Want to beat inflation at the grocery store? There is an application for that.
A whole bunch of apps, in fact. I use seven (some more regularly than others) to cut costs and get free or almost free items.
Some apps give you money and some give you points to redeem for gift cards. Either way, it means getting the things you need for less or even for free.
Can you fill your pantry this way? Maybe! Of course, there are plenty of sweets and treats up for grabs, but also staples like flour, canned beans, milk, coffee, rice, yogurt, pasta sauce, frozen vegetables and condiments. Non-food products as well, such as laundry and cleaning products, toiletries, baby necessities, beauty products and pet supplies.
Here’s an overview of how these apps work, followed by tips on how to take advantage of the best deals for the least amount of work.
How it works: Kick gives points called “kicks” for scanning items, buying items, and performing similar tasks. Sometimes you get 10-100 kicks just for entering a store.
My experience: This is probably my favorite app on this list because I don’t necessarily have to buy anything to get points.
Best for: Everyone, because it’s so easy.
Pro tip: Sometimes the number of kicks you earn for a particular task increases without warning – say, from 10 to 50 – so check the app daily. If you were planning on shopping anyway, why not go now and get more points for the same deals?
2. Collect Rewards
How it works: You earn points by scanning any type of receipt — supermarket, pharmacy, restaurant, etc.
My experience: What I like Collect rewards is that it takes receipts from anywhere. It also allows you to link your Amazon account and your email account; the app searches for receipts from both places when you press the “eReceipt” button.
Best for: People who are flexible about brand loyalty, since you get additional rewards for items from their retail partners – for example, choosing Pepsi over Coke. It’s also great for people who shop a lot because, as mentioned, you can scan just about any receipt.
Pro tip: Seriously, Fetch Rewards will really take any receipt showing date, amount paid and company name. I scanned movie tickets, a gas company payment, and my partner’s medical treatment credit card receipt.
How it works: You can get cash back by activating offers with the push of a button and then scanning your receipt. Then redeem the discounts for gift cards or cash (via PayPal or direct deposit).
My experience: Ibotta regularly offers “free after discount” offers, and this gave me a plot cash back.
I like to combine Ibotta offers with offers from other apps. For example, recently I gave my niece and her kids half a dozen free containers of Talenti gelato (the good stuff!) by stacking Ibotta discounts and Fetch Rewards points – which means I have earned both on a single transaction.
Best for: People who want cash as an option or who, like me, want to stack the rewards with other offers.
Pro tip: Choosing to redeem your cash back in the form of a PayPal transfer or direct deposit, as opposed to a gift card, can help protect your budget against inflation.
4. Magic Recipes
My experience: magic recipes is easy to use and there are plenty of offers up for grabs.
Best for: People who want the most reward options; Swagbucks, InboxDollars, and MyPoints offer tons of choices.
Pro tip: Didn’t buy any of the offers you selected? Scan anyway, because you’ll probably get two points just for your purchases.
How it works: Download the Coupons.com Appthen get money back by scanning both receipts and the UPCs of the items you purchase. If you link the app to your loyalty accounts with particular grocery chains, you get cash back instantly, without scanning.
My experience: Easy to use and the money arrives very quickly in your PayPal account.
Best for: Those who are organized enough to remember to scan the UPC of the item (unless they link their store loyalty accounts). If you use and discard items before claiming cashback, you’re out of luck.
Pro tip: Use of store discounts or manufacturer’s coupons may void your cash back.
6. Receiving Pig
How it works: Scan receipts from supermarkets, big box retailers and Amazon.
My experience: Simple (and fun) to use
Best for: Those who don’t expect a variety of rewards, as Receipt Hog only offers Amazon, PayPal or a Visa prepaid card
Pro tip: Bonuses are granted if you upload receipts every week. Also, don’t forget to hit the “Hog Slots” button once in a while, to try to earn extra points on a cartoon slot machine.
7. Payment 51
How it works: Earn money by selecting product offers and scanning your receipts.
My experience: Crate 51 is simple and straightforward, but it offers deals for fewer products than other apps.
Best for: People who are patient, because you have to earn $20 off to cash out. (It’s the most restrictive of all the apps I use.)
Pro tip: Deals change weekly, so don’t delay if you see a good deal, especially in combination with other apps.
Some additional pro tips
A smart buyer will combine offers at the best prices. For example, I can scan and buy a product with Shopkick, then send it to get discounts from Ibotta and Checkout 51.
Recently, I received free Oikos yogurt, Mentos sugar-free gum, Talenti ice cream, Sara Lee turkey breast and Malt-O-Meal cereal – and sometimes I even won some money on offers.
More best practices:
Look before you buy, though. I check CouponMom.com on Sundays. But if I’m shopping mid-week, I throw product names in apps just in case a New chance to save arose. Offers are added all the time, so it’s worth looking for.
Create a scanning habit. Apps that let you scan receipts tend to have a time limit – usually within 14 days of purchase – so if you stop, you lose. I scan as soon as I get home from the store.
Refer your friends. You will get points when they join you, so spread the news.
Cash in regularly. Why pay out of pocket? Always have gift cards ready in the app, in case you need to run to the grocery store. Or at any other store: My partner and I used over $150 in Lowe’s and Home Depot gift cards on supplies for our 2022 vegetable garden.
Weigh the rewards. A $5 gift card from Fetch Rewards costs 5,000 points. Compare that to a $5 card from Shopkick (1,250 points), Receipt Hog (1,000), or Magic Receipts through Swagbucks (500). However, since some apps have rewards options that others don’t, you may need to opt for the more “expensive” app. Be careful, however. For example, a $10 AMC gift card is worth 1,000 points with Magic Receipts through Swagbucks, but 2,500 points with Shopkick and 10,000 points with Fetch Rewards.
Share the wealth. Recently, there was a great Shopkick offer: 800 points (the equivalent of $3.20) to buy Malt-O-Meal cereal. So far I have purchased and donated a dozen bags to a local food bank. And when I say “purchased” I mean I paid with Walmart gift cards that I got from Shopkick. Not that you have make a donation. A deal like this could be a major budget boost for parents or non-parents who love Marshmallow Mateys.
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