5 Tools to Help You Stretch Your Grocery Budget

January 13, 2017

5 Tools to Help You Stretch Your Grocery Budget

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Recently, I asked readers of my weekly newsletter what their biggest budget buster was, and the #1 response was GROCERIES! One reader commented that she needed to learn how to stretch her grocery budget.

That response is not surprising at all. Food, whether it’s groceries or dining out, is usually a budget killer for most people. It was for me when I was climbing out of debt — until I learned how to shop differently and make my grocery budget go further.

Thankfully, there are many ways to save at the grocery store and many tools to help us stretch our grocery budget. Today, we’ll take a look at a few.

Here are five tools to help you stretch your grocery budget

1. SavingStar

SavingStar is a cash-back tool that rewards you for grocery shopping! Rewards are tracked through your supermarket’s discount card, so you will need to link that when you first set up your account. When you’re ready to shop, you simply scroll through the available offers and select the ones you plan to buy. At check-out, the items you bought are tracked, and the rewards are sent to your SavingStar account. Once you hit $5.00, you can cash out.

I love, love, love SavingStar — mostly because it’s just so easy to use! It also has fun features like, a “Healthy Offer of the Week,” which is usually fresh produce and “freebie” offers, which are usually something you don’t need, like a Snickers Bar, so be careful with those! Even though you can cash out after $5.00, I like to let my savings accumulate and wait for a big pay day. SavingStar can be used on your computer, or you can download the app.

2. Ibotta

Ibotta is similar to SavingStar but works a little differently. Also a cash back app, you select the offers for the items you plan to purchase before you shop. To choose an offer, you may have to do a quick task like answer a poll or watch a brief video. After you shop, you’ll verify you purchased the item by scanning the receipt as well as the barcode on the product. The savings will go into your Ibotta account, and you can cash out once you reach the $20.00 threshold.

There’s a bit more work involved with Ibotta, but some positives to it are it can be used on top of a discount you’ll receive with SavingStar, and it has more offers for fresh items like milk, eggs, meat, bread, and produce — which are sometimes hard to come by. Ibotta is only used as an app on your phone or device.

3. $5 Meal Plan

Ahh, meal planning. Do you meal plan? It’s one of the most powerful ways to stretch your grocery budget. You can certainly do it yourself, or you can use $5 Meal Plan, a meal-planning subscription service. For $5 a month, you will be emailed weekly meal plans for affordable and fun meals and snacks. The meals are easy to make, and some involve a slow cooker — my favorite time-saving tool!

Again, while you can certainly meal plan yourself, $5Meal Plan saves you tons of time and money (and gives you some new ideas!). Each meal is designed to cost $2.00 or less per person, which is great for stretching your grocery budget. How many times have you tried a new recipe only to burn a huge chunk of your grocery budget on it? I like knowing that each recipe isn’t going to cost me an arm and a leg. $5 MealPlan offers a free two-week trial so you can test it out first.

4. Checkout 51

Checkout 51 is another cash-back tool. Like the others, you browse items before you shop, but it is not linked to your discount card. Like Ibotta, after shopping, you verify your purchases by scanning your receipt. Then you select the offers you want to claim, and the savings accumulate in your Checkout51 account until you reach $20.00. You will need to download the app to your phone or device.

5. Your Supermarket’s App

If you only use one tool from this list, make sure it’s this one! You probably already have your store’s discount card and use it to get advertised specials at your supermarket, but did you know your store’s app probably has additional ways to save? Download it (or go online to your store’s website) for access to electronic coupons specific to your supermarket. You will need to link your discount card and select offers before you shop. Unlike the other apps, you will receive instant credit at checkout.

One of the best benefits of these tools is most can be combined so that you can maximize your savings (and effort). For example, you can earn a SavingStar reward, an Ibotta rebate AND use your store’s electronic coupon on the same item. You can also use a newspaper or printable coupon for even more savings! Cha-ching!

While using some of these tools requires an extra step or two to your grocery shopping, the money you save will be worth it. Develop a routine that includes spending a few minutes to scroll offers before you shop and a few minutes to scan your receipts after. You’ll quickly see that these tools are a powerful way to help you stretch your grocery budget!

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What other tools do you use to stretch your grocery budget?

Are you always blowing your grocery budget? These tools and apps can help you become more frugal and save money on groceries & meal planning.