Tis the season to be buffeted this way and that by exhortations to shop early and shop often for Christmas goodies.

With some shops setting up Christmas zones in the middle of October, there are the usual complaints about how shops seem to put things out earlier each year. However, shops do it for a reason – because people buy the goods.

I used to work in retail, and the reason often given in conversation with such purchasers is that they saw it as a way of ensuring that they would have decorations (etc) for Christmas Day. They didn’t trust themselves to put money aside each week and save up so they bought what they could when they could.

Fair enough – and actually, quite sensible.

But what about mince pies?

The quintessential Christmas Day treat is also on sale, and has been for several weeks, so would it be wise to stock up in readiness? Well, no as it happens, as my analysis of the pies on sale shows that they would go stale long before the traditional date for consumption.

As someone who is quite keen on Mince Pies, and purely in the interests of research you understand, I went to a number of stores in the middle of October, and picked up a box of pies from each of them.

Meant to write this blog post ages ago – but kept being distracted.

With the exception of one pack, all of them have to be consumed by the middle of November at the very latest, and M&S were selling some that had to be eaten by the middle of October!

If people are buying Christmas goods early to ensure they are getting necessary shopping out of the way, then buying Mince Pies is a false economy.

I was going to write a series of witty food reviews, but to be honest, I really couldn’t be bothered to sit down and taste them professionally – as opposed to munching a few in the evenings with my nightly glass of wine.

However, I think the M&S lactice pies were the nicest as they reduced the amount of pastry to something less likely to clog up the mouth, whereas the Sainsbury’s cheapest were, frankly, what you might expect for a value product.


Asda – Eat by the 16th November


Asda – Eat by the 9th November


M&S – Eat by the 27th October


M&S – Eat by the 13th October (just 2 days after I bought them!)


Sainsbury’s – Eat by the 19th October


Sainsbury’s – Eat by the 16th November


Tesco – Eat by the 6th November


Tesco – Eat by the 3rd November


Waitrose – Eat by the 2nd November

However, here is the winner – some pies bought in the middle of October that might possibly last long enough to reach Christmas. The only pies to include December in their eat by date, and indeed, these ones last until the end of the year.


Waitrose – Eat by the end of December

In a way, it is nice that people can buy mince pies and eat them whenever they want, but part of me yearns for a return to more seasonality in food and to have limits on when things can be eaten, even if artificially applied due to holiday traditions as opposed to the reality that some fruits only ripen at set times of the year.

Having things come into and out of season and change regularly makes life interesting. I love mince pies, but I don’t want to be eating them in October, and are barely tolerable in November.


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  1. I pride myself on eating seasonally, but what this means is that I get excited when I see the first something of a season (asparagus in spring, apples in September, Vacherin in October, Creme Eggs in Feb, etc), overdose, then burn out towards the end of the season.

    Thus I have no problem eating mince pies in November, though would frown on the practice in Jan. That’s a two-month eating window. I think that counts as seasonal.

    For the record, I’ve already eaten two packs of mincers this year (one of them the Heston pine-fresh ones for Waitrose*), a Christmas pudding, and two haggis (and Burns night isn’t even till Jan!).

    *excellent filling but too much pastry:filling ratio. Looked like cocktail sausage rolls. And not sure about the pine sugar.

  2. Daniel says:

    Have to say, I’m all for buying Mince pies now and eating them. Given that they’re only available for a short time per year I take the opportunity.

    Regarding best ones, I’ve always found those Sainsbury taste the difference ones are far too stodgy and buttery. Tried the Heston ones…were ok but not worth the money and the pine sugar reminded me of disinfectant.

    I’ve taken rather a liking to the instore bakery ones, whether puff or shortcrust. They always seem to taste fresher and have more of a homemade feel than mass produced.

    (NB: Love reading your blogs!)

  3. I’m going on the record to say that I hate mince pies, and christmas pudding. Unfortunately I’m going to be in the UK this Christmas, rather than Germany as in previous years, where it was very easy to avoid them – in fact their festive foods are much more fun :

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