When it comes to saving money on groceries, using coupons can cut your bill in half. But in this fast-paced digital age, who has time to find the deals? We've consulted the coupon experts to help you save money on food without giving up your social life.
Old-Fashioned Couponing vs. Coupon Blogs
Stores offer coupons to entice consumers into shopping at their establishments rather than at their competitors'. If a store regularly offers its shoppers store coupons, it will most likely gain more loyal customers than a store that doesn't. Not only do some stores offer their own coupons, but they'll often accept their competitors' coupons so they don't lose any of their regular shoppers.
In a recent survey conducted by CouponDivas.com, of the over 10,000 couponers that responded, 46% say they spend approximately two to three hours a week or more making their shopping lists, going through weekly sale ads, finding coupons to match the sale items and gathering coupons from the Sunday paper, as well as searching the Internet for additional printable coupons from sites like Coupons.com, Smart Source, Coupon Network, Red Plum and manufacturer websites.
This time can be cut down significantly by using the many online resources available today. Blogs with names such as FabulesslyFrugal.com, CouponDivas.com, CouponMom.com and TheKrazyCouponLady.com make it even easier for you to shop at your favorite stores by matching the sale items from the weekly circulars to the available coupons, and providing store-specific shopping strategies to save you the most money.
"It only takes a few minutes to make a list for shopping with coupons if you use a coupon blog that matches all the store deals for you," says Monica Knight and Cathy Yoder, creators of FabulesslyFrugal.com.
Grocery Savings applications for smartphones are a growing market. You can use applications such as Grocery GadgetShopping List,ShopShop, and SplashShopper with prices ranging from free to $8, to save with features like predictive search, grocery lists and barcode scanning.
Savvy Penny, a Florida based company, provides a unique grocery money-saving tool to customers. "Our system is completely paperless and all consumer interaction takes places at the store," says Marianna Quintana, marketing and business development director. "Consumers select the coupons right where they buy the products."
Touch screens are set up around the store that allow you to pick and choose your coupons. When you go to check out, you simply identify yourself with the last four digits of your phone number and the savings show up on your receipt. "The mobile number is only used to identify the customer and make sure she gets the coupons she selected. There is no application to download to your phones, nor codes to scan on the screen," says Quintana.
Savvy Penny's service is now only available in South Florida, but it has plans to expand nationwide.
Hot Tips for Smart Shopping
Beyond coupons, there are many ways to save on groceries. Kitty Rosu, creator of CouponDivas.com, offered the following tips:
• Shop Once a Week: This is really important because, let's face it, each time we head into the grocery store, we are tempted to throw in a "few extras." If you're going to the grocery store every other day, these extras can really throw off your budget, no matter how good you are with the coupons and sale items.
• Plan Your Meals: Make a weekly menu of what you want to make each day. Try to plan meals around weekly sale items and what you may already have in your cupboards and freezer, and you're sure to cut your grocery bill.
• Make a List: Just as important for the college student as it is for a mom. Take time to write down the things you really need in order to eat for the week.
• Local Sales Ad Alerts: It's always a good idea to sign up for your local grocery store e-mail newsletter so you get alerts on the sales ad each week and special sales.
• Buy Items On Sale: Making your meal plans and snacks around items that are on sale is a great way to save money. Combine a sale item with a coupon and you're on a roll.
• Invest in a Freezer: Having an extra freezer comes in handy for stocking up when there's a great sale on meats, veggies or even milk. It's worth the investment.
• Buy in Bulk and Divide: There are many items that you can save money on by buying in bulk. All you have to do is divide the bulk purchase up into portions and freeze them for individual meals. An investment in a simple vacuum sealing machine for foods really comes in handy.
• Leftovers, Leftovers, Leftovers: Try cooking a larger meal and then making something with the leftovers. You could make a pork roast on Sunday, for example, shred up the leftovers and have great meat for enchiladas on Monday.
• Be Kind to Cashiers: According to Rosu, many consumers have reported problems at checkout with aggravated sales associates. "I have not personally run into this issue, but would recommend being as pleasant as possible, have your coupons organized and carry a copy of your store's coupon policy with you just in case."
The bottom line: Take full advantage of the online grocery savings resources available to you, and make the most of your money by planning ahead.