I give out free food from supermarkets to hundreds of people every week – here's how you can get it | The Sun07/14/2022
AN NHS worker who helps consumers save hundreds has revealed how you can get free groceries using a simple money-saving app.
Alex Bak volunteers for OLIO, an app which helps to distribute food and other products that are due to go out of date or that are unwanted by businesses or shoppers.
The products are made available on the app for free, and thrifty shoppers can pick the items up from different collection points.
Alex, 39, started volunteering as a food waste hero for OLIO nearly two years ago, and her home is now a collection point for shoppers.
OLIO works by users signing up to the app and then entering their postcode and selecting a maximum mile radius they are willing to travel to pick up food.
Alex, who lives in London, collects items from local businesses and redistributes 100 food portions a week to those in need.
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To sign up you must download the OLIO app, which you can find on the Apple app store or by going online.
When you log in you can choose to collect food and non-food from either a food waste hero, or someone who lives nearby.
A food waste hero is a voluntary role where an OLIO app user picks up unsold excess food and takes it home to distribute to their neighbours.
As well as getting hold of food or non-food on the app, you can also borrow items or post in the "wanted" section, where you request a certain item.
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Users are typically people who want to save money by getting hold of fresh produce that is due to go out of date, or who can't afford their weekly shop.
As OLIO launches a campaign to redistribute 200 million meals over the next year alongside FareShare, Alex has shared her five top tips for using the app.
Pick from the right types of businesses
If you want the freshest food, you'll need to pick the right store to get it from.
When you log on to the app, you can search for the specific food you want – such as baguettes or a salad – and it will display the firms with those items.
And it's good to know which ones to choose for the best grub.
Pret A Manger is one of Alex's top picks – the high street sandwich shop offers up fresh baguettes, wraps and salads.
She also likes Planet Organic, an organic supermarket which offers food, drinks and healthcare products.
Alex also said Tesco was a great shout for picking up fresh, good-to-eat goods, particularly their bread.
As more people use OLIO, you need to be quicker to get the best goodies.
Alex said her batches are divvied out to shoppers much quicker than they used to be.
When you use the app, you can set a maximum distance you're willing to travel to pick up food.
But there's no notification feature so you have to manually check to see what's available – that means you'll need to look at it regularly to see when new items come up.
Alex said: "You need to be persistent and check it often – you can't just be on it a little bit, it needs to be constant."
Regardless of when you spot a batch of food, the collection will be in the evening, so you won't need to dash out to get it straight away.
The fast-paced nature and fierce competition for food, means many people forget their pleases and thank yous, said Alex.
On OLIO, shoppers can file requests for food – distributors then share a collection point from where it can be picked up.
Alex said she was usually more inclined to accept a request for a pick up from a user if they are polite.
Being polite for her went a long way and made her more likely to accept your request for a pick up, she said.
You should also avoid rushing to fill your details in – you don't want to miss an important bit of information and send an incomplete request to a distributor.
If you do – they might ignore it as they'll too busy to respond to ask for more details.
OLIO isn't just about food – Alex has used the app herself to pick up furniture.
She also knows people who have got nappies, children's clothes and even a breast pump using the app.
She uses the app herself and has picked up furniture previously.
Alex said: "Very often the condition of the items is very good – it could even be something someone bought and didn't even get out of the box.
"In lockdown, there were a lot of jigsaw puzzles going around."
How else can I save money on food?
If you're not quite ready to download the OLIO app, there are other options.
The Department for Work and Pensions first starting rolling out the Household Support Fund last October.
The fund is designed to support households most in need, particularly those including children and pensioners who may be struggling with energy bills, food and water bills.
A central pot of money has been portioned out to local councils who decide how and who to distribute it.
The deadline to apply for support through your local council is September 30.
But because each council decides how money is distributed, what you get will depend on where you live.
If you want to find out what council you fall under, you can use the government's council locator tool.
Some councils however have already allocated their funds, and have offered households in need food vouchers.
Other authorities have offered targeted support for energy bills.
Another way to save money on your food is by looking out for yellow stickers on products in store.
The stickers are placed food nearing its sell by date.
Looking out for yellow stickers on products might make your shopping a bit longer, but you can save plenty.
We rounded up the times of day when major supermarkets reduce their products.
You can also see if you're eligible for healthy start vouchers.
These are government-backed coupons that help low-income families with small children to pay for milk, vegetables, fruit, pulses and vitamins.
The vouchers are currently worth £4.25 each after the value was raised last April.
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We previously revealed one money-saving hack while supermarket shopping.
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