BY CAMERON HUDDLESTON
TRIBUNE NEWS SERVICE
Grocery shopping can take a big bite out of your household budget. In fact, a family of four spends up to an average of $1,300 a month on food at home, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That means families can shell out more than $15,000 a year on groceries.
With the right strategies you can cut your grocery spending in half or more. Just ask Kyle Taylor, founder of personal finance blog ThePennyHoarder.com. When he was just a teenager, he was finding ways to whittle down his family’s grocery bill to less than $20 a week. Since then, he’s launched a career in helping people save more money.
The entrepreneur is a finalist in GOBankingRates’ 2015 “Best Money Expert” competition hosted in collaboration with Ally Bank. Taylor shared these tips to save money on groceries without spending hours clipping coupons.
There are plenty of ways to save money on groceries. The best way is to take advantage of multiple methods of cutting costs. “We all know about couponing, but saving money is way easier when you know how to stack discounts,” Taylor said. Here’s how he piles on the savings.
Discounted gift cards
The first money-saving move Taylor makes is buying discounted gift cards for supermarkets and other stores that carry grocery items, such as Target. You can get gift cards for less than face value at sites such as Raise.com, Cardpool and Giftcard Zen.
“These gift cards are sold for 1 percent to 25 percent below face value, meaning that I’ve saved money before ever stepping into the grocery store,” Taylor said.
Add on coupons
Collecting coupons doesn’t have to be as time consuming as it might seem, Taylor said. Even clipping coupons can be simple.
Taylor gets the Sunday paper delivered to his doorstep and slips the grocery coupon inserts into a filing cabinet, organizing them by date. Then, before shopping each week, he uses the free Favado app to see sales in his area. Once he’s found sale items he wants to buy, he finds coupons he needs to clip to get these items for less.
Because Favado lists coupons by date, he can quickly track down the inserts he needs in his filing cabinet.
“It saves me tons of time every month because I don’t have to clip coupons I’ll never use,” he said.
Another way to collect coupons is to join a local couponing group or online coupon forum where you can trade coupons with money-saving gurus, he said. Five Dollar Dinners, meanwhile, provides low-cost ways to make your favorite meals. CoolSavings also delivers coupons straight to your inbox.
“Once you set up your systems, it only takes a few minutes to acquire coupons,” Taylor said.
Download rebate apps
Taylor stacks his gift card and coupon savings with grocery rebates he gets with apps like Ibotta and Checkout 51.
The Ibotta app uses your smartphone’s GPS to locate grocery stores around you. Choose your favorite and then browse rebates to find the ones you want to use. Before you shop, you’ll have to “unlock” the rebates, which usually requires reading a quick fact or watching a 15-second ad about the product. “It’s pretty easy and won’t take you much time,” he said.
When you get home from the store, click the “redeem” button on the Ibotta app and use your smartphone’s camera to take a picture of your receipt. Within 24 hours, Taylor said you’ll see cash in your Ibotta account, which you can withdraw anytime via Paypal or Venmo.
The Checkout 51 app works similarly. Select the rebates you want, purchase the items and then upload a picture of your receipt through the app or Checkout51.com. Taylor said that when your account reaches $20, Checkout 51 sends you a check.
Stock up during sales
When items you regularly buy go on sale, take advantage of the discounted prices to buy several if they can be frozen, are nonperishable or have a long shelf life. You don’t have to be a hoarder though, Taylor said.
“Grocery stores have eight- to 12-week sale cycles, so odds are that item will be on sale again soon — and you only need to stock up enough to get you to that next sale,” he said.
Use rewards card
If you’re responsible with credit and pay off your balance each month, you should take advantage of the savings you’ll get by using a cash rewards credit card. Taylor suggested looking for cards that offer 2 percent or more cash back on grocery purchases.
“My saving philosophy is that stacking all of these methods is the most effective way to save, rather than depending on just one or two,” Taylor said. “And once you set up your system — applying for a cash rewards credit card, downloading a rebate app, buying a discounted gift card or two, organizing your coupons — it doesn’t take as much time.”
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