I love saving while shopping, but if it’s a time investment of more than 10 minutes, there’s a decent chance I won’t keep up with it. Grocery shopping especially is difficult enough; even when placing an online order, my kids interrupt my train of thought every 33 seconds to ask a question or I have to remind them how to mediate their disagreements, etc. Adding a slew of chores to the weekly shopping (AKA, a chore itself) isn’t the most enticing thought.
These are my favorite ways to save without a huge time commitment, so I can spend more time with my family and less time stressing. Take what you think will help you and leave the rest behind.
Methods to My Madness
There are few methods to my madness, including comparison shopping, utilizing store brands, and apps. I also try to only go grocery shopping once a week; I make a weekly menu and get all the ingredients required in one go to minimize my trips to the store. I don’t know about you, but if I go in to get “just one thing,” I always walk out with more than just that one thing.
Comparison shopping sounds tedious and time consuming, but it really isn’t. I have the apps for my favorite stores on my phone, and I check their weekly ads against my weekly shopping list to see who has the best deals on the most products on my list. I generally do a Costco trip once a month, a Target trip once a month, and Walmart grocery pickups for the other two weeks. This allows me to get the store brands I love most when I need those items (here’s looking at you, Target’s Up&Up sunscreen and all the produce from Costco!). I’ll also sporadically check the Aldi ad to stock up on pantry staples on grocery pickup weeks and choose whether to do my usual grocery pickup or an Aldi run based on the ad. After a short time of perusing the ads, you develop a sense of cost for the items you buy so you can decide in the moment if you’re going to get that item now or wait until next week’s other store run.
Store brands are one of my favorite ways to save. Oftentimes the store brand is a name brand hidden by generic packaging, and they’re typically 25% less expensive than the name brand. Consumer Reports has done studies on store brands versus name brands, if you’re looking for more of an in-depth look. I’ve found near perfect success with Target’s store brands and Aldi’s cookies and chocolates are always exceptional. Trying store brands is also how I discovered that Aldi and Walmart have Girl Scout cookie flavor knockoffs for when those precious commodities aren’t on sale. I did a full comparison post here, if you’re craving thin mints and want to know where to find them (P.S. Keep them in the freezer and it’ll blow your mind — trust me!).
The app store is flooded with apps claiming to save you money, but which ones are worth the time?
- Target Circle is by far my favorite. They often have store brand offers (coupons you don’t have to clip; you just hit ‘save offer’), and if you aren’t sure if the product you want qualifies, you can scan the barcode and the app will tell you if there’s a deal on it. It’s also woven into the Target app, so you don’t have to have multiple apps for the same store. Plus while you’re in the store, you can open the Target Circle section of the app and select ‘see offers near me,’ so you can choose which product you want based on whether it has an additional offer. Once you have all your offers selected, you check out as normal, and scan your barcode on your phone before paying. Easy-peasy savings!
- Ibotta is another app I’ve had moderate success with. The trick with this one is to not get caught up in the savings game. There are a lot of name brand rebates in this app, which you select before uploading a photo of your receipt. But if you’re buying a name brand with a discount instead of a store brand, you may be losing money. My trick for using this one without going crazy for name brands is to search for items on my list, or look at the ‘Any Item’ category. These rebates give you money back if you buy any brand yogurt, any brand soda, etc. This is where you can get rebates on store brand items, and I’m a big fan. They’ve also added where you can connect your online shopping accounts, so you don’t have to upload a photo of your receipt. It automatically checks your receipt against your selected offers, and adds the rebate money to your account balance.
- If you’re a Kroger shopper, they have in-app coupons that load to your Kroger savings card. You do have to sort through them, and their search isn’t perfect; but if you’re already shopping at Kroger, it can help bring that total down. They will also often have coupons for Kroger brand items, which really stacks the savings.
- Rakuten is similar to Ibotta, but also works really well online with Lowe’s, Chewy, Target, Walmart, and other retailers. Instead of particular items, Rakuten focuses on categories and has fewer grocery items. So if you’re looking for rugs at Target or clothing from Old Navy, shopping through the Rakuten app can get you a percentage back as a rebate. They also offer store specific coupons. At the writing of this post, they had a coupon for 50% off select Old Navy shorts, plus 2% cash back. This app allows you to stack coupons and cash back, but sometimes the ‘select’ keyword limits your options, which can be frustrating. You also have to access the store through the Rakuten link, which although is safe, is easy to forget to do. I use this one the least, simply because I use the store’s apps on my phone frequently and forget to use the Rakuten app.