Having Grocery Sticker Shock? These 12 Apps Will Save You Money on Food
We all have to eat, am I right? But wow, our grocery bills are just eye-poppingly expensive these days. Food prices have been rising noticeably over the last two years, according to the federal consumer price index.
Ultimately, there’s no way to avoid that supermarket checkout lane. You may as well save as much money as you can, and we’ve collected a dozen apps that can help you do that.
These apps do lots of different things, so we’re going to list them by category:
- Grocery price comparison apps — Flipp and Basket
- Pantry inventory and recipe apps — SuperCook and KitchenPal
- Leftover food purchase apps — Flashfood and Too Good to Go
- Ugly produce subscription apps — Misfits Market and Imperfect Foods
- Coupon and rebate apps — Ibotta, Fetch, Checkout51 and Coupons.com
There are many different ways you can use apps to save money on food, and we’re betting you haven’t tried them all. If you really want to keep more of your cash while still eating right, get out of your comfort zone and try something new.
All of these apps are free, although one or two have premium paid versions with extra features.
Grocery Price Comparison Apps
If you live in even a medium-sized town, you probably have your choice of several different grocery stores. Which one offers the best deals today? Here’s how to find out.
We’ve found Flipp to be quite useful. This app allows you to compare prices at different grocery stores, and even grocery delivery services. You can see the best prices for individual items or you can search through store circulars to find savings.
This app also allows you to compare grocery store prices. First you put together a shopping cart full of items in the app. Then Basket checks prices at nearby supermarkets, adds it all up and tells you the estimated total cost at each grocery store in a five-mile radius.
Pantry Inventory and Food Waste Prevention Apps
This is a crowded category. There are a lot of these apps. We’re going to focus on two.
How many times have you opened the fridge and asked yourself, “OK, what can I make with these ingredients?”
Before you run off to the store or order carryout, SuperCook suggests recipes that you can make with what you already have on hand in your refrigerator, pantry and freezer. The app’s cookbook has literally millions of recipes.
It’s easy to input your ingredients — just tap on choices like butter, eggs and milk or add ingredients if they’re not already listed. You can also use voice mode to just tell the app what you have.
This popular pantry-inventory app has a built-in barcode scanner — and that’s a useful thing to have when you’re taking an inventory of your entire pantry, and your fridge, and your freezer. Just scan products’ barcode labels, and they get automatically added to your kitchen inventory.
KitchenPal works as a pantry manager, grocery list, product comparison, meal planner and recipe ideas database, all rolled into one. The app learns and provides suggestions the more you use it, like a smart assistant.
After you inventory 100 items, you have to pay to add capacity to your pantry list. The premium version costs $2.99/month or $11.99/year.
Leftover Food Purchase Apps
OK, so “leftover food purchase apps” doesn’t sound very appetizing. But we promise, this option is tastier than it might sound at first.
Think of all the buffets, bakeries and grocery stores that toss out perfectly good food each day. Two apps — Flashfood and Too Good To Go — are changing that by connecting businesses with consumers willing to purchase food near its expiration date at a steep discount.
The biggest downside? Both apps are only available in select U.S. cities.
5. Too Good to Go
This app connects you to businesses with leftover food. You choose a participating restaurant or store and order a “surprise bag” of surplus food at a discounted price. These bags cost $4 to $7 and contain food that would’ve otherwise gone to waste. Pay for it in the app, then pick it up from the store.
Too Good To Go is currently only available in 17 U.S. cities in states across the country, including Texas, California, Maine, Maryland, Florida, Oregon, Rhode Island, Illinois, Massachusetts and Washington.
This app helps you find food that’s close to its sell-by date and buy it at a discount. You use the app to see what’s available at grocery stores near you. A store can list any item, including produce, meat, dairy, bread and snacks. You can get discounts of about 50%.
States with participating stores include Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nebraska, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
Ugly Produce Subscription Apps
Produce subscription boxes like Misfits Market and Imperfect Foods deliver fresh organic produce and other pantry staples to your doorstep — just like a grocery store delivery service. So what’s the difference? You get the “ugly” produce a grocery store might turn down.
Both apps are free to join and allow customers to skip deliveries or cancel at any time. They fill up your weekly box with a customized selection of funky-shaped fruits and strange-looking veggies as well as pantry items, meat, seafood and snacks. Customers can swap out items in their cart as desired.
If you typically buy organic produce at the grocery store, you’ll save money. Both ugly produce subscriptions are similar, but they have some significant differences.
7. Misfits Market
This service is widely available in the lower 48 and provides transparent sourcing for its fresh food. There’s also wine and a points program to earn discounts and other free stuff. But Misfits Market has a minimum order threshold and a more expensive delivery fee, depending on where you live.
8. Imperfect Foods
This app has a much smaller delivery footprint and is largely available on both coasts and select urban areas across the Midwest. Because it emphasizes reducing the environmental impact of grocery delivery, Imperfect Foods has its own electric vans and schedules delivery by zip code.
Coupon and Rebate Apps
This is the biggest category. There are a lot of options here, so it’s important not to get overwhelmed by the number of choices. Also, you don’t have to choose just one. You can double-dip on some of these if you want.
It’s important to note that these cash-back apps focus on name-brand products, so don’t forget to compare prices. Generic or store brands might be more affordable even without a rebate.
Ibotta is the big daddy of grocery cash-back apps with millions and millions of users.
Before you go shopping, choose your grocery store in the app and browse through the available cash-back opportunities if you buy specific national brands. After you shop, scan your receipt and Ibotta will give you cash back. Or, if you link your store loyalty card to Ibotta, you don’t even have to scan your receipt.
Fetch is similar to Ibotta, but it’s even easier.
If you just want to get in and out of the store and save money on groceries without doing much thinking, we recommend Fetch. You don’t have to search for offers. All you have to do to earn rewards is take a photo of your receipt.
Every time you scan a receipt that includes one of hundreds of participating brands, you’ll earn points — without worrying about matching specific product offers. And if the app does find a match, you’ll earn even more.
The Checkout51 app is also a lot like Ibotta. Before you go to the grocery store, look through the available cash-back offers in the app. Checkout51 updates its offers every Thursday.
After you’re done shopping, click on “redeem” in the app next to any products you bought, and upload a photo of your receipt.
Like Ibotta, you can cash in your rewards once you’ve earned at least $20. You don’t have to choose between Ibotta and Checkout51, because Checkout51’s offers can be used at the same time as other offers or coupons.
Coupons.com is a good resource to save money on all types of brand-name products, from Cheez-It snacks, Puppy Chow dog food, CoverGirl makeup to Air Wick air fresheners.
In addition to a bevy of manufacturer coupons you can print out, this coupon site lets you link your loyalty card from your favorite grocery chain in order to load digital coupons onto your account. Then your cash-back rewards get automatically credited to your account.
13. Grocery Chain Apps
If you’re like most of us, you’re a regular at a particular grocery store or two. Depending on where you live, that might be Walmart, Costco, Kroger, Albertsons, Publix, Food Lion, H-E-B, Meijer, Safeway, Hy-Vee, Price Chopper, Aldi, Trader Joe’s or Target.
If your favorite supermarket is part of a big chain, the store almost certainly has its own app that can bring you additional coupons and savings. We’re thinking of popular apps like I Heart Kroger, I Heart Publix or Target.
It’s definitely worth looking into, since you’re going to shop at that grocery store anyway.
Like we said, groceries are eye-poppingly expensive these days, and the checkout lane can be a painful experience.
Hopefully, these dozen or so apps can help cushion the blow.
Mike Brassfield (mi[email protected]) is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder.