Are You a "Shopportunist?"

By Sandra Gordon

If you're buying store brand infant formula like Parent's Choice Formula at Walmart—and saving as much as 50 percent compared to name brand baby formulas—you know how great it feels to save big and not compromise quality. But don't stop there. In today's deal culture, there are countless ways to get deep discounts on everything—especially groceries.

To buy the best for your family without bruising your budget, the latest food shopping sites and apps can help. These high-tech tools help you locate sales stack your savings to combine coupons with discounted items and incentivize you to stock up at sale time so you have enough of the on-sale stuff in your inventory until it all goes on sale again. If you can do at least one of the three tactics I just mentioned, you're on the right track.

Grocery sales operate in six- to 12-week sales cycles, so if something's not on sale now, just wait. It will be soon. Why pay retail when you don't have to—even at the supermarket? By taking advantage online and smart phone tools outlined below, you won't be just pushing your shopping cart through the aisles; you'll be wheelin' and dealin.'

Grocery Shop for Free

This fabulous food-saving site, which is the work of Dian Farmer, an enterprising mom who spends less than $200 on groceries per month for herself, her husband and her teenage son, features printable coupons, rebates, giveaways and deals in grocery stores across the country, which can show up right in your Facebook feed. The site's hidden gem is the free ebook; "Learn How You Can Grocery Shop for Free!" that you can down load by clicking on "How to Grocery Shop for Free!" on the top header. The ebook features Farmer's key money-saving strategies, including using a price book, which involves jotting down the prices of the items you typically buy in a notebook as you shop. Gathering the intel at your supermarket over several weeks or months will help you predict when items will go on sale, when the price is going to be the lowest (there are sale prices and then there are rock-bottom sale prices) and when to use your coupons on sale items. Hint: To score the deepest discounts, save your coupons until rock bottom sale time rolls around.

Food on the Table

Free, iOS, Android

With this handy meal planning app, you can quickly make weekly menus by choosing entrees to prepare from a database of recipes. Then, using the app's recipe search function, you can plan money-saving meals based on what's on sale at your local supermarket. Just tap on a discounted item from a participating store and search for a recipe featuring the ingredient. Recipe items are automatically added to your virtual grocery list, which you can print or e-mail to whoever will be doing the grocery run. You can also add your personal family favorite recipes to the database and check-off ingredients as you shop so you don't forget anything.

Favado

Free, iOS, Android

This mobile savings app helps shoppers discover the best deals on their favorite items at local grocery and drugstores in every zip code in the country. The Favado app is powered with data supplied by more than 80 money saving experts who contribute regional sales information every week from local grocery, drug and big box stores. These experts track comprehensive sales information from places like circulars, tips from readers, online specials, unadvertised sales and more. Overall, the Favado app helps you:

  • Compare prices on specific items or categories across multiple stores at once.
  • Get organized: You can save the sales you want to your list, organized by store and then email the list to yourself and access opportunities for additional savings.
  • Personalized sales: Most people buy the same items week to week. You can save favorite products and brands to the "Faves" list to see stores offering sales on preferred items.
  • Notifications: Hate missing a new sale? Favado will send notifications of new sales for stores you select
  • Coupon matching: Favado also lets you know when additional savings are available and where to find them to get the best possible price. Extra savings examples include ecoupons, newspaper inserts and even mail-in-rebate offers.
  • Search: Curious if a specific brand or product is on sale? Simply enter the search term and the app will scan all the stores you have selected and show you what's on sale and where.

ibotta

(free, iOS, Android)

With the ibotta rebate app, you'll earn cash back on your grocery purchases at over 35 retailers nationwide, such as Stop and Shop, CVS, Walmart, RiteAid, Target and Walgreens. Cashing in is a multistep process.

Step 1: Use the app to pre-select featured products you plan to buy on your next trip to the grocery store. An age-old budgeting tip: Just like with couponing, select products you'd normally buy anyway.

Step 2: For each product, complete the app's required tasks. To get 75 cents back on Special K Cranberry Walnut Protein Meal Bars at my local Stop and Shop supermarket, for example, I was asked to take a survey, answer a question about where I had first heard of Special K Protein Meal Bars and to follow the Special K community on Twitter. Check, check, check.

Step 3: Head to the store and buy your chosen products.

Step 4: Verify your purchases by using the app to upload a photo of your receipt. Rebates accumulate in your ibotta account. You can send them to your PayPal account to use later or donate them to any school in America.

Find & Save

This handy site (www.findnsave.com) offers the online version of the sales circulars that come in your local newspaper. Find & Save's online circulars offer a couple of advantages over the print versions though. For example, you can see sales circulars before they're published in the newspaper. You can narrow your search and sort all the sales by categories. You can set your user radius and focus your search on stores that are within a specified distance from your house. You can also use Findnsave.com to zero in on items you buy repeatedly, like store brand infant formula, baby food, milk and eggs, to find the best sale prices at stores in your area. Find & Save is convenient too. After you sign up, circulars get sent to your inbox as a "deal alert."


About the Author

Sandra Gordon is a consumer products expert, a writer, and a mother of two. She has appeared on NBC's Today Show and as a baby safety expert on The Discovery Health Channel's "Make Room for Baby." A Consumer Reports author, her latest book is Save a Bundle: 50+ Ways to Save Big on Baby Gear.

Read Bio »