When you imagine saving money on groceries, do you automatically picture hours spent clipping coupons from the newspaper and painstakingly writing out your shopping list? Luckily, this time-consuming approach is no longer the only option for frugal shoppers. If you're looking for an easier way to cut costs at the grocery store, there are many helpful new tools and online resources (for free or little cost) to upgrade your grocery shopping and save you time and money.
Know when to shop (and when not to shop):
Take advantage of recent research that shows Wednesday is the best day of the week to go grocery shopping. This is the day of the week that most stores start a new set of discounts, which means you'll have early access to sale items. (If you wait too long, popular discounted items can sell out.) Some retailers may still honor coupons from the previous week, as well. As a bonus, heading to the grocery store mid-week is also a less busy time to shop , so you won't need to fight the crowds as you would on a weekend day.
There's an app for that:
Most grocery stores now have a free mobile app available for download that gives you instant access to weekly sales, store information such as hours and locations and sometimes even tools like shopping lists and recipe builders. Search for your preferred grocer in the app store and you might be surprised by what you find.
It's likely that you might need a loyalty or rewards card in order to make the most of the grocery store's mobile app. It's a good idea to sign up if you don't already have one, as scanning it each time you shop can turn into coupons for the items you purchase the most as well as rewards towards gas and more.
Don't double up:
If you have a large family or live with a number of roommates, more than likely there has been a time when you brought home a carton of milk only to discover another carton purchased on the same day. To avoid overspending and spoiling food, create a synced list across an app like Our Groceries with the other members of your household and you will always know your fridge's inventory before you hit the store.
Plan ahead by looking online:
You no longer need to wait until you're at the store to see what's on sale each week. Whether it's on a store's app, website or coupon site, there are plenty of places to look at a grocery store's weekly circulars before you get to the store itself. Take inventory of what you have already and then see where you might stock up on necessities if there are good deals -- just be careful not to buy too much of something you won't need by falling into the "But it's on sale!" trap.
Printable coupons are also available online and can be found on coupon sites by searching a type of product, like "toothpaste," or by searching for your preferred brand. This is an easy way to find coupons for exactly what is on your shopping list -- just hit "print" and you're ready to go.
Connecting with your favorite grocery store on its social media channels can also be beneficial. Stores often post recipes in conjunction with what is available in the store or on special, making it easier to come up with meal ideas and ensuring you don't waste perishable items when you just can't think of what to make. Other benefits include giveaways, contests and access to exclusive deals.
Another idea is to search for bloggers who frequent the same grocery retailer you do. There are plenty of blogs with tips on making the most of coupons, finding the best sales, making food last longer and so on, as well as blogs that are explicit about where they shop, like I Heart Kroger (iheartkroger.com). Blogs are an excellent resource for finding new ways to save money.
Using technology can greatly improve your grocery shopping experience. Try just a few of these tips and you might turn what used to be a chore into an efficient and enjoyable experience.
Jon Lal is the founder and CEO of coupons and cash back website BeFrugal.com, which saves shoppers an average of $27 per order thanks to coupons plus an average of 7 percent cash back at more than 4,000 stores.
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