this stock, we solve two problems - we stop product going to waste and we can actually sell it to the public cheaper."

Hamilton woman Gale knows the importance of a good bargain, particularly when the grandkids are in town.

"The last time I went out there they had 1kg punnets of yoghurt and they were all $1 each, because they were a couple of days past their best-before date," she told Newshub.

"I bought three of them - they were only two or three days after their best-before. I freeze a lot of it for ice blocks over summer."

Reduced to Clear sells clearance food and drink that's  safe to eat and saves on waste.
Reduced to Clear sells clearance food and drink that's safe to eat and saves on waste. Photo credit: Newshub

A win-win idea

Mr Hills asked his contacts in the food industry if his idea was "win-win", and a decade later, the answer is an unequivocal 'yes'. From its humble beginnings in Manukau, Reduced to Clear now has 12 stores across the North Island.

Price has been a big part of that success. Newshub popped into the Henderson store on a sunny Monday afternoon in January and found Moro chocolate bars for 69c, Paul Newman brand salad dressing for $1.49, Just Cup Noodles for 29c.

If filling lunchboxes is your goal, there are plenty of healthy options too - Cruskits are half the price you'd find them elsewhere, and Nutri-Grain bars go for $2 a box. There's even a gluten-free range.

"For $50, in a supermarket you'll get one or two bags, in our store you can come out with a trolley load," says Mr Hills.

"The last time I went out I spent $15 and got a bag full," says Gale. "If I went to a normal supermarket it would have been probably about $30."

There were also products we'd never seen anywhere else before - Magnum Double Peanut Butter chocolate bars vanilla-flavoured Pepsi Max.

"We bring in many lines that you don’t get in NZ supermarkets. Many of our customers comment that they like to come in and see what's new each week. They're always pleasantly surprised."

Mr Hills is particularly proud of the chain's environmental cred. He estimates the amount of perfectly good food Reduced to Clear has prevented from going to landfill would possibly fill Eden Park.

"It would be tens of thousands of tonnes. Pallet loads."

According to the Love Food Hate Waste campaign, the average Kiwi family throws away three trolley loads of edible food every year - 122,000 tonnes between us, worth $872 million.

The group Love Food Hate Waste says items like bread will usually show signs of deterioration if they're no longer good.
The group Love Food Hate Waste says items like bread will usually show signs of deterioration if they're no longer good. Photo credit: Getty

"Best-before means you can eat after this date, but it may not be at its best," says Love Food Hate Waste spokeswoman Jenny Marshall.

"Anything that has a best-before date is safe to eat after the date, and anything which has a use by date can't be."

Foods with a best-before date will usually show signs of deterioration when they're no longer good, eg. milk and bread. For others - meat and fish for example - it's not always so obvious, so they have a use-by date.

"These are foods which develop harmful bacteria without showing any outwards signs that they have gone off, so you can’t use your senses to tell if they are ok to eat," says Ms Marshall.

You won't find food that's past its use-by date in Reduced to Clear stores, or anything else that's clearly not fit for consumption.

"If we think a product isn't 99 percent right, we'll pull it ourselves," says Mr Hills.

So before you stock up on next week's lunchbox essentials, give Reduced to Clear a go.

This article was created for Reduced to Clear.