The coronavirus pandemic has changed the spending habits of Americans across the country. With stay-at-home restrictions and guidelines in place, there’s little reason to spend money on many common things, such as travel, restaurants, or leisurely shopping. On the whole, these expenditures have decreased — but grocery spending has gone up.
During times like this, it’s natural to want to stock up on some necessities in order to make fewer trips to the grocery store, and that has certainly contributed to increased grocery spending. But, as we also eat out less and spend less money on other items, groceries may quickly become one of our biggest expenses.
Shop with a list
If you prepare for a grocery trip by having a list, you can help to omit the random and impulsive purchases that can sometimes happen and get better at how to manage your money. A grocery list gives you a plan for exactly what you need or want to buy. Once you get to the last item on your list, that’s the end of your trip. You won’t buy things you weren’t planning on and spend more money in the process.
If you already keep a frequently updated list of groceries you’re running low on, that’s great. If you don’t, it’s not hard to start. An old-fashioned pen and paper tucked into your bag or purse could work and so could a note-keeping app on your phone. Find a method that works for you and make sure you can conveniently access the list when you need it.
And remember to take inventory of the supplies you already have before adding to your grocery list. Look through your pantry and/or cupboards. You may already have the partial makings of a meal and just need one or two more things to complete a recipe. You can save on groceries by using what you already have.
The idea of couponing may sound outdated, but it has actually become more modern than ever. You can still browse newspapers, of course, and cut coupons to bring to your local supermarkets, but you can also harness the power of technology to make things more efficient.
If you grocery shop at big chain stores — Walmart, Target, or Kroger, for example — then it’s easy to download their apps on your smartphone to start browsing deals and discounts. These aren’t the only stores with apps, so it would be worthwhile to look up your favorite supermarket to see whether it has an app too. If it does, it most likely offers digital coupons.
To start clipping digital coupons, you will probably have to sign up for a free membership or link your existing membership to the smartphone app. Then your clipped coupons should automatically apply at the checkout when you scan your membership card or enter your membership information.
Use shopping apps
For many, shopping apps have become their go-to method for saving money on groceries. You may be able to earn points or cash back on your normal purchases without any extra fees or charges. Here are some popular shopping apps that can help you save money on groceries:
Fetch Rewards offers points whenever you purchase any participating products and then scan your grocery receipt with the Fetch Rewards app. When you download the app, you can see a full list of participating products. You can also earn more points by taking advantage of special offers on certain products. These offers are also listed in the app and you don’t have to do anything extra to get them.
As you earn points from purchasing products and scanning your receipts, you can then redeem your points for rewards in the form of electronic gift cards. You’ll get to choose from many different stores and retailers, including Xbox, Visa, iTunes, and Hulu Plus.
Ibotta offers cash back on your everyday purchases, including groceries. It’s convenient because you can use it both online and in-store. Since Ibotta was first founded, the company has paid out more than $600 million in cash rewards to its users.
To earn rewards with Ibotta, you simply need to download the app, set up your account, and start adding offers from your favorite stores. Then, go to the store, make your purchases, and submit a photo of your receipt in the Ibotta app. You will earn cash back on qualifying purchases within 24 hours of submitting your receipt.
If you want to shop online, you can use the Ibotta extension on your Chrome browser or visit retailer websites through the Ibotta app. Ibotta works with hundreds of companies to provide you with plenty of cashback-earning opportunities. This includes Walmart, Target, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods Market, Kroger, and many more.
With Drop, you can earn free gift cards to popular retailers just by making everyday purchases. Drop works with specific partners so if there are brands on their list that you normally shop at, then Drop might make sense for you. Their grocery store and food/meal delivery service partners include companies like Sam’s Club, Sun Basket, Grubhub, and Purple Carrot.
To earn points, you need to shop through the Drop app itself or link a credit card or debit card to your Drop app. You then need to use the linked card to make your purchases. Using this method, you don’t have to take any photos of grocery receipts and submit them. The points you earn can be redeemed for gift cards to a company of your choice, including Amazon, Starbucks, iTunes, Dominos, and more.
GetUpside works with thousands of merchants across the country, but you can only use it for cash back on groceries if you’re in the Washington D.C. area.
To use GetUpside, check for nearby merchants in the map within the app. The map will indicate which merchants are participating and how much cash back you can receive by shopping with them. Then, it’s simply a matter of claiming the cashback in the app by tapping the “Claim Offer” button next to the merchant’s name.
Once you’ve claimed an offer, you have four hours to complete the transaction and 24 hours to upload a receipt of your purchase(s). To be eligible for cash back, you must use a credit card or debit card for purchases.
You can receive up to 15% cash back on grocery purchases with GetUpside and then cash out your earnings whenever you want. If you want straight cash, you can receive it via PayPal or check, though there may be a fee if the amount is under a certain threshold. You can also opt to receive a digital gift card, with a minimum starting point of $10.
Buy canned and frozen vegetables
Many people are making fewer trips to the grocery store right now, which means any fresh produce you buy may not last between supermarket visits. Consider purchasing canned or frozen vegetables instead.
Canned and frozen vegetables can be stored for long periods of time, which makes them ideal for individuals who don’t want to make frequent trips to the grocery store. Even better, they’re often less expensive than fresh produce, yet they’re still packed with nutrition.
Use a cashback card that rewards you for groceries
Using one of the best credit cards to buy groceries is a great way to offset the essential expense of supermarket purchases:
- With the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, you can earn 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (for first $6,000 per year, after that 1X) and on U.S. streaming services, 3% at U.S. gas stations and on eligible transit, and 1% on other purchases.
- With the Citi Double Cash Card, you can earn up to 2% cash back on all purchases: 1% as you buy and 1% as you pay.
With either of these cards, you can earn valuable cash back on your grocery purchases and save a lot of money over time. See our list of the best cashback credit cards for even more options.
Pay attention at checkout
Being attentive during the checkout process is an important step in making sure you’re saving money on groceries. If you have physical coupons, make sure you present them to the cashier. If you’re using digital coupons, make sure you’ve already added them to your grocery store app before heading through the checkout line.
Many stores offer free memberships to customers, which allows them access to special savings and discounts. If applicable, remember to scan your loyalty card or key in your loyalty number so any membership-exclusive benefits will ring up with your order.
Also always check to see ensure the discounts you are expecting ring up correctly as your items are scanned. Mistakes can be made, so be patient with employees, but make sure you get the discounts you deserve on your groceries.
A word about shopping online
During this coronavirus pandemic, shopping for groceries online has become more popular as people want to avoid contact with others. It can be a convenient solution, but are you saving money? Often, that isn’t the case when you buy groceries online instead of heading to the store.
Most grocery services are so busy right now that it can be difficult to get a time slot for your groceries to be delivered. If you can get a slot, then you will have to typically have to pay a fee per delivery or sign up for a subscription. Even if you get a subscription, you still may have to pay certain fees, depending on how much you order.
For some, these kinds of costs are well worth the convenience of not spending time to get groceries themselves, but for others, it’s probably not worth it. The delivery fees alone are generally more expensive than the time and gas you’d spend shopping for yourself. So you have to weigh the expense of delivery versus the time spent yourself, plus factor in the safety aspect of staying at home versus going out.
If you want to save money on groceries, it would make more sense to skip the online shopping. If your time is more valuable or you’re not worried about the delivery times, then shopping online for groceries could be right for you, especially if you order in bulk.
As groceries become even more of an essential expense in our lives, it’s important to find ways to lower our bills and keep the savings rolling in. By following the tips above, you can potentially reduce your overall grocery expenses in a number of ways.
Simple actions, such as making a grocery list or clipping coupons, can jumpstart your savings on grocery purchases. If you want to be more efficient, you can also use cashback credit cards and shopping apps. Whatever method you use, we wish you well on your savings journey.