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Given that there’s no apparent end in sight for inflated prices — especially grocery prices — I think it’s a good time to do another post about how to save money on groceries.
Frugal grocery shopping used to be a lot easier to do. Alas, things have changed somewhat.
Obviously, part of that is inflation driving prices up. But it’s also harder to do the massive couponing of yore.
Store policies (and, I believe, actual laws) cracked down on the buying and selling of coupons. So unless you subscribe to a lot of papers, it’s no longer easy to do massive stock-ups during sales.
But there are still ways to save money on food.
I’m going to assume you’re all set on the most basic grocery savings tips — meal plan around specials, buy store brand, stock up during sales, join the loyalty program — and skip straight to newer ways to save.
We’ll start with a big one. It’s one-time, but still pretty good.
$100 Instacart credit
I recently discovered that Instacart has come out with a credit card of its own. And it’s actually one worth considering — especially if you have any notable constraints on your time or energy.
The card benefits are:
- An immediate $100 credit
- 5% back on Instacart orders
- One year of Instacart+ (which means no delivery fee on $35+ orders and lower service fees)
- 5% cash back on travel booked through the Chase portal.
The other offers — 2% cash back at restaurants/gas stations/some streaming services and 1% on all other purchases — can be matched (or beaten) — by plenty of other cards.
Also, Chase cardholders can get anywhere from three months to one year free Instacart+ membership with their existing cards.
But I can’t think of any time I’ve seen a credit card offer a bonus without any spending threshold of some kind. So that’s pretty neat.
That said, there are obviously some caveats with this deal:
First of all, you’ll want to make sure you set a reminder to cancel the Instacart+ membership before it auto-renews for $99. Well, unless you actually use the service enough to make it worthwhile.
Second, prices are often a bit higher on Instacart and not all store sale prices will be available on the app. So try to use the credit on things that you need now but aren’t on sale. Or on the sale items that are actually offered through the service.
Third, this whole offer is obviously a ploy to get you hooked on the convenience aspect. So if your only goal is reducing grocery costs, don’t get too comfortable with the delivery option.
Still, it’s hard to argue with a free $100 in groceries. Even accounting for tips (or a tip if you just make one very large order), and even with Instacart’s slightly higher pricing, it’s at least — at least — $75 of food you don’t have to buy.
But if you don’t want another credit card (or don’t qualify for one), there are still some new approaches to lowering your grocery bill.
Cash back shopping
Rakuten also offers cash back at Kroger, but only for ship to home purchases, so you’d need to be very organized.
Receipt reward apps
I’m not gonna waste my breath on discussing Ibotta. I feel like pretty much everyone has heard of the app by now.
As a quick aside: Fry’s (a Kroger-owned store) has an Ibotta-like program in its apps’s Savings section. So if you do well with Ibotta, you may wan tto check that out too.
But here are the ones I think are worth discussing:
Fetch is an app that will give you a minimum of 25 points per receipt you scan. Any receipt — grocery, pharmacy, gas station, restaurant, bar, etc.
This program will even credit you for some e-receipts, as long as you allow it to scan your inbox for order confirmation emails. It will also check your Amazon account history and will credit you for each shipped order. Not every store’s e-receipt seems to generate points, but I’ve gotten them from a lot of purchases, including clothing stores and pet stores.
You’ll notice that I said “a minimum” of 25 points. That’s because the app has a constant flow of featured products (or general brands) and if you happen to buy those, you’ll get some big points.
A couple of years ago, the strawberries on sale at Fry’s were by Dole, so I kept getting… it had to be at least 100 points because Dole was featured.
Another time I picked up a receipt off the ground — combatting littering and getting rewarded seems pretty sweet — and some pricey supplement nteed me 300 points.
The app periodically also has a 300-point bonus for any Safeway receipt scanned. I once got 300 points for a $0 copay prescription.
You’ll get 2,000 points just for signing up, with 10,000 points equaling a $10 gift card. If you do sign up, please consider using my referral link: PNT6C.
While buying groceries (and a few other types of products) will get you the bigger points, Shopkick will give you points just for scanning products’ barcodes.
The app will sometimes even give you a bonus just for visiting the store. CVS gives you a 10-point walk-in bonus — available once every seven days — and on weekends Walgreens can sometimes offer 25.
In some instances, just being in the parking lot is all it takes to trigger the walk-in bonus. So if you’re in a lot that’s shared with a drugstore, you might as well open the app and see if you get anything.
Another positive: The points-to-dollar ratio is much lower than most similar apps. You only need 1,250 to get a $10 gift card. Meaning that CVS bonus works out to $0.08.
New customers get 500 points when they sign up. As with the Fetch app, if you do join, please consider using my referral code: YAY045135.
Swagbucks & Inbox Dollars
I’m grouping these two sites together because they’re both owned by the same company, Prodege, and therefore have the same policies.
If you have more time, these programs have plenty of ways to earn free points. But if you’re short on time, you can at least use these to scan your receipts.
It’s worth mentioning that InboxDollars sends me at least three emails a day that net me $0.02 per click. It feels more like five, but don’t quote me on that. And while that doesn’t sound like much, it’s awfully easy and it definitely adds up.
If you join InboxDollars, you’ll receive a $5 bonus.
New Swagbucks members will receive a 300-point sign-up bonus. You can cash out for as little as 500 points, which is a $5 gift card of your choice. But. If you can let them accumulate for a bit, you can get a $25 gift card for only 2,200 points.*
As a side note: MyPoints (also owned by Prodege) has the same type of receipt offer. But I’m barely mentioning it simply because the points-to-dollar ratio is pretty terrible. That said, I suppose that if you’re already scanning a receipt into a few apps, one more wouldn’t hurt.
* The discounted price is only for the first $25 gift card of the month and is only for gift cards. You still need 2,500 points to request a $25 PayPal payment.
Admittedly, I know next to nothing about this app — except that it makes a hilarious and adorable “oinking” noise when you upload a receipt.
But Mom really likes it, and she tends to have very good taste in these matters. So I figured it was worth mentioning. It seems to have the same rules as Fetch.
If you decide to join it, please consider using Mom’s referral code: TRIL5950.
Credit card rewards
Most credit card points programs will let you redeem for grocery store gift cards.
I use the Citi Double Cash card, which gives me 2% cash back on all purchases. But my Chase Freedom card has at least one quarter a year where grocery stores earn 5% cash back.
If you’re not sure which rewards card to choose, I recommend checking out NerdWallet’s credit cards section.
Discounted gift cards
If you can’t get gift cards for free, the next best deal is to buy them at a discount.
Resale sites like Raise and CardCash have lists of gift cards that you can buy for less than face value. Those sites also tend to have sales for an extra 5% to 7% off (once in a great while, even 10% off), giving you even more bang for your buck.
New CardCash members will get an offer for $3 off a $25+ order. This site also has semi-weekly sales, so I recommend signing up for the newsletter.
Raise’s new customer offers seem to be ever-changing. As best I can tell, new customers will get either a 15% off coupon or a $10 off $40+ order coupon. If you don’t see an offer on the sign-up sheet, just do an Internet search for “new Raise customer coupon” and I’m sure you’ll find something.
Of course, even before this latest surge of inflation, grocery store gift cards (and gas station gift cards) were in very high demand. Luckily, some retail sites will let you receive alerts when new GCs as listed.
If discounted gift cards stay frustratingly out of stock, another option is to buy grocery store GCs as GiftCards.com. While you’ll pay the face value, you can get 1% cash back through once again use Mr. Rebates and Rakuten. Yeah, it’s not a lot. But for some folks every cent matters.
Incidentally, when you’re looking around resale sites, don’t forget that some Target stores sell groceries — and Target gift cards are pretty much always available on the gift card sites.
Speaking of Target…
If there’s a Target in your area that sells groceries, I recommend joining the Target free rewards program, Target Circle.
You’ll get 1% back on whatever you spend, and the program sometimes comes up with some good coupons/offers. Recently, I got one for $5 off $15+ order offer. Since I only needed about $16 of groceries, that was pretty useful.
The store also can offer free gift cards for purchasing certain items. Every so often, my protein bars will be included in a “Buy $30, Get a $5 GC” special.
Find an old(er) person
On the first Wednesday of each month, Fry’s gives seniors (defined as anyone who’s at least 55 years old) a 10% discount. Fred Meyer has it on the first Tuesday of each month.
Walgreens offers 20% off on the first Tuesday of each month. So if (in the first week of the month) you see any great grocery deals — sometimes it has surprisingly good sales on cereal, for example — grab your AARP buddy and go! (Dairy is not included in the discount.)
Those are all the tips I have for now. Feel free to chime in with anything I might’ve missed!