How to Cut Your Grocery Bill in Half

Combine smart planning with a few 21st-century shopping techniques to make every dollar you spend go further.

Man paying with credit card while standing with woman at supermarket

by SEIU Member Benefits

With increasing costs for basics like health care, gas and even milk, we are all tightening our purse strings and looking for deals. The good news: Saving on grocery store purchases has never been easier.

According to Steve Economides, New York Times Best Selling Author of America’s Cheapest Family Gets You Right on the Money, there are a slew of deals out there; you just have to know where to look. “Approach the grocery store... with a plan in place,” says Economides, who encourages shoppers to think strategically about their needs. “Take stock of what’s in your pantry, create a shopping list and browse the Internet or your mobile apps for savings on the items you know you need.”

Grocers and supermarkets offer a myriad of tricks and tools to help you save and be more efficient when you shop. From mobile apps to personalized coupons, we asked two top grocery store insiders—Economides and Gary Hawkins, spokesperson for the National Grocers Association and Chief Executive Officer of Hawkins Strategic, LLC, a pioneer in personalized marketing—for five modern-day ways to save on your next shopping trip:

Benefit: Gas rewards
How it works: Gas programs partner with grocery store chains to offer shoppers savings per gallon based on spending. Some grocers use a point system, so shoppers might receive one point for every dollar they spend. For each 100 points earned, for example, shoppers get 10 cents off a gallon of gas (up to 35 gallons). During the holidays, some retailers up the ante. For every 100 dollars spent on gift cards, shoppers receive 40 cents off a gallon of gas.
Where to go: Kroger, Vons, Safeway, Giant, Stop & Shop and others.

Benefit: Mobile apps
How it works: Many stores offer mobile apps that do the couponing legwork for you. Such apps provide instant access to the store’s weekly ad and in-store coupons. Some also allow you to create a shopping list, search for sale items and comparison-shop between brands.
Where to go: Safeway, Wegmans, Kroger, Meijer.

Benefit: Online coupons
How it works: Simply visit the store’s website prior to shopping and type the word “coupon” in the search box. Alternatively, just Google the store’s name and coupon. Not only will you discover valuable savings on products you already buy, you may also uncover special prices on perishable items like bread. Economides once paid only 99 cents for 50 one-day-old hamburger buns.
Where to go: A variety of stores (both grocery and retail) offer online discounts to savvy shoppers. In some cases, you may not even have to leave your house!

Benefit: Personalized coupons/club memberships
How it works: Grocers provide shoppers with special savings on products they already buy. Buy the same brand of milk every week? Chances are, you’ll notice savings on future purchases since discounts are based on shopping history. You might even encounter big savings with discounts like “buy one, get one free.”
Where to find it: Kroger, Safeway, Vons, Martin’s and many others.

Benefit: Double/Triple coupons
How it works: On specific days, select grocery stores will double or triple coupon face values. For example, on double coupon day, a $1 off coupon will be worth $2 off. Such huge savings are becoming increasingly difficult to find, but for savings that big, it’s worth a try!
Where to find it: Albertsons, Safeway, Frys, Kroger, Giant, Acme—but only available in some states, usually on specific days within certain limits. Check with your local store.

With all of these ways to save, we have plenty of opportunities to slash our grocery bills, claims Economides. The trick, he says, is taking stock of what you have, developing a weekly menu and hitting the grocery store with a plan to purchase specially-priced items. But that doesn’t mean buying items you don’t need just because they’re marked down. A deal isn’t a steal if you end up throwing food away.

“The average family can cut their grocery bill in half using these principles,” says Economides. “Plus, they’ll eat better, they’ll spend less time shopping and their pantries will be full.”