I’m a mum-of-four – I’ve saved £100s by only buying damaged items, you can’t tell the difference


A MUM-OF-FOUR has saved hundreds over the years by snapping up imperfect items – and they’re just as good.

Vicky Saynor, 47, owner of Bethnal&Bec luxury stays and mum to Willow 11, Mylo 12, Felix 14, Poppy 17, has always hunted for yellow sticker goods, but branched out into “damaged items” in recent years.

Vicky Saynor, 47 and a mum of four, saves cash by buying imperfect items

These dented tins are reduced but the content is still good enough to eat

Vicky’s found so many ‘damaged’ items

Vicky buys ‘damaged’ plants and brings them back to life

The latter are goods that can no longer be sold at full price, but are still more than usable. 

It could be that a tin of beans has a dent in it or that the packaging on a mascara tube has begun to tear.

These items aren’t unsafe or harmful, they’ve just had a little knocking on them. 

“I remember people saying to me that you’ve got to be careful because if they’re damaged they could be leaking metal [substances] into the food but that isn’t the case,” Vicky, who’s based in Hertfordshire, told HOAR.

Vicky said she’s picked up cans of tins for 2p from Tesco and bought a £16 plant for £3 from Sainsbury’s.

She also reckons she saved around £45 on Christmas extras like biscuits and chocolate and can feed her family of six for a tiny £1 per meal.

Vicky also managed to find a box of Thornton’s chocolate for 74p, down from about £7, also at Tesco.

All that was “damaged” was the box but it was still completely sealed.

Just this week, the smart shopper needed to buy cleanser for her son and managed to find a pack of three items in the “damaged” items section, saving her £20.

Here are Vicky’s top tips on saving your cash on “damaged” items.

It could come in handy as prices have soared recently.

Prices of food and non-alcoholic beverages in the UK rose by 16.5% in 2022 leading up to November 2022, according to the Office for National Statistics.

This rate has risen for the last 16 consecutive months, from a negative 0.6% in July 2021. 

Damaged items should be reduced

Firstly, if an item is damaged, you’ll most likely be entitled to a discount – most supermarkets have a unsold or damaged item policy which means they’ll still sell them but at a reduced price.

If you’ve spotted something that hasn’t yet been reduced, Vicky said to always take it to a shop assistant and ask for a reduction – they have to give it to you.

She said: “I think people will be surprised at how much you can get before you’re having to buy full price.”

Choose your store wisely

Vicky said she mostly shops in Tesco as that’s her local superstore and it tends to sell everything from food to clothes to makeup.

But it is handy knowing which stores are most likely to offer what.

For example, she said: “I don’t ever see ambient stuff discounted at Aldi or Lidl, only chilled.”

While Sainsbury’s has an excellent plant section and a lot of the time these are discounted for being “damaged”.

She said: “Supermarkets ship them in, put them on stands that are inside that get very little light.

“They’ve also got AC on them which not many plants can stand.”

Vicky has ended up buying several damaged plants and bringing them back to life.

Stores like Tesco, Asda and Sainsbury’s are also good for children’s clothes and Vicky always heads to the discounted section right away.

“If I needed to buy something desperately, normally for the children and I can’t get it online, I’ll always go to the sale rail first and see if there’s anything similar.

“And then I’ll go to the full price section.”

Don’t worry about the item not being ‘perfect’

Vicky said that one thing she feels many are worried about is that the items we’re buying aren’t in “perfect” condition.

Of course, we want value for money and should get what we’ve paid for, but if the packaging of something has ripped slightly, or the veg is a little wonky, it doesn’t mean the quality of the goods has been reduced.

“For example, there may be a cushion or where somebody’s opened it and they [the store] can’t sell it at full price,” she said.

“Well I don’t mind that it’s been opened, that’s sometimes saving me 75% because I’m going to put it through the wash anyway.”

She said the same goes for wonky fruit and veg, it’s all still in good condition and if you grow it yourself then it’ll most likely be wonky as well.

Vicky added: “We’ve become so conditioned that things have to be perfect in order for us to buy them – it’s so misplaced.” 

Plenty of supermarkets run wonky veg and fruit schemes as well where you can get cheap prices if they’re misshapen or imperfect.

For example, Lidl runs its Waste Not scheme offering boxes of 5kg of fruit and vegetables for just £1.50.

Go at the right time

Vicky said she used to do some sort of shopping every day, but now she tries to go once a week unless absolutely necessary.

Finding “damaged” items is also about timing it right, she said.

Knowing when to go depends on the store, Vicky said, so make sure you ask at your local supermarket for the time.

For example, she said Co-op tends to put its damaged items out on Monday and Friday.

But with other stores, heading on a Saturday evening is also a great trick as they’re usually trying to get rid of stock ahead of a Sunday or Monday delivery.

Head to the ‘damaged’ items first

Vicky said that one thing she always does is go straight to the damaged items section first.

This allows her to then plan the rest of her shop based on that.

These are usually tucked away at the back of the store and can be tricky to find, so you may need to ask someone for help.

The smart shopper gets all of her tins from the damaged section and has been a really cheap way of feeding her family of six, including making packed lunches for her four children.

She said: I’ve saved a load of money by buying damaged tins, which I think is a superb way of saving money.

“I can make a whole meal for a family of six for less than a pound, and that motivates me to seek them out.”

“If I walk past a supermarket I will go in solely to check out their discounted section, even if I don’t need anything, I’ll put it in the freezer.”

Vicky also said that just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

“If you can’t see anything go to customer services and ask where it is.

“So B&M for example, they don’t a specific shelf, but they do have a bunch of crates out the back which they put their damaged items in.”

She simply asked if she could take a look, which had to get approved by a store manager but she was able to dig around.

Ask for a further discount

Vicky always tries to get a further discount on top of the one the store has given.

She said: “I always go up to customer services and I will say to them, this plant will go in the bin, and they’ve normally only reduced it by maybe 50% but for a £25 plant it’s still a lot of money for a damaged item.

“So I’ll always ask for an extra discount – I bought a pothos for £15, got her down to £3.”

Once you’ve bought ‘damaged’ food, use apps to create a meal

Finally, Vicky explained that you do get random items listed in the damaged section, which might not fit in with your meal prep.

If this happens, she suggested to download food apps that help you put meals together with the ingredients you have.

For example, receipt generator apps like SuperCook and MyFridgeFood allow you to add the goods you have and it’ll then formulate a meal for you.

Do you have a money problem that needs sorting? Get in touch by emailing [email protected]

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