Gone are the days when you needed to scour newspapers, magazines and even coupon websites for the best savings on your weekly grocery buys.
Say goodbye to the cutting, clipping, printing, sorting (and losing) of paper coupons with a host of easy-to-use digital tools for savvy shoppers.
If you've got a smartphone, you're basically walking around with a couponing power house in your pocket. Here are three types of tools that will help you slash your grocery bills the next time you shop for food.
1. Grocery Store Apps
Many grocery stores have their own apps that let you save in a variety of ways. Within both the Kroger and Meijer apps, for example, shoppers can digitally acquire manufacturers' coupons at home and have them added to their store loyalty card that is then scanned on check out. The discounts are automatically removed from your total receipt.
“Adding digital coupons is perfect for the person who doesn't want to spend time cutting or organizing coupons before they shop,” Jenny Martin, whose site Southern Savers combines digital and in-store discounts on her website, told TODAY Food.
Martin says Target is one of her favorite apps. Not only can you scan items in your cart to score savings of up to half off through their “cartwheel offers,” but it also has general-use digital coupons, such as $5 off up to $50 worth of grocery items. She also recommends the apps for Whole Foods, Kroger and Publix, because they have added features like bonus coupons for mobile users. This won't necessarily save you money, but these apps also have a barcode scanning feature, so if an item is missing a price tag in store, you can quickly use your smartphone to see how much it is ... and decide if it's worth it.
“I use digital coupons from my local grocer and will digitally clip all the coupons of products that I know we will buy,” bargain blogger Briana Carter told TODAY. Each member of her family has a shopper loyalty card linked to the same account which points will add up faster; many stores will hand out three or four per account so everyone can take advantage of the same discounts. “Then, whenever anyone in my household goes to buy these items at the store [using a shopper loyalty card], they can redeem them automatically.”
Carter said she also likes to use digital coupons at stores with curbside shopping services like Kroger’s Clicklist, a program that allows users to place grocery orders online and pick them up in store.
If you do want to keep clipping, Martin said that you can sometimes even use paper coupons combined with most digital offers.
2. Cashback Apps
Another quick and easy way to save after your grocery shop is through apps like Ibotta, Checkout 51 and SavingStar. These apps offer cash back options for shoppers when they purchase specific items. “They each have different offers, but they all work with every store in town, so no matter where you shop you can save,” said Martin.
How do they work?
After downloading the app, users can search for items within the app by store, select items you purchased and then either scan the item’s barcode or upload a photo of your receipt to verify. Cash is loaded into your account within a few hours and, when you hit a threshold (typically $20), you can request your money via check or PayPal. In 2017, Martin said she received almost $160 by using Ibotta.
Martin suggests simply scanning or snapping photos of the items you purchased while putting groceries away at home. “It takes three to five minutes to upload to each mobile app and you are done!”
3. Coupon Deal Apps
There are also plenty of couponing apps that aggregate deals into one place.
In the Southern Savers app, for example, users can search by item to see which store has the best deal in any given region or review recent posts for the best weekly deals. With each item, the app also shows you available coupons for further savings. You can also enter each receipt to track how much you've saved through sales and coupons over time — and ultimately decide whether the extra time spent couponing has really paid off for you and your family.
Grocery IQ is a grocery list app that is affiliated with Coupons.com. It allows users to print coupons or digitally load them to select store loyalty cards. Within the app, users can create a list of grocery store favorites, so you don’t have to start from scratch before every shopping trip and the app will help you find coupons for these regular buys each week. You can also load digital coupons from stores like Winn Dixie, Food Lion, Osco and Bi-Lo.
So how much does all of this digital couponing really help your bottom line?
Martin said that during an average week, she’ll use three to four apps and save between $15 and $20. “Adding in the savings from sales and paper coupons, we tend to save 55 to 60 percent off what the regular price would have been,” she added. “Last week, for example, I spent $41 and saved $58!” One mom even used her couponing skills to help feed people in need.
So while “extreme couponing" (characterized by manic shoppers hoarding dozens of boxes of cereal and toothpaste) may have only been a good idea for a certain type of family, digital couponing is here to stay and it's much more accessible no matter where you live. And plenty of folks are still leaving the grocery with massive savings, or even some cash in hand. Said Carter, “It is harder to find extreme deals, but it is still possible to get great deals.”