5 Ways to Save Money on Your Groceries Without Paper Coupons
Take Control of Your Grocery Bill
It doesn't matter if you are single or the head of a bustling, growing household—we all have to eat to survive. What some of us don't realize is that we really do have control over how much we spend at the grocery store based on what we purchase and how we shop.
Eating healthy can be expensive depending on where you live, your shopping habits, and what is available in your area. But with a little planning and know how, taking control of and cutting your grocery bill can be easier than you think by following these five very easy and simple tips.
- Learn the Sale Cycles for Your Area
- Buy Produce in Season and Preserve the Harvest
- Shop the Discount Racks or Manager's Special Racks
- Use Rebate Apps
- Check for Digital Coupons on Your Store Loyalty Card
1. Learn the Sale Cycles for Your Area
Did you know that certain categories of grocery and personal health items go on sale during certain times of year? If you have the ability to store items, you can take advantage of the sale cycles by purchasing enough of the items that you use the most that will last you for months to come.
Examples of Sales
For example, when the holidays start to creep up on us, baking supplies like flour, sugar, and nuts will go on sale at the grocery stores in my area. I take advantage of this sale by stocking up on the more expensive items like nuts. This means that over the next few months or over a year's time, I won't need to purchase nuts because I already purchased them when the price was lower.
Organic and other processed foods that are labeled as being healthy will go on sale around the first of the year because that is when a lot of people decide to start the new year out by going to the gym and attempting to eat healthy. If you like ready-made meals, this would be a great opportunity to grab what you want at the discounted price.
Those are just a couple of examples of items that go on sale seasonally, every year, like clockwork. The general sale cycle in the United States is laid out for you in the chart below.
What is Happening?
Some Items You'll See on Sale
New Year's Resolutions, the Superbowl
Health foods, smoking cessation aids, vitamins, snack foods, frozen meats like chicken wings.
Clearance candy on the 15th, low cholestorol products, processed breakfast foods.
Weather is warming, spring cleaning time!
Household cleaning items, frozen veggies and foods.
Ham, eggs, food colorings, baking supplies, batteries, smoke detectors.
Summer is around the corner!
Chips, soda, ground beef, buns, charcoal, paper products, sunscreen, allergy medications.
Time to get ready for the swimsuit.
Eggs, chips, diet foods and supplements, soup and insect repellent.
Independence Day, Grilling season in high gear!
Everything that has to do with grilling including foods and supplies.
Back to School
School supplies, box lunch items and clothing.
Lunchbox foods, diabetic foods, diabetic monitors and canned tomato products.
Candy, pet products, baking essentials, nuts and cold medicine.
Turkey, coffee, baking supplies and teas.
Ham, baking supplies, snacks, sodas, cream soups and paper goods.
2. Buy Produce in Season and Preserve the Harvest
There is always some type of produce on sale; it just depends on what is in season in your area. The further a piece of fruit or a vegetable has to travel, the more expensive it is going to be when it reaches your store. I hate to beat a dead horse with cliche' phrases, but learn to eat or preserve what produce is in season for your area and it will definitely save you money on your grocery bill.
Examples: Peaches and Apples
In the US, peaches come into their peak season during July and August. During those two months of the year you can expect to see them at their lowest price in the grocery store. That is the time of year that you should plan on purchasing them.
Another example would be apples. In the US, apples come into season in the fall during mid September to mid October. Those two months are when apples will be at their rock bottom prices in the stores.
You can preserve many different fruits and vegetables by canning, freezing or dehydrating them to last during the months that they are not in season. Those types of food preservation can save you money if you feel that you need any one fruit or vegetable year round.
If You Don't Want to Preserve Produce, Only Eat What's in Season
Choosing not to preserve produce at home will in no way keep you from saving money by purchasing in season. Simply eat what is in season in your area, when it is in season and lower in price. Many people choose this route instead of spending their time preserving produce at home. Just do what fits your lifestyle best and you'll see the savings in the end.
3. Shop the Discount Racks or Manager's Special Racks
Something to look for when you are shopping is the discount rack. Your mileage will vary with this one depending on what the policy is for the stores that are available to you. These racks can save you quite bit of money on everything that the store sells and no, it's not out of date stuff. All of the items that I've purchased off of these racks in my stores are really great scores that saved me quite a bit of money.
My main grocery store, Kroger, has a three tiered black rack in their produce department where the produce that is ripe and in need of being eaten within a day or two is placed after being put inside of a red mesh bag. You get everything inside the bag for 99 cents. Depending on what is in the bag, that can lead to some pretty good discounts on produce.
There is also a section set aside for meat in the meat case. The meats that are marked down are within 1 day of the sell by date. They are fine to purchase for the freezer for cooking later down the road and can provide pretty hefty savings for that specific cut. Watch the sales vs. the Manager's Specials because I've found quite often that price per pound, the different cuts that are on sale can be the better deal. Especially if you aren't really shopping for a specific type of meat.
Bread and Bakery
Bread and bakery is no different. Look for or ask about the day old bread rack. Walmart stores will mark loves of french bread down to 50 cents in my area on their day old bread racks. My Kroger store usually marks theirs down around 50% of the original price. Loaves of bread, buns and even sweets that are made in house show up on these racks all the time for great discounts.
Other items will be put onto Manager's Special because of over stocking, they are no longer going to carry the item or they want to reduce their inventory for other reasons. In the stores that I shop at, for some reason this section is usually in the same isle as the pet food so they are easy to locate. There are also occasionally tables set up in the frozen food section when they have a large number of items that they want to clear out of the store marked down for quick sale.
4. Use Rebate Apps
There are quite a few rebate apps out there that promise to save you a ton of money on your grocery bill. The truth of the matter is that in all reality, it will mainly depend on what types of foods your family eats. The majority of the foods in these apps is processed food. There are organics, but they are processed organics. The silver lining is that there are a lot of rebates available for personal care and home items in addition to foods. Produce rebates do pop up from time to time in these apps but not even close to the extent of the processed food items.
The way that the majority of these apps works is that you choose the rebates that you want inside the app, do your shopping, photograph your receipt, scan the bar codes on the items that you are claiming the rebate on and then submit it. Sounds like a lot of work and depending on how many of these apps you participate in, it can be. You have to be the judge of which apps will work best for you with the time you have available and want to spend on the task.
I made the mistake of downloading and using quite a few of these apps and felt that the time involved claiming the rebates compared to the amount of money that I was getting back didn't justify the time that it took to complete the tasks. I ended up narrowing it down because it was just too much.
My three personal favorites that I narrowed it down to that seem to work the best and be the best fit for my lifestyle, amount of time spent using the app, the savings I acquire and that fit best with the things that I buy are Ibotta, SavingsStar and Walmart Savings Catcher, available in the Walmart app. You may find other rebate apps that work best for you but those are three that I use religiously to help me cut my grocery bill that work best for me.
5. Check for Digital Coupons on Your Store Loyalty Card
Digital coupons work just like paper coupons only you don't have to organize them or keep track of them. Many grocery store chains offer digital coupons in their app or on their website. You simply tap the button for the items that you want the coupon for and that coupon is added to your loyalty card. When you purchase the item at the store, the coupon will automatically deduct at the register.
The exact same philosophy goes for digital coupons as paper coupons. You will want to purchase items that you will use when they are on sale using your digital coupon to add to your savings. The majority of the time if there is a digital coupon offer for an item, it will go on sale in the next few weeks before the coupon expires.
I have had instances where I have saved over 50% of my grocery bill by simply checking the digital coupons that are available before my shopping trip and adding coupons to my card for items that I was going to purchase anyway. Granted I don't always reach that amount of savings with digital coupons but it is possible to save quite a bit by spending a few minutes looking at the coupons before going to the store.
How Do You Save Now?
Saving money on your grocery bill does not have to include hours of coupon clipping, organizing and stockpiling. These five simple steps, each by themselves, will help you save money on your grocery bill every month while not compromising how or what you eat in the process. It can take minimal time and effort if you know what works for you. Hopefully these five tips will provide you with some type of savings on your next grocery store checkout adventure.
What ways have you discovered besides the ones mentioned here that are helping you save on your food bill? Feel free to share your experience with other readers in the comments below.