How to eat like kings this Christmas – with a little help from a supermarket secret
It’s December 24th, and I’m stressed out as we wait for M&S’s mythical waste sale to begin
Cut-price Christmas dinner: Richy Craven’s deluxe spread cost €23. Photograph: iStock/Getty
As soon as I start my job I keep hearing about the mythical Christmas Eve waste sale, where all the food that isn’t sold by December 24th is marked down 90 per cent. Everyone I work with tells me not to get anything in beforehand, because so much food will be left that you can get your whole Christmas meal after the shop has shut that night.
Dad and I argue for weeks about it. Going back and forward about whether to get a turkey beforehand. Eventually, we decide we are going to risk it. I am working until close on Christmas Eve anyway, so my dad says we might as well give it a go. Before I go into work that day he tells me: “Just at least try and get a turkey, no matter what happens.”
I’m 16 years old and feel like my family’s entire Christmas is riding on me. I swear to myself that, no matter what happens, I’m going to come out of this with at least a turkey
This Christmas Eve is the most stressed I’ve ever been working in retail (which is saying something). I’m working in the Home & Gifts section, so every chance I get I sneak over to Foods to see how busy it is, how many turkeys are left. It’s so busy I’m convinced there’ll be nothing left.
Eventually closing time rolls around and all the staff clock out and wait for the sale to start.
Now comes my next heart attack. I thought it was just whoever was working Christmas Eve was able to go, but the entire workforce has trickled in since closing and is waiting.
I’m 16 years old and feel like my family’s entire Christmas is riding on me. I swear to myself that, no matter what happens, I’m going to come out of this with at least a turkey. No matter who I have to bludgeon to do it. Even if it means not having a job on December 26th.
The main Foods manager comes out and ceremoniously announces that we can go in. I stick the head down and charge. I don’t go quite as far as to trample anyone, but I can’t say I wouldn’t have if it had come to it. I’m convinced it’s going to be an all-out brawl...
It’s like something out of a Harry Potter Christmas scene or the end of Fantastic Mr Fox. There is so much food left. Everyone here could take two turkeys and there’d still be some left.
I grab a turkey the size of an American toddler and then am kind of at a loss. I end up grabbing sausage stuffing, croquette potatoes, duck-fat roasters and candied parsnips and carrots.
When we go through the shopping in the boot of our Corolla I get an inkling of what it’s like to win Wimbledon and then do that thing where you climb the stands to hug your parents
I start to drift towards the tills, and the manager asks what I’m doing. I think I’ve taken too much, there’s some spending limit I haven’t heard of. Instead he’s asking why I’m wasting food – and throws pork crackling and sticky toffee pudding into my basket.
I go to the till, expecting this to be the big reveal, where it will actually end up costing me my entire month’s pay. It costs €23.
Now my only problem is that I have about 16kg of food but have arranged to meet my dad 2km away, because Dundrum parking is extortion.
There’s also no point ringing and asking him to come closer, because Dad comes home from work every day and puts his phone in the kitchen drawer, and that’s where it stays until he leaves for work the next morning.
Does this defeat the purpose of a mobile? Yes, yes it does.
Anyway. I schlep this bounty all the way to where we are supposed to meet, and I see that he is pacing, at 11pm in December, by his car. He sees me. He looks like a husband waiting for his wife’s operation results.
When we go through the shopping bags in the boot of our Corolla I swear I get an inkling of what it’s like to win Wimbledon and then do that thing where you climb the stands to hug your parents.
He’s instantly, like, “Rich, this is too much. How much did you spend? The whole idea is that this was supposed to cost less!”
Yes, Dad has to start prepping and cooking the turkey as soon as we get home, at 11.30pm, but the next day we eat like kings. Or, at the very least, like people from Dalkey
I show him the receipt, and we drive home blasting Springsteen the whole way.
Yes, Dad has to start prepping and cooking the turkey as soon as we get home, at 11.30pm, but the next day we eat like kings. Or, at the very least, like people from Dalkey.
The food is great, and the best thing is that Dad makes a big deal about me providing it. Any time someone says they like something he gives me an elbow in the ribs. By the end of the dinner you’d have sworn I’d taken the job as some sort of Ocean’s 11-style long con.
Anyways, this Christmas is probably going to be a bit shit in comparison, so it’s nice to reminisce about a better one. Also, I got a Creative Zen MP3 player that I’m still convinced is the pinnacle of music technology.
Reading over this, we come across a bit like the Cratchits. We weren’t needy or anything. We just couldn’t turn down the opportunity for cost-price pork crackling.
And remember, not everyone gets as lucky at Christmastime. Please consider donating to Barnardos to help out those who need it.
You can donate to Barnardos here
Marks & Spencer staff still get a discount on their purchases; the company’s zero-waste policy also means that since 2015 it has donated more than 15 million meals to families and individuals through its stores’ connections with local charities