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/ Source: TODAY
By Lyn Mettler

Gone are the days where you needed to scour the newspaper and coupon websites for savings on your weekly grocery buys.

Say goodbye to the cutting, clipping, printing, sorting (and losing) paper coupons with a host of new tools for savvy shoppers.

Hack the Grocery Store

July 9, 201700:46

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. 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 manufacturer’s coupons at home and have them added to their store loyalty card that is scanned on check out. The discounts are then automatically removed from your total.

“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 over email.

Martin says Target has her favorite app. Not only can you scan items in your cart to score savings of up to half off through their “cartwheel offers,” the app also has 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! If you prefer shopping at big box stores like Costco, here are TODAY's tips for saving big.

Target's app lets you scan items to save up to half off.Target

“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 Food by email. Each member of her family has a shopper loyalty card linked to the same account; 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 also likes to use digital coupons with stores’ curbside shopping services like Kroger’s Clicklist, a shopping service that allows users to place grocery orders online and pick them up in store.

If you want to keep clipping, Martin says you can often 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 you 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,” says Martin.

Ibotta lets you earn cashback on items you've purchased.Ibotta

How do they work? After downloading the app, 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 says she received almost $160 through Ibotta alone.

Martin says she uploads items into the apps right after she finishes shopping (sometimes from the parking lot) or she suggests you can simply do it while putting groceries away at home. “It takes three to five minutes to upload to each mobile app and you are done!” she says.

3. Coupon Deal Apps

There are also couponing apps that aggregate deals into one place.

In the Southern Savers app, users can search by item to see what store has the best deal in your area 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.

The Southern Savers app lets you create a list and then shows you available coupons for each

Grocery IQ is a grocery list app that is affiliated with, which 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 each 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 help your bottom line? Martin says 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 says. “Last week, for example, I spent $41 and saved $58!” One mom even used her couponing skills to feed people in need.

So while “extreme” couponing (where shoppers hoarded hundreds 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. Says Carter, “It is harder to find extreme deals, but it is still possible to get great deals.”