May 27, 2008 -- Even though grocery prices continue to rise, you can lower your grocery bill with these no-hassle ways to save.
The key to saving the most on groceries is to plan your shopping list thoroughly each week.
Start your list by planning meals around featured sale items and make your list as comprehensive as possible to avoid unplanned trips to the store during the week. Good list planning also cuts down on impulse shopping, which is the easiest way to blow your grocery budget.
Look to the Web to get free planning information and coupons before you shop. Using new electronic coupon technology, printing coupons and taking advantage of informational Web sites will save you time as well as money.
Retailers and coupon companies continue to develop electronic coupon and discount options available automatically when you use their store loyalty card. Even if you do not like to cut out and organize grocery coupons, you will still be able to cut your grocery bill if you know how to use these easy programs. My favorite savings programs include:
This new program launched in February 2008 is currently available at Kroger-owned retailers including Kroger, Ralphs, Smiths, King Soopers, Frys and Dillons.
You can sign up for the program from Kroger's site at Kroger.com or directly at Shortcuts.com. Once you register and enter your store discount card number, you can select coupon offers from manufacturers. The coupon information is transferred to your store discount card.
When you buy the item at the store, the coupon amount will be deducted automatically from your total at the register. If the coupon expires before you use it, it will disappear. In order to remember which offers you selected, you should print the list of offers after you select them and keep that piece of paper in your coupon organizer to refer to as you make your shopping list.
This program is also available at Kroger stores. It is not a stand-alone site, you can only sign up from Kroger.com or the site of your Kroger-owned retailer. eSAVER features coupon offers from Procter & Gamble. This program works like Shortcuts, adding the coupon value to your store discount card after you select them from the Web site.
The offers are not exactly the same as the offers found in the monthly P&G Brandsaver coupon circular distributed via newspapers. Although many of the same items are featured in both Brandsaver circulars and the eSAVER program, I noticed that the eSAVER coupon values were higher in some cases.
For example, there was a $3 coupon for a Clairol hair color item in the newspaper circular, and a $7 coupon for the same item at eSAVER.
Again, it makes sense to print a copy of the offers you select and keep the list in your coupon organizer. eSAVER will also send you an e-mail newsletter to remind you about the coupons selected a few days before they expire.
Blogs & Free Web sites
Use free sites and blogs that do the research of finding the best grocery coupon deals at your stores each week. Many expert grocery shoppers provide great information on their money-saving sites and blogs that make it easy for you to save money without investing the time figuring out coupon deals. My site, www.couponmom.com, lists deals for 41 grocery and drugstores.
Other blogs I like with grocery deals include www.moneysavingmom.com and www.hotcouponworld.com. Do your own search using the terms "grocery coupon" and "grocery deals" to find many more helpful free blogs.
Loyalty Card Promotions
If you shop at a store that has a loyalty card, you will definitely want to get one to save money easily. Not only will the card give you discounts on sale items, but it will also generate register coupons for items you purchase.
Many stores also have loyalty card promotions that take cash off your order or give you a free item when you buy participating items. Look at your store's weekly ad before you shop to make sure you don't miss out on these easy automatic promotions. For example, if I use the store loyalty card, when I buy four 12-packs I will get one free.
In other words, when I purchase five 12-packs the register will automatically deduct $3 for the free item for a net cost of $2.40 each. If I hadn't read the store ad before shopping, I would have easily purchased only two or three 12-packs and missed out on the savings.
Coupons On Packages
One of the most common ways manufacturers distribute grocery coupons is by attaching them to their product's package. These coupons have the highest redemption rate of any grocery coupon because it's easy to take them off the package and hand them to the cashier.
But the redemption rate is still only 40 percent! That means 60 percent of shoppers are missing out on easy savings because they don't notice the coupons or because they assume the cashier will take them off. Be sure to check packages for coupons and hand them to the cashier at the register.
Print Grocery Coupons
Today there are dozens of printable grocery coupons available on free sites. You can print over $100 worth of name brand coupons from sites like www.eversave.com and www.coupons.com. After making your weekly shopping list check these sites to see if coupons are available for the items you need.
Stephanie Nelson shares her savings tips as a regular contributor on ABCNews.com. You can find more of her savings tips on her site at www.couponmom.com.