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Saving money on food is one of the most impactful areas of the budget to cut back. After housing and transportation costs (includes auto loans, maintenance and fuel), food comes in third as the biggest portion of the American household budget; if you own your cars outright, it’s likely that your food costs then come in second. Food costs, including both eating out and at home, comprise about 10% of the average family’s pretax income. So, it should come as no surprise that the desire to cut those costs back as much as possible has led to a rise in the popularity of grocery apps. And there are lots of them to choose from. Here are the 5 best grocery apps that I use to help keep my family of 6 in the sweet spot of $125 per week…
Ibotta is probably the most popular and recognizable grocery app available. It has a lot of participating grocery and mass market stores (and has recently expanded to include restaurants, online retailers and apparel stores) and offers a wide range of products with available savings offers. Ibotta gives you a cash rebate for the purchase of specified products after you “unlock” the offer by watching a short video or answering a quick question. You then purchase said item, scan the bar code to verify its inclusion in the offer, upload a copy of your receipt and wait for validation. Your account is then credited for each item correctly submitted item. Once you hit the $20 earning threshold, you can cash out to Paypal, Venmo or a number of different gift cards.
Ibotta also lets you build a “team” of fellow savers with your referred friends or Facebook friends. Their spending combined with yours can help you earn bonuses for even more cash back. For instance, if you redeem 10 rebates in the month and your team redeems $10 worth of rebates, you can earn a $1 Level 1 bonus. After you complete that, you can move on to a Level 2 bonus and so on up to Level 4. The larger your team, the faster you can earn the bonuses.
If you don’t purchase a lot of name brand products, you still have the opportunity to earn a little with the “any brand” offers on things like dairy, produce, bread, etc. These rebates don’t count towards the bonuses, but they help you bring the bottom line down so it’s still worth a spot on your phone, even if it takes a while longer to reach the cash out level.
Check out this related post: How I Feed My Family of 6 on $125 a Week
I love Checkout 51 because you can use it at Aldi, which is my primary grocery store. Granted Aldi doesn’t sell many of the name brand products that have available rebates, but in the event that they do have a special buy available or a generic item like milk is on the list, I can submit my receipt and collect that cash.
Milk has always been the first available rebate on the app for me, so even if you don’t use it for anything else, you’re almost guaranteed to collect $.50 back each week on your gallon of milk. After you reach the $20 threshold, you can cash out.
You can search all the participating stores at once, and if, for example, an offer you want is only available at Target, it will say Target in gray above the offer.
You click the star beside the offers you want, then the star at the top right of the page when you’re done adding your offers. You’ll click the upload receipt button and take a photo of your receipt. As soon as it’s approved, you’ll see your account balance grow.
SavingStar identifies itself as a coupon app rather than a rebate app. It works in much the same way as the others with a few key differences. First, you’ll view the available offers and tap the “+” button to activate the offer. You’ll add your stores where you shop under the redeem tab. Then you’ll click the store where you’re redeeming your offer. Here’s where it differs from the other apps. Some stores will upload your purchases to SavingStar right from your customer loyalty card. So, you have to be prepared with the offer preloaded to your SavingStar app in order to receive credit for the offer. Some of your larger, local grocery stores and many drug stores operate this way. Your Sam’s Club, Walmart, Lowe’s, etc purchases will require you to upload your receipt so you may still catch a rebate after you get home.
They always have a weekly “healthy offer,” which is usually a fresh produce item. Always check the details to be sure your store is not on the exclusion list.
One of the other nice things about SavingStar is that you can cash out after reaching only a $5 threshold.
Now, as the name obviously implies, the Walmart Savings Catcher app can only be used at Walmart. In their efforts to guarantee you always find the lowest prices in their stores, you can now scan the QR code on your Walmart receipt, and they’ll search the available advertisements in your area, comparing all the prices for the items on your receipt and automatically credit you back the difference between what you paid and what you would have paid at a competitor. You can cash out the balance at any time to a Walmart gift card, which you can then spend online or in the store.
If you were not already aware, Walmart will price match anyone’s ad for the identical item, which I highly recommend taking advantage of.
My son and I have an unhealthy love for Chili Cheese Fritos. I saw them advertised on sale 2 for $4 at the local Dollar General recently. When I went to buy some, they didn’t have any left (kind of comforting to know we’re not alone in our unhealthy obsession), so I picked some up down the road at Walmart. They were $2.98 a bag, but I had my ad with me, showed the cashier and she price matched them to $2 a piece. No manager override required; it really couldn’t have been simpler.
Had I missed that sale in the ad, I would have still gotten the price difference through the app, but I would have waited 3 days for it to process and I’d be taking the difference in Walmart credit. The Savings Catcher app is a great fail safe, but it definitely pays to do the investigating yourself first. Saving yourself cash up front is still your best first option.
There are many people who love the Target Cartwheel app. I don’t generally shop there since I can’t trust myself to stay out of the home goods section (can anyone really have too many throw pillows?!), so I haven’t used it often. I found that the savings I got weren’t enough to warrant the space on my small 16GB phone. However, I still get their Cartwheel emails so if I see something worthwhile, then I just download the app again from the Cloud and pick up what I want.
But if you shop there frequently, a permanent download may be worth it for you. There are often 5% savings available on many of the Target brand, “Market Pantry,” food products that they sell. Simply click the plus sign to add the offers you selected and then scan your bar code at the checkout to see your savings applied.
The other benefit to grocery apps is you are not confined to using just one and many of them will carry some of the same offers. This means you can double or even triple your savings to come away with heavily discounted or free items. Recently, Ibotta and Checkout 51 each had $1 cash back offers on Kidfresh frozen kids’ meals. These are frozen prepared meals that “hide” veggies in the food so kids don’t realize they’re in there. Thus, they’re more expensive than the average Kid Cuisine frozen TV dinner. Submitting your receipt to each grocery app would have garnered you $2 back, dropping their overall cost to less than $1, and you get a break from the lunchtime struggle of trying to get your kid to eat something other than a PB&J (or is that just my cross to bear?!).
Kidfresh was also offered on the Cartwheel app recently. If you were lucky enough to combine those savings with the other cashback offers from Ibotta and Checkout 51, your final price would have been only $.12!
Are there any grocery apps you use that I missed? I would love to try them–please tell me about them in the comments!