Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Shopping with Bez

I knew that the Happy Mondays were going to reform prior to the recent press release. How did I have the inside scoop? I was in my local Morrisons the other day and spotted Bez in the canned goods aisle. I wasn’t following him, I just happened to need tinned vegetables at the same time. What I did notice was that he was paying scant attention to the two-for-one and buy-one-get-one-free offers. As soon as I realised that he wasn’t going anywhere near the ‘own brand’ cans, I thought, ‘That’s it! Those loveable rogues are going to be plying their trade again this summer.’

I’m a fairly recent convert to the concept of budgeting whilst you negotiate the lanes in the supermarket. Until a couple of years ago, I would wander blithely round, putting things into a trolley. Sorry, did I say trolley? I meant basket. Trolleys were too much commitment. I preferred to pack it all into a basket so tightly that it looked like a skip with a handle, where even the cans were dented and my white loaf looked like a naan bread. Better that, than go for the overkill of a trolley, where everything rattles around with far too much freedom.

When I got home, my wife would help me to unpack and casually begin to note that I’d pulled off the amazing feat of buying the most expensive item in each category. My only defence was the hapless plea,

'But they looked nice.'

It works when you’re talking about tomatoes or prawns, but is less useful when pointing to a four-pack of massively overpriced washing-up liquid. I got a bit sick of feeling foolish, so began to just fabricate offers when I got home. As long as the receipt was on fire or in the bin I could bullshit my way through the cross examination.

‘Five tubs of Ben and Jerries?'

‘Oh yeah, it was buy one get four free, but only for today.’

‘Nouvelle Kitchen Roll twelve pack?’

‘The lady said that the 50% increase in price was offset by the 70% more child-generated mess that each sheet could remove.’

I wasn’t imaginative enough to keep this sort of stuff going, so eventually took the logical step of actually looking for bargains like everyone else, except for people in recently reformed, decade-defining bands.

These days I’m an enthusiast. The time that I considered a minute in a supermarket as a minute of my life wasted, are long gone. I will happily stand in front of a wall of beans and perform dizzying mental arithmetic until I’m certain that I have indeed saved myself four pence by buying four 415g tins instead of eight 200g tins. When in Morrisons, I’m automatically drawn to anything yellow. Their own brands and offers all use this colour and my eyes have evolved to screen out all other hues until this one has been considered first.

Now that I’ve mastered the basics, I’ve started spotting other bargain locations in there. 'Car-crash-corner’ is where they put all the stuff that looks like it’s been sat on or shat on. I’d have turned my nose up not so long ago. Not anymore. When you’re looking at a flat apple or a bottle of Lucozade with a bit missing and you’re thinking, ‘Might be alright!’ you’re a bargain hunter.

I’ve still not reached the pinnacle, though. The way to test this is to wander down to the bakery chuck-out display stand. If you can root through the mountain of stale cakes and crusty doughnuts without a backwards glance, you’ve cracked it. At the moment, I do what most people do and try to see what’s on there from about fifteen feet away, hovering round with the other Cornish pasty vultures and praying that if I go in to grab a pie, it’s got a filling I like.

Of course you can always ditch it later on in your shop, if you don’t fancy it, but filing it way innocuously can be quite tricky. One of my favourite pastimes in the supermarket is having a chuckle at unwanted purchases being left in inappropriate places. Check out the one below. Bog standard chicken curry as hair product!!

It seems that bargain hunting on the aisles will become more prevalent now, as all our belts tighten and more people join the throng.

We were in Marks and Spencer before Christmas, snagging one of their ten-pound meal deals. Part of the deal was a chicken. My wife bravely entered what can only be described as a well-mannered riot to snag us the best one. Without it ever descending to full scale lawlessness the ‘tut,’ ‘well I never’ and ‘charming’ count was off the scale, as everyone tried to jockey for position, but as politely as possible. We needed Bez with us. He’d have danced his way in and out with the biggest chicken before anyone else knew what was happening.

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