'Broccoli bandits': Shoppers' trick to save on groceries sparks debate

With the cost of living expenses growing by the day, Aussie shoppers are taking matters into their own hands by finding ways to reduce their supermarket spending.

But the latest ploy to pay less for broccoli — which has crept up to $11.90 per kilo in some areas — has left people divided, and some have condemned the act.

Some shoppers have noticed legions of broccoli stalks being dumped on supermarket shelves, and have shared their observations online.

Broccoli in Coles supermarket and a woman chopping a broccoli stem
A Coles shopper in Melbourne noticed broccoli stems being left behind as dozens of people admitted to breaking them off so they pay less at the checkouts. Source: TikTok

The running theory is that some Aussies are snapping off the florets and leaving the stalk behind as that's the heaviest part, and doing so makes the vegetable cheaper.

By that logic, and the fact most retailers charge produce by weight, not item, people are arguably paying more for the stems that aren't often used.

Last week, 2GB producer Jake told host Ben Fordham he recently bought four pieces of broccoli for $15 from Woolworths, but he noticed the stems were longer than usual, meaning fewer broccoli florets.

He suggested it was a deliberate attempt by Woolworths to charge customers more for less, but that might not be the case.

A Coles shopper in Melbourne, named Jenn Shaw, said she saw it too and shared a video on TikTok.

In it, she pointed out that "shoppers are leaving stalk on shelves" in a bid to make them cheaper.

Radio host Ben Fordham dubbed the culprits "broccoli bandits," but it seems there are plenty of Aussies that do it.

Shoppers agree: 'Every little bit helps'

Dozens of people responded to Jenn Shaw's video and admitted to breaking off what they needed.

One argued "every bit helps these days" claiming she saves about $1.50 each time she buys broccoli, just by leaving the stalk.

"I always break mine off as it weighs less and cost less," one said.

"No disrespect but for that price, I would do the same," admitted another.

People divided: 'Stalks shouldn't be discarded'

The original poster argued doing this creates so much waste as the stalks can be cooked and eaten too.

In the clip, the Melbourne woman suggested people chop them up and add them to meals the same way you would the florets, and dozens more agreed.

"The stalks shouldn't be discarded, well worth eating," one wrote in the comments.

One said the stalk is "so nice" and urged others to "always use that bit."

Baffled by the waste, another wrote: "I actually can't believe how many people don't know that the stem has way more nutrition value than the flowers."

Others said the stem is ideal for meals like broccoli soup, or simply roasted with some olive oil.

Coles and Woolworths speak out

Becoming aware of the supermarket act, Coles said its "disappointing" to see.

"It’s disappointing to hear a small number of customers have removed the stalks from broccoli in our stores as the entire vegetable is edible and full of nutritional value," a spokesperson told Yahoo News Australia

"As part of our Together to Zero strategy, we will continue to work on ways to minimise food waste by educating customers about how to get the most out of their fresh produce."

Coles and Woolworths shop front
Shoppers have noticed longer stems on broccoli at both Coles and Woolworths. Source: AAP

Yahoo understands Woolworths pays its suppliers for broccoli by weight, so there's no incentive to engineer produce to be heavier than necessary.

"We have not changed the specifications we set for our suppliers around the length of broccoli stems," a Woolworths spokesperson told Yahoo News Australia,

In a statement to Yahoo, the spokesperson said the stem of the broccoli plays an important role in keeping the broccoli hydrated and fresh, particularly after being cut.

"This not only ensures quality fresh food for our customers, but also helps to reduce food waste in the supply chain and customers’ households," they said.

Rising cost of living

This viral video comes after Coles and Woolworths warned about more price hikes in the coming months due to increased production and manufacturing costs, fuel price hikes and supply chain blockages.

Shoppers have observed sharp increases in the cost of produce, with one head of lettuce recently selling for $12 at an IGA store in Queensland.

The heft yprice tag had led to changes on fast-food menus including KFC and Subway as both chains decided to swap out pricey shredded lettuce and are using cabbage instead.

Meanwhile, watermelon prices have soared leaving shoppers gobsmacked after one spotted a $100 melon at her local supermarket.

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