How to Save Money on Groceries: 28 Tools and Tricks to Save $100 or More
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We’ve got tons of tips to share with you, but first, here are a few of our staff and reader favorites
Get up to $250 in Coupons
Give Betty Crocker your email address, and it’ll send you up to $250 worth of coupons, plus the best of Betty’s 15,000 kitchen-tested recipes, how-tos and more.
Take a Picture of Your Receipt
Ibotta will pay you cash back for taking pictures of your grocery store receipts. Plus, you’ll get a $10 sign-up bonus after uploading your first receipt.
Want to slash your grocery store tab? Saving money on groceries is easier than collecting binders of coupons and buying 455 rolls of toilet paper.
We’ve compiled a list of simple (and some unexpected) tips to help you maximize your grocery budget.
How to Save Money on Groceries: 28 Tools and Tricks
If you know what you’re doing, you can save a purse-full of money next time you hit the grocery store. Here are our favorite ways to save money on groceries.
9 Tools and Apps That Help You Save Money on Groceries
Your phone is a powerful tool, so download these grocery apps. (Using them all is easier than clipping coupons!)
1. Nielsen Consumer Panel: Share What’s in Your Fridge
Want to get rewarded for showing off your grocery haul? Nielsen will do that for you.
You’re probably familiar with Nielsen. It’s the company that tracks TV ratings. Now, it wants to track what’s in your fridge.
Join the Nielsen Consumer Panel, then use your smartphone to scan your items’ barcodes after your next grocery run. When the data is sent off to Nielsen, you’ll earn gift points, which you can use to redeem for free electronics, household items or toys.
2. Chase Freedom Unlimited: Get a $150 Bonus
If you’re not using a rewards credit card for everyday purchases, you’re missing out on free money.
You just have to be sure you don’t get too carried away with those purchases — and that the card is paid off at the end of each billing period.
Here’s an option we like: It’s the Chase Freedom card. Its claim to fame? You’ll earn an unlimited 1% cash back on all your purchases. Plus, if you spend $500 in your first three months of opening the card (hi, groceries), you’ll pocket a $150 bonus.
The card also offers 5% cash-back on select rotating categories. For example, in one quarter, you can earn 5% cash back on gas. The next quarter? Groceries. The categories continue to rotate throughout the year.
There’s no annual fee, and the cash-back rewards don’t expire.
*The information for the Chase Freedom card has been collected independently by The Penny Hoarder. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. The Penny Hoarder is a partner of Credible.
3. Ibotta: Find Freebies, and Snag $20
Ibotta will pay you cash for taking pictures of your grocery store receipts.
Here’s how it works: Before heading to the store, search for items on your grocery shopping list within the Ibotta app. When you get home, snap a photo of your receipt and scan the items’ barcodes.
Browse your grocery list on Ibotta before heading to the store — you might find a cash-back alternative to something you planned to buy already.
Bam. Cash back.
Ibotta is free to download. Plus, you’ll get a $20 sign-up bonus after redeeming your first 10 offers within 14 days.
4. Ebates: Get a Free $10 Walmart Gift Card Plus Cashback On All Purchases
Want $10 for your next Walmart haul?
Sign up for Rakuten, a cash-back site that rewards you nearly every time you make an online purchase. When you give the site a try, you’ll pocket a $10 Walmart gift card.
- Sign up for Rakuten.
- Use the online portal next time you make an online purchase from a popular retailer like Walmart, Amazon or Target. Make this purchase within 90 days of signing up, and spend at least $25.
- Your Ebates account will be credited with points, which you can cash out for a $10 Walmart gift card.
5. Scan Your Groceries’ Barcodes For Free Gift Cards
Remember the Nielsen company? The one that’s always tracked TV ratings? Well, now it wants to know what’s in your fridge.
Once you sign up to be on the Nielsen Consumer Panel, you’ll gain access to the NCPMobile app. (If you don’t have a smartphone, Nielsen will send you a scanner.) As you unload your items after your next grocery shopping trip, simply use the app to scan items’ barcodes.
Nielsen will reward you with points, which you can redeem for free gift cards, electronics (new TV, anyone?) and household items. The longer you stay on the panel, the more opportunities you have to earn.
Applying to become a panel member is straightforward. You’ll answer some basic questions about you and your household, then Nielsen reviews your application and will contact you when you’re eligible to join
6. Phil: Get up to $30 off Your Next Prescription
Are you running to the local grocery store pharmacy because you forgot to pick up your refill? Next month, save time and money with Phil, a refill service that delivers your prescription right to your door.
It even talks to your insurance company to handle payment issues and renew refills so you don’t have to.
Plus, as a new customer, you’ll get up to $30 off your first prescription.
7. Swagbucks: Get $5 Cash for Shopping Online
Here’s a simple trick to snag a $5 gift card for your next grocery trip: Use the Swagbucks extension on Google Chrome on your computer or laptop, and save even more on purchases at some of your favorite sites like Amazon and Target.
You’ll get a $5 Swagbucks bonus when you earn 2,500 SB within your first 60 days of signing up. Cash the bonus out through PayPal.
8. Fetch: Get Paid to Take a Picture of Your Grocery Receipt
At this point, tons of grocery-savings apps have hit the market — and we don’t hate it. But having so many options can become overwhelming, especially for the lazy saver.
If that’s you — the one who just wants to get in and out of the store and save money on groceries without doing much thinking — there’s an app we recommend. It’s called Fetch Rewards, and all you have to do to earn rewards is take a photo of your receipt.
No scanning barcodes; no searching for offers; no store limitations.
Here’s what to do:
- Download the Fetch Rewards app. (Pst: Enter the code PENNY and scan your first receipt to earn 2,000 free points!)
- Create an account with your email address or through Facebook.
- Take a photo of your grocery receipt (must be from the past 14 days).
Fetch Rewards finds opportunities for you to earn rewards for your everyday purchases.
Every time you scan a receipt that includes one of more than 250 participating brands, you’ll earn points — without worrying about matching specific product offers.
If the app does find a match, you’ll earn even more. For example, we recently saw an offer of 2,000 points when you purchase a Suave female hair product. And another for 2,000 points for a 12-pack of Blue Moon.
Once you collect enough points, cash out for a gift card to any of a number of retailers. For example, 10,000 points will get you a $10 Sephora gift card. Or 3,000 points will get you a $3 Panera Bread card.
Go ahead, and start fetching points toward gift cards by downloading Fetch Rewards.
(And, yeah, we somehow resisted the obvious “Mean Girls” reference. You’re welcome.)
9. Store Loyalty Apps: Clip Digital Coupons
What’s your go-to local grocery store? Chances are, it has a loyalty app.
For example, the Aldi app allows you to tap into its weekly coupons, create a grocery shopping list and find the nearest store. The Publix app works similarly, allowing you to clip digital coupons to use at checkout.
11 Simple Ways to Save Without Coupons
Now that you’ve got your go-to savings apps and your coupons, it’s time to hit the aisles. Use these tips to save even more money on groceries.
1. Check Unit Prices
Sure, it’s tempting to think buying in bulk is better, but that’s not always the case. That modest two pack of paper towels might actually be more affordable than the insanely large case of 16.
Divide an item’s price by its quantity before you buy — that bulk purchase might not be the better deal.
To calculate the unit price, divide an item’s price by its quantity. Consider how much you’ll actually be saving (if anything — and definitely not shelf space) by buying the bulk item.
2. Meal Prep to Make a Grocery Shopping List
We know, we know. This seems soooo obvious, but meal planning for the week and making a grocery list can help you stay on task, not waste food and avoid frivolous purchases — like cheese wedges.
3. Don’t Shop at Eye Level
Dedicated professionals study the psychology of grocery shopping.
For example, shelves at eye level are prime real estate. You’ll often find more expensive items there — or items that attract kids.
Or think about this: Between 1975 and 2000, the size of shopping carts tripled. A bigger cart doesn’t mean you have to fill it all the way up.
Once you recognize these mind games, you can more easily avoid them.
4. Ask for a Rain Check
You know when there’s a BOGO for Nutella — but then you get to the store and it’s gone? Someone else got greedy.
Don’t be afraid to ask your grocer for a rain check so you can still snag the sale when the store restocks.
5. Store Your Food Properly
You buy a container of spinach or bundle of avocados, but before you’re able to devour all the green goodness, it goes bad.
Avoid wasting money at grocery stores by storing your food properly, so it lasts longer.
6. Have Your Groceries Delivered
Sure, you’ll have to pay for a grocery delivery service if someone brings your groceries to you, but opting to get your groceries dropped off at your door can actually save you a ton of time and money because you’ll be forced to plan out your meals.
Plus, there’s no veering off into the snack aisle.
7. Don’t Shop Hungry
The golden rule of grocery shopping: Thou shall not step into an aisle the least bit hungry.
You’ll start grabbing anything and everything that looks good. Then, because you’re planning for an immediate meal, you’ll have a ton of fresh, ready-to-eat impulse purchases that’ll linger in your fridge and go bad before you have time to devour them all.
8. Shop Your Pantry First
Before your next grocery run, take stock of what’s already in your pantry, fridge and freezer. What can you make with those items? Chances are you have a box of noodles or a carton of eggs. Use those already-purchased staples to build out your weekly meals.
9. Don’t Buy Pre-Cut Produce
Yes, it’s tempting to buy the already-spiralized zucchini or the pre-cut butternut squash. However, it costs a lot more than buying the “real” thing. Plus, you won’t get nearly as much, and the pre-cut stuff won’t stay fresh nearly as long.
10. Practice Meatless Mondays
Plain and simple: Meat is expensive. Enough ground beef for tacos for two can cost nearly $8. You might as well go to Taco Bell at that point…
To save money on your weekly grocery haul, practice meatless Mondays. Just giving it up once a week can help you save money.
Check out these meatless meals to get started.
11. Compare Stores
Ah, the store loyalists.
It’s easy to lean into one grocery store. You grow close with its aisles, its products, its cashiers… But you can save a bundle of money by jumping around. Use a grocery comparison chart to determine the best grocery stores to buy your go-to items.
For example, you could save a ton of money on paper products at the dollar store. Then, hit up your favorite grocer for your fresh fruits and veggies.
Use These Sites to Get Coupons for Groceries
A simple way to save a ton of money at checkout is to deal stack, the art of layering cash-back apps and coupons.
If you’re looking for coupons — because not many of us receive the Sunday newspaper anymore — you can find a trove of coupons to print from these sites.
1. Betty Crocker: Up to $250 in Free Coupons
Give Betty Crocker your email address, and it’ll send you up to $250 worth of coupons that can help you get deeply discounted or free canned goods, cereal and yogurt at grocery stores.
In addition to coupons, Betty Crocker’s free email delivers the best of Betty’s 15,000 kitchen-tested recipes, how-tos and more — straight to your inbox!
If you’re like us, you probably get bored making the same food week after week, so wouldn’t it be nice to occasionally be surprised with simple recipes you can make on a budget?
2. Pillsbury: Up to $250 in Coupons
Sign up for Pillsbury.com emails to receive up to $250 in yearly coupons, access to free product samples (quantities limited, one per member) and the easiest recipes sent right to your inbox.
Because of the high value of these coupons, they’ve limited it to one set of coupons per person, so if you need more, get someone else in your household to sign up, too.
3. Tap Into This Free Coupon Portal
Just when you think you’ve exhausted all your coupon resources, think again.
Tap into exclusive discounts through the Kellogg’s Family Rewards portal. Find printable and digital coupons for great deals on cereals, diapers, laundry detergent — more than just Kellogg’s products.
Additionally, use the tool to earn points on other qualifying items. Exchange them for gift cards to popular retailers, like Starbucks, Domino’s and Sephora.
Sign up with your email address and answer a few questions to earn an easy 100 bonus points. Then start collecting!
6 Ways to Save on Organic Groceries
We get it: You just feel better about buying some items organic. That doesn’t mean you have to spend more money, though. Here are some strategies to help you save on organic groceries:
1. Grow a Cost-Effective Garden
If you have a yard — or even shelf space for herbs — consider growing your own fresh produce.
Because some veggies require more time, money and love upfront, plant the most cost-effective vegetables, which include salad greens, cherry tomatoes, green beans, herbs, summer squash, carrots and zucchini.
Another perk? You’ll know exactly how your produce was grown.
2. Shop Seasonally
Stay in your lane — or season.
Buying organic strawberries out of season, for example, can cost you a ton of money. Instead, shop and plan your meals seasonally. If you need out-of-season produce, buy it frozen.
3. Buy Organic Meat in Bulk
Did you know you can buy meat in bulk? The idea of it sounds kind of gross, but you can save a ton of money by shopping at your local wholesale meat supplier.
Penny Hoarder contributor Shannon Quinn buys her meat in bulk from her local supplier. She gets three months’ worth of beef, pork, chicken and fish for $50 — and it all fits in her standard-sized freezer.
4. Tap Into a Local CSA
Find a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program to tap into your area’s organic fruits, vegetables, meat and even honey.
It’s like a subscription box. You’ll receive monthly, biweekly or weekly boxes of goods. Plus, you’re supporting local agriculture!
Find CSA programs near you by searching the USDA’s CSA database.
5. Know the Organic Store Brands
You probably know grocery stores offer store-brand items, which can typically help you save some money over regular name brands. But did you know some also offer organic store brands?
Here are a few examples:
- Aldi: SimplyNature
- Kroger: Simple Truth
- Publix: Greenwise
- Safeway: O Organics
- Target: Simply Balanced
- Whole Foods: 365 Everyday Value
6. Understand What’s Worth Buying Organic
If you’re tried-and-true, always organic, that’s fine. But if you buy organic because you’re a sucker for green labels or simply feel like it’s healthier, then do some research. Make sure you know what that “organic” label means, and determine what’s worth buying organic and what’s not.
Saving Money on Groceries: Easier Than You’d Think
Maximizing your grocery budget doesn’t have to be complicated. With the right apps, coupons and strategies, you can easily cut your monthly grocery spend.
If you’re looking for even more ways to save money, check out our ultimate step-by-step guide to saving money.
*The information for the Chase Freedom Unlimited card has been collected independently by The Penny Hoarder. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. The Penny Hoarder is a partner of Credible.
Carson Kohler ([email protected]) is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder.