The rules of couponing have changed so much in the past few years. Before we moved to Japan I almost always did my shopping at Krogers because I could use double coupons there. While we were living overseas I was spoiled by commissary coupons and being able to use expired coupons in military commissaries. Once we moved back stateside it seemed as though everything had changed. There were no more Kroger double coupon trips and even coupons for commissary items were difficult to find. I spent a few years focusing on finding coupons for Walmart. They had the savings catcher I could use to save even more. They did away with that one a few years ago in my area though.
Nowadays I find myself going back to Kroger couponing but with a few changes. I love the coupons they send their customers based on what they purchase. I save a lot on organic foods through this coupon source. I have also added in rebate and coupon apps to help save money without having to spend the time clipping coupons I may or may not use. It can be such a timesaver to have coupons already loaded onto your Kroger account when you go shopping. It can also help absent-minded moms like me to stop losing coupons or leaving them at home.
Couponing Can Be A Love/Hate Relationship
I have to admit that coupons are kind of a love of mine. They bring back fond memories of my grandma sifting through those old cookie tins ( you know the ones usually filled with sewing stuff ) full of coupons when I was a child. I swear some of those coupons dated back to the 1940s.
5 cents off of this or 22 cents off of that.
She diligently cut them out of every insert and kept them stored away for just the right sale to cash in.
Born in 1932, she was a child of the depression. I didn’t know it back then when I would look over long-gone food items on the little scraps of paper but it was just in her nature to hold onto things. During her childhood, they had no way of knowing if there would be more if they lost or ran out of something.
As a military wife, I left my hometown in Ohio 11 years ago to follow the needs of the Air Force. I haven’t had many chances to visit home or at least not as many as I would like. I miss my grandma every day but a small rectangle on the bulletin board in my kitchen for 15 cents off of a salad dressing they stopped making in the early 1990s reminds me of her every day that we are apart.
I would be lying though if I said that her devotion to clipping those little shapes out of the newspaper followed me as I moved across countries and states.
I tried. I really wanted to be good at it. I had the official binder that all of the experts say to use and I got 3, 4, heck even 5 copies of the Sunday paper just for the inserts.
Then the coupons would sit there unused because I had forgotten about them before they expired or I would find a great sale and buy WAY too much of something just because I could get it for 9 cents.
“Yes honey, I do have a use for 86 bottles of barbecue sauce. Don’t question me”
Stop Buying Those Inserts
Hey, if it works for you, by all means, keep it up. I have found from most couponing communities, however, that it just doesn’t work. It ends up being a waste of time or money or both. ( a little counterintuitive for saving money, don’t you think?)
If you are like me though you have most likely tried it and found a few things.
1.) While it is possible to do “extreme couponing” it is absolutely nothing like on the shows. In many cases the individuals who were on those shows either dedicate their entire lives to coupons ( ain’t nobody got time for that! ), cheat the system ( which makes it bad for all of us. How many places still double coupons? Right?), or are completely fabricated.
More often than not the stores let them do a one-time coupon haul for the show or they are just sneaky. If you are ok with sneaky then sure, try it. If it works out then awesome. I just can’t do sneaky. Call me a wiener but I just can’t do that and not feel yucky about it.
2.) Most of the coupons found to be clipped are for unhealthy overly processed items. You can get some great printable coupons and deals on beauty supplies sometimes but the food leaves a lot to be desired. You could practically wallpaper your living room in candy coupons, but who really needs all of that candy?
With so many trying to eat healthier the coupon selection for deep-fried chocolate Twinkies and ultra mega pizzas seems less than appetizing. Clipping ones for fresh fruits and vegetables seem to be next to impossible. You can write companies well thought out letters in hopes of getting 25 cents off of your bananas but in the long run is that even worth it?
3.) Everything seems to expire before anything good goes on sale. Yeah, you could fill a swimming pool with all of the condiments you can get with weekly newspaper or online printable coupons for pennies. When it comes to real food though it’s rather slim pickings. If you’re really lucky there will be a cereal coupon for the one you don’t already have 18 boxes of.
An Easier Way to Save at the Grocery
Several opportunities for saving money at the grocery store exist right on your phone or tablet. Not only are these coupons easier to keep track of but many of them automatically apply to your order right when you check out. They can also be integrated right into shopping lists or other to-do lists.
Some of these grocery coupons can be found directly on the app or site for the stores that you regularly shop at. For example, Kroger, where I normally do a majority of my shopping has digital coupons you can choose on their app. They are then ready to use when you scan your shopper’s card at the checkout.
Other digital grocery coupons can be found on apps or sites which are then often loaded onto your shopper’s card for the store of your choice such as Kroger, Walmart, and even some local groceries.
My personal favorite way of saving at the grocery with my phone or tablet is the use of rebate apps. There is a wide variety of them available. However, after trying a majority of coupon rebate apps available I find some more useful than others.
These money-saving coupon apps work by allowing you to scan your grocery receipt after your purchase and match items you bought with rebates. These rebates average anywhere from 25 cents to a few dollars. Once your receipt is verified the rebate amount is deposited into your account. After a threshold is met you can cash out in a few different ways. I use the PayPal option and enjoy having that extra money in my account for online shopping or business expenses.
I mainly use two of these apps on every shopping trip I do.
- Ibotta: I love this one and find it to be the most beneficial for the things that I buy and the stores that I shop in. They have a good selection of stores and online purchases that you can save on. ( even $1.00 back on an Uber!)
- Checkout51: This is a great one as well. I love this one because it has a lot of healthier items on it as well as other things you generally wouldn’t find a paper coupon for.
Savings Catcher ((update: Savings Catcher is no longer available in many areas))
If you are a Walmart shopper there is a great rebate option on their site or app called the savings catcher. You scan your receipts just like with iBotta or Checkout51. However, this one will compare everything you bought with surrounding store prices and refund you the difference if a lower price is found. I have been surprised by just how much I get back on a shopping trip with this one!
UPDATE: Savings catcher is being phased out in some Walmart stores. Always check the coupon and savings policies at your local stores before creating a plan to save at the grocery.
Stacking Savings without Stacking Coupons
Most stores no longer allow stacking of coupons or even double coupons. ( Man, those were the days!) This is avoided with the use of grocery rebate apps. Not only can you use a digital coupon to save on something but you can also check for a rebate through iBotta, Checkout51, savings center, or your app of choice. This will help you save even more since the rebates are still valid even if a coupon was used on the item.
Bonus points if you can find a digital coupon for something, get the iBotta or Checkout51 rebate, AND savings catcher comes up with a better price and puts the overage in your account!
Making a Plan to Save at the Grocery
The best way to take advantage of a good coupon strategy and save money at the grocery is to plan your shopping trips out. This doesn’t mean sitting for days ahead of time with an excel sheet. If you do that and it works then you are one step ahead of my coupon savings game! I just don’t have the attention span or time for it.
Keep a running list of what pantry and refrigerated items you do have and only buy what you really need or think you will use within a month or so. Not knowing what you have or buying things you don’t need can be a huge waste. (You can grab my FREE printables to help with that here)
Check out weekly sales at your local grocery stores and match up digital coupons or rebates with them. If something you don’t immediately need seems like a good price but you don’t have a coupon or rebate on it consider holding off. Often sales run in cycles or on a seasonal basis. This means that at one point or another there is a good chance of that item matching up to a coupon later.
Make use of list-making or shopping apps such as Cozi. These can be a lifesaver for keeping track of what you plan to buy at the grocery and what printable grocery coupons or rebates you have. How many times have you bought a bunch of crap because you had no idea what was on that list you left on the counter at home? ( I know I’m not the only one who does that! )
So what are some of your favorite store apps? Ultimately it will depend on the stores in your area and the items that you buy. However, I think that those mentioned above are a great start for anyone trying to find their way in the world of couponing. I don’t know what I would do without the Kroger app and Kroger digital coupons. Having everything I need in one app has cut my grocery shopping time in half and saved me a ton of money!
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