Food is a huge part of a family’s budget. And the choices we make impact our budget and our children’s health. I use a combination of (1) planning, (2) printing coupons and (3) cashing in on rebates and rewards to save what I can without compromising smart food choices or over-buying.
Step 1. Plan
They say you should never go grocery shopping hungry. Been there, done that, totally agree. I also think going grocery shopping without a list can be just as bad. So I start by creating a meal plan. And for this, I live on Pinterest. I like to cook and try out new dishes but I’m not that talented of a cook. I need detailed ingredients and instructions. And there are so many easy and affordable recipes on Pinterest, you’ll never need another cookbook.
After picking out meals to cover the week ahead, I use the meal plan to make my shopping list. That ensures I have everything I need for each specific meal. You can check out my Frugal Florida Mom Pinterest pages for meals I’ve tried and loved. And you’ll notice a lot of them are quick and easy with few ingredients. I’m not trying to be Rachel Ray here.
Step 2. Print
You can do a Google search to find several options for finding and printing coupons. Read the fine print carefully and pick the one that makes you the most comfortable. Some sites will ask you for varying degrees of personal information such as email address, phone number and demographic information. You’ll also likely need to download specific coupon printing software onto your computer.
I use GroceryCouponNetwork.com because it shows you all current coupons on one page that you can scroll through. A few other sites I checked out required clicking through many different pages.
On this site you click on just the coupons you want and when you’re done, they’re all compiled and sent directly to your printer.
Step 3. Get Paid
Did you know you can get paid just for walking into a store?
My friends Jackie & Bernadette tipped me off to the Shopkick app a few months ago and now I can’t walk into a store without pulling it up.
Shopkick ∼ How It Works:
You get “kicks” by:
1- Walking into a store – Seriously, just walking in
2- Scanning product barcodes
3- Paying with a credit card linked to the app
4- Buying featured products and scanning your receipt
5- Inviting friends
Shopkick∼ The Catch:
To get “kicks” you need to search out and scan the barcodes of certain products. The point is that if you’ve picked it up and scanned it, it’s good for the company who makes it. But you do not need to buy it to get the “kicks.”
Also, as you can imagine, for the app to verify that you’re at the store they use your location (and microphone for some reason). And if you choose to use your credit card and receipts to get “kicks” you’d have to feel secure giving over that type of information.
Shopkick ∼ What I Like:
I like that it’s easy and I can only do what I want. I open the app when I walk into Walmart to do my grocery shopping and get the “kick” points. I may also scan a few products if I have time. But those are the only things I do with the app. I usually don’t buy many name-brand products anyway, and I definitely don’t buy products because an app suggests that I do.
Shopkick ∼ The Payoff:
When your kicks accumulate you can turn them into store gift cards. There is a long list of store options including Walmart, Target and Publix.
A few months ago my friend Jackie also tipped me off to what has become my favorite money-making app, Walmart Savings Catcher. It’s actually a feature in the main Walmart app.
Walmart Savings Catcher ∼ How It Works:
You scan Walmart receipts so they can compare the prices you paid to the prices for those same items at other nearby stores. And if any of those stores sell an item cheaper, they’ll give you back the difference.
Walmart Savings Catcher ∼ The Catch:
You’ll have to scan your receipt into the app and you will see a list of every item you bought. But Walmart already knows what you bought anyway, right?
Walmart Savings Catcher ∼ What I Like:
I love how easy it is. I take two seconds to scan a Walmart receipt every time I have one and they do all the work searching other store’s prices, and notify me when I have money back.
Walmart Savings Catcher ∼ The Payoff:
Once your money back total reaches $20 or more you can turn it into a Walmart gift card that you can use in the store or on their website. Since I started using the app just a few months ago I’ve gotten $25 back. It was enough to buy some school uniform pieces for my kids. I was thrilled.
I also use a couple of different grocery rebate apps called Ibotta and SavingStar.
Ibotta ∼ How It Works:
Ibotta uses a coupon style layout to show several products that offer rebates of varying amounts from $0.25 to $5 or more at certain stores. But instead of getting money off your purchase, you buy the product first, then you get cash back.
Ibotta ∼ The Catch:
But you’re obviously not getting something for nothing. To unlock the rebates you are required to sometimes watch a short add for the product or answer a question about your family’s demographics or food preferences. For example, I’ve been asked about race, family income, what kinds of foods I like and how many times a week I consume a certain product. Occasionally though, there are no requirements to get the rebate.
Ibotta ∼ What I Like:
What I really like about Ibotta is that it’s not only tied to major food company offers. In fact, you can get rebates for buying grocery staples like milk, orange juice, bread and eggs, and loose produce like tomatoes and onions, no matter what brand. This helps since I try to buy as few packaged, processed foods as possible.
Ibotta ∼ The Payoff:
After you’ve chosen the rebates you want, unlocked them and purchased the products, you scan the bar code on the product, then scan the barcode on your store receipt. Then within a few days the money will be added to your Ibotta account. And after it reaches $20 or more, you can transfer that money into a Paypal or Venmo account or purchase gift cards to stores or restaurants.
SavingStar ∼ How It Works:
The other rebate app I use is called SavingStar. It offers rebates on certain categories of products and you accumulate the rebates after you buy a certain amount over time. For example, one SavingStar offer gives you $4 back when you buy $16 worth of any Purex laundry detergent. Another gives you $5 back when you buy $20 worth of Snyder’s of Hanover products. (Both examples seen in photo below.)
SavingStar ∼ What I Like:
I really like the option to earn these rebates over time. I can’t stand finding a great coupon, only to notice you have to buy 2 or 4 of the product to use it. I don’t like being forced to buy more than I need to use a coupon. In my opinion, that defeats the whole purpose of using a coupon to save money.
But overtime, I know that I am going to spend $16 on Purex laundry detergent. And at the rate my family goes through bags of pretzels, I’ll likely snag that Snyder’s of Hanover rebate pretty quickly too.
SavingStar ∼ The Fine Print:
Unlike Ibotta, where you scan the bar code on your receipt, SavingStar requires you to upload pics of the entire receipt, top to bottom. If that makes you uncomfortable, maybe this is not the rebate option for you. I don’t personally care if the marketing world knows I buy hair bleach and more than my fair share of potato chips. I’m an open book, folks. But you do you!
SavingStar ∼ The Payoff:
With Ibotta, you have to reach $20 in rebates before actually getting your hands on the money. But with SavingStar, after just $5 you can move the money into a Paypal account or your bank account, or you can turn it into a donation to American Forests.