I just spent how much?!
But there are some easy ways to slash your grocery tab — without being an extreme couponer. Use this list of simple (and some unexpected) strategies to help you save on your next trip to the grocery store.
1. Break Out the Calculator
Next time you go grocery shopping, set your spending limit, with a small challenge. Say you normally spend $80 each trip; challenge yourself to spend $70.
Then, break out the calculator on your phone. Add up the price of each item as you put it in your cart. You’ll be surprised by how quickly your total tallies up, but this will keep you accountable. (Do you really need that $12 wedge of fancy cheese this week?)
2. Turn Your Crumpled Grocery Receipts Into Free Gift Cards
What do you usually do with your receipts? You check out, the cashier hands you a mile-long piece of paper, and you stuff it in the bottom of a grocery bag. Useless.
But a free app called Fetch Rewards will turn your receipts into gift cards. It partners with tons of brands to give you points for every grocery receipt you share. Then you can exchange those points for Visa and MasterCard prepaid cards.
Don’t want to put a ton of work into this? Perfect. All you have to do is send Fetch a photo of your receipt, and it does everything for you. No scanning barcodes or searching for offers — and you can use it with any grocery receipt.
Oh, and when you download the app, don’t forget to use the code PENNY to get a bonus toward your first gift card.
Not so bad for a once-useless receipt, right?
3. Get an Extra $225 to Use Toward Groceries This Month
If we told you that before you head to the grocery store, you could get paid to watch cooking videos on your computer, you’d probably laugh.
No way, right? But we’re serious.
A website called InboxDollars will pay you to watch short video clips online. One minute, you might watch a chef teach you how to make fudge brownies, and the next, you might get the latest celebrity gossip.
All you have to do is choose which videos you want to watch and answer a few quick questions about them afterward. Brands pay InboxDollars to get these videos in front of viewers, and it passes a cut to you.
Unlike other sites, InboxDollars pays you in cash — no points or gift cards. It’s possible to earn up to $225 per month watching these videos, which could make a serious dent in your grocery bill.
It takes about one minute to sign up, and you’ll get a $5 bonus to get you started.
4. Get a Box of Free Samples Delivered to Your Door Each Month
How’d you like to receive a box of samples to your door each month? We’re not talking about crappy samples, either. These samples are from leading brands like Olay, Tide, Purina and V8. All you have to do is share your honest feedback with PINCHme.
When we registered, we could choose from full-size samples of ZzzQuil Sleep-Aid, Purina One Tender Selects cat food, Hidden Valley Greek yogurt dressing, and a V8 energy juice. (Note: The samples change each month, and options vary based on your profile and location.)
We love that PINCHme sends the samples to you (who doesn’t get excited about free stuff in the mail?) and doesn’t require a credit card to sign up or payment for shipping.
Once you fill out your profile, PINCHme will show you what samples it has available.
5. Get $250 Worth of Free Food
Who doesn’t love free food?
When you give Betty Crocker your email address, it’ll send you up to $250 worth of coupons that can help you get deeply discounted or free canned goods, cereal and yogurt.
In addition to coupons, Betty Crocker will email you the best of Betty’s 15,000 kitchen-tested recipes, how-tos and more.
If you’re like us, you probably get bored making the same food week after week, so wouldn’t it be nice to occasionally be surprised with simple recipes you can make on a budget?
6. Pocket up to 5% Cash Back at the Grocery Store
If you’re not getting rewarded every time you go to the grocery store, you’re missing out on extra money.
Aspiration lets you earn up to 5% cash back on your debit card purchases. For example, right now it gives you 0.5% cash back at Walmart and Target, and 5% cash back at places like Brandless. (For a full list of cash-back percentages, visit Aspiration’s website.)
It takes just five minutes to sign up for a new debit card with the Aspiration Spend and Save account.
Never leave extra money behind at the grocery store again.
7. Get Paid to Go Grocery Shopping
Aside from the panic at the checkout, the grocery store is a surprisingly zen place. Somewhere between the soothing elevator music, the free samples and the wafting aroma of rotisserie chicken, you settle into a peaceful groove.
None of the stress of work or home — it’s just you and the aisles.
But some people just don’t feel the same. They’d rather avoid it altogether. And with an app called Postmates, you could get paid to pick up a few extra groceries for them.
Even better than getting paid to grocery shop? If you need the money, like, now, you can cash out instantly after each delivery.
Holly Gaston, of San Francisco, California, has tried plenty of side gigs. With Postmates, she makes an average of $15 an hour. Plus, she says it’s been much more enjoyable than any of her previous side gigs.
Signing up shouldn’t take you more than about three minutes. The most difficult part will be choosing which selfie you want to use as a profile pic.
8. Check Unit Prices
One common grocery shopping misconception is that bigger is always better — or, in this case, cheaper. But that’s not always the case.
Rather than automatically stocking up on bulk packs of toilet paper, peanut butter and soup, check the items’ unit prices first.
There’s no need to do any math here. The unit price is often located on the price tag affixed to the shelf below the product, with phrasing like “$0.59 per ounce.”
You just might find that the smaller item is a better buy (and a whole lot easier to tote home and store).
9. Shop Groceries Online (or At Least Pantry Items!)
If you have a massive shopping list, grocery shopping can easily become overwhelming. Next thing you know, you’re lugging out hundreds of pounds of groceries — or at least that’s what it feels like.
Make life easier for yourself (and your arms) by buying your pantry and dry goods online — and earn cash bonuses along the way.
A free website called Rakuten has connections with more than 2,500 stores, which means it can give you a cash kickback when you shop at one. When we checked, we found deals at Amazon, Safeway, Sam’s Club, Boxed and Walmart.
It takes less than 60 seconds to create a Rakuten account. All you need is an email address. Plus, if you use Rakuten to earn money back within the first 90 days of signing up, it’ll give you an extra $10.
Now you don’t have to worry about fitting that 36-pack of toilet paper in your trunk or hauling a box of cat litter across the store. Just have someone deliver it to your door and earn cash back along the way!
This story originally ran on The Penny Hoarder.