This article isn’t really about personal finance. This is about everyday life. With the new year upon us, a lot of us may be thinking about saving money. Groceries have always been a tough area for us. Ya gotta eat, right? And when I was really focused on losing weight, the calories were more important to me than the cost.
Now that we are serious about putting our money to work, I’ve been really trying to focus on reducing our grocery bill. I’ve learned ways to save money that don’t take a ton of extra time, and my grocery bill is finally under control. We probably still spend a little too much, but we’ve been sticking to the budget and that’s a huge win for us.
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1. Use Ibotta
I admit it. I’m horrible at clipping coupons. I always mean to do it and then don’t take the time. If I do actually cut out physical coupons, I usually forget to use them! That’s why I was really excited when I found the Ibotta app. It’s kind of like coupons but instead of saving at the register, you earn cash back.
You browse through available offers by store and select the ones you will use. (It’s an app for your phone, but you can also browse offers on the web site if you prefer.) You are shown a short ad or a recipe and then the offer is added to your list of offers waiting for redemption. After you shop, you use the app to redeem your earnings. There are even bonus offers and teamwork awards (if you link to Facebook) that allow you to earn cash back even faster.
Some stores allow you to automatically link your loyalty card so the redemption happens automatically. If you can’t link a loyalty card, you just submit a picture of your receipt through the app. It walks you through the process and is very simple. Your earnings are deposited into your Ibotta account within 48 hours. Once you have a balance of $20 or more, you can redeem your reward for cash or gift cards,
I’ve been using the Ibotta app for 4 years. That tells you that it’s a good app. I’ve tried and abandoned so many other apps, but I really do like Ibotta! Since I started using the app, they have expanded the selection quite a bit! There are now offers for online shopping, electronics, clothing, and more. It’s not JUST for groceries anymore!
Give it a try! It’s a minimal time investment to earn cash back on something you were buying anyway! Sign up using my link and you’ll earn a $10 welcome bonus. I’ll also earn a $5 referral bonus – score! After you sign up, you can refer your own friends to earn your own referral bonuses!
2. Shop at Aldi
Shopping at Aldi has been one of the biggest ways I’ve cut my grocery budget down. According to their website, Aldi is one of the fastest growing retailers in the US. If you don’t have one near you, it could be coming soon. It may seem intimidating to go to a new store when you don’t know what to expect, but fear not! Aldi is unique, but it’s worth figuring out a few details for the amount of money you can save!
Aldi stores are smaller and have fewer products than a traditional grocery store, but that helps keep the costs down. The hours may be reduced at Aldi compared to other stores. They just recently changed the hours in my area, and now the stores are open 9am-9pm. I’m not sure if that applies nationwide, but being open fewer hours also results in cost savings because they don’t have to pay employees to run the store in off peak hours.
Be sure to take a quarter with you for your cart! You pay a quarter to use the cart, but you get it back once you return the cart. This way Aldi doesn’t have to pay employees to chase down and retrieve carts. It’s actually pretty awesome. I wish more stores would do this because so many people will not put their carts away. It drives me crazy!
The cashiers are Aldi are some of the fastest I’ve ever seen! You may notice that many of the Aldi products have barcodes in several locations on the package instead of just one location like national brands. This makes for quicker scanning! Don’t be concerned with a long line because the lines move quickly at Aldi.
Bag It Yourself
Another way that Aldi cuts costs is not providing bags. Just think how much waste there is with all the grocery bags other stores use! You can take your own bags, buy reusable bags at the checkout, or just use empty boxes.
They also skip bagging your groceries for you. Your items are scanned and put into a cart. You can then bag groceries yourself using their in-store counter. This may sound like an inconvenience, but it doesn’t take much time at all. I also like being able to organize things myself. It makes for easier unloading and putting away!
Most of the products sold at Aldi are Aldi exclusive brands. Do you ever buy the store brand of your favorite products like TopCare, Valu Time, Food Club, or Great Value? It’s the same idea. Aldi just has their own store brands. Switching to Aldi exclusive brands can save you big money.
Aldi brands are made of the same quality as national brands, and they offer a Double Guarantee. If you aren’t satisfied with an item, they will replace the product AND refund your money. That’s a pretty awesome deal. I personally haven’t had issues with any Aldi products, but it’s nice to know about the guarantee just in case!
3. Make a Shopping List
It’s a really bad idea to go to the store without a plan. You may wander aimlessly trying to figure out what sounds good or trying to remember what you need. When I go to the store without a list, I always forget things I need and buy things I don’t need!
To make life a little easier, I have created master lists of the things we usually buy from each store and master lists of our typical meals and snacks. I use Evernote, but any notes app would work! We try to add things to our shopping list as we run out of them, but it just doesn’t always happen…so it’s nice to have something to fall back on.
My shopping list is created in the Our Groceries app. We started using it earlier this year, and I love it. It connects to our Google Home, so I can use voice commands to add items to the list. This is perfect when you’re in the middle of cooking and don’t want to stop to manually add something to a list. I can use the app on my phone, my tablet, and even my smart watch! I can also login from my computer to view and edit my lists. This is great for working on my list during my lunch break at work!
The app makes shopping so much easier for me. I always have my list with me, and I can easily move products from one store’s list to another. When I was using paper lists, it was hard to see what I still needed between all the crossed out items, and I would often forget to move out of stock items to my new list. The Our Groceries app eliminates that!
4. Use Walmart Grocery Pickup (or similar service)
Lots of grocery stores are starting to offer delivery or curbside pickup for free or a small fee. We started using Walmart Grocery Pickup last year, and it has been fantastic. It’s a huge time saver and stress reliever for me. I hate fighting the crowds to get groceries and spending a big chunk of my weekend doing it. I’d rather be lounging at home making my shopping list online.
The first couple times it was a pain to find the items I was looking for, but now it’s a breeze. You can save items as favorites to make it even faster the next time around. Not only does it make more efficient use of my time, it also stops the impulse buys. There are no more Oreos hopping into the cart because I’m shopping while hangry, no more clothing purchases because it’s “just one shirt” on sale, and no more temptations because of clever in-store marketing. I get what I need and nothing more. This saves us a TON of money.
Because someone else is doing the shopping for us, it might not be 100% perfect in terms of how ripe I like my produce or the expiration date on the yogurt. Guess what? I don’t care. I thought it would bother me, but the time savings and convenience of it totally outweighs any minor annoyance of getting green bananas once in awhile.
Give it a try and see if you love it too! Use my link to start your order and we’ll both get $10 off! (The code only works if it’s your first time purchasing groceries online at Walmart.)
5. Shop sale ads and/or use coupons
I am terrible at using coupons (see #1 above), but they can save you big money if you use them! I have used Coupons.com in the past, and I really like how easy it is to print coupons from their site. They also have an app now to make it even easier to use.
Coupons powered by Coupons.com
If you want to dig deeper into using coupons, check out the Krazy Coupon Lady. She has tons of great resources for using coupons!
When I’m shopping somewhere other than Aldi or Walmart, I try to buy things that are on sale. I look through the sale ads each week for Acme Fresh Market and sometimes even Giant Eagle. When you go into a store JUST for sale items, stick to those items. If you buy full price items, you could cancel out the savings from your sale items!
6. Shop at bulk stores or Order online
You can save big money shopping at warehouse clubs like Sam’s Club, BJs, or Costco, but just beware. Don’t assume that everything is cheaper because you are buying in bulk. That’s an easy trap to fall into. Sometimes it is significantly cheaper, but other times it isn’t. Try to keep an eye on items that you use regularly to see if it makes sense to buy them at the bulk store or not.
You should consider how many people you are buying for as well. It might make more sense for a family of 6 to shop at a bulk store than for a single person. Are you really going to use 3 gallons of ketchup before you feel like it’s unsafe to eat it?
We also compare the prices at the bulk store to the prices on Amazon Subscribe & Save. If I can get an item on Subscribe & Save for close to the same price, it might be worth it to avoid a trip to the store. My time has become more and more valuable to me since my son was born. I have so little time to myself that I am always on the lookout for any time saving strategies!
7. Shop with a cash back credit card
You know we are big fans of making money by using cash back credit cards. Since groceries are one of our biggest expenses, it only made sense to find a card offering cash back incentives for groceries.
The American Express Blue Cash Preferred was the best option I could find. This card pays 6% cash back on groceries!! There is an annual fee of $95, but if you spend the max on groceries ($6,000/yr), you would earn $360 in cash back rewards for the year. After deducting the fee, that’s still $265 in cash back just for using the AmEx card when buying groceries! Even if you had a card paying 3% or 4% on groceries, you’d still come out ahead using the AmEx.
Another great option is the Discover It card. This card gives you 5% back in different categories each quarter on your first $1,500 in purchases. In 2018, groceries will be the 5% category in April, May, and June. You also earn 1% back on all other purchases. Even more exciting is the Cashback Match. Discover matches ALL of your cash back earned in the first year, so your 5% categories are more like 10% categories in your first year! As an added bonus, you can earn a $50 statement credit if you sign up using my link. (You have to make a purchase in the first 3 months, and I get a $50 credit too!)
As I’ve said before, don’t use credit cards if you can’t pay them off immediately or if it will cause you to overspend. We use our credit cards like debit cards and only use them when we have the money already in our account. YNAB makes this really easy for us to do. I don’t know if we could have handled it before using YNAB, but now it’s pretty awesome. We make money every month just for buying things we were going to buy anyway!
What’s your favorite way to save money when grocery shopping?
Please share in the comments because we all need more ideas!