Food is among the most expensive costs in the average American family’s budget. And we don’t make it any easier on ourselves by dining out so often in restaurants.
In fact, the average U.S. consumer spends nearly one-third of his or her food dollars in restaurants, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
By cutting back on dining out, and enjoying the occasional home-cooked meal — you remember those, right? — you can save a lot of money.
Following are nine great websites and apps that can help you save at the grocery store, or that suggest ways to stretch your ingredients further.
Cash-back and coupon websites and apps
1. iBotta: This app is a frugal favorite, and it’s no wonder why: The app pays you cash back for groceries you need to purchase anyway.
Here is how it works: First, download the iBotta app. Then, look for deals on popular products. Once you find a deal you like, qualify for the offer by performing a simple activity, such as watching a video or filling out a survey.
Then, go to an eligible store — including Walmart, Target and many major grocery chains and drugstores — and purchase the item. After you have done so, take a picture of the receipt and you will be credited.
Once you have earned at least $5, you can ask iBotta to put cash in your PayPal account. This app takes couponing to the next level!
2. Checkout 51. Similar to iBotta, this app/website presents grocery cash-back offers — updated every Thursday — that you can redeem for cash back after purchasing the item and uploading your receipt.
However, unlike iBotta, you can shop at any store to redeem the offer. And you do not have to fill out surveys, watch videos or perform any other action.
Two things to keep in mind, though: The offers usually are available in limited quantities. So make sure to both purchase the item and upload the receipt promptly. Also, you must earn at least $20 in offers before you can redeem for cash.
3. Walmart Savings Catcher. Walmart is the retail giant that prides itself on its “unbeatable prices.” With the Walmart Savings Catcher app, shoppers scan their Walmart receipt barcode and wait while the app quickly compares advertised prices at top competitors. If the items are available for less elsewhere, you get a refund in the form of an e-gift card.
4. Ebates. Another very popular site and phone app with frugal shoppers, Ebates lets you get up to 25 percent cash back from more than 1,500 retailers. Foodies can save if they buy anything from retailers in the Ebates Food & Restaurants category.
We recently told you how to get a free $10 Walmart gift card simply by signing up at Ebates. If you haven’t done so, now is the time!
5. Coupons.com. Attention bargain hunters: Coupons.com offers free printable coupons for a wide range of grocery items, ranging from coffee to fresh chicken breasts and everything in between.
Simply install the site’s coupon printer on your device, browse the extensive coupon gallery, select and “clip” the coupons you want, and print and redeem. Does it get any simpler?
You can also install the the Coupons.com app for on-the-go savings.
Apps that make grocery shopping easier
6. Out of Milk. It has happened to all of us at some point: You buy a carton of milk only to discover that your spouse picked one up, too. The Out of Milk app helps you avoid this frustrating mistake by allowing you to create and categorize grocery lists and share them with others in your household.
That way, you are less likely to “double buy” and waste your hard-earned cash.
7. Grocery Pal. Wondering where all the sales are in your area? The Grocery Pal app notifies penny-pinching shoppers of weekly savings and sales at many leading supermarkets, retailers and pharmacies. Shoppers can even redeem digital coupons with the app.
Just input the ingredients in your fridge, and this clever culinary site suggests a meal. Supercook actually scans all the top cooking websites to find delicious recipes based on your available ingredients. You can even add cuisine preferences, dietary restrictions and meal types to customize your results.
And yes, folks, an app is in the works! Sign up to be alerted when it is ready .
9. $5 Dinners. Is your grocery budget spiraling out of control? If so, $5 Dinners is a smart site that may offer the frugal help you’ve been seeking. This site provides a wide selection of recipes for your family, all for under $5. And don’t let the name fool you — $5 Dinners provides suggestions for breakfasts, lunches, snacks and desserts, too.
Do you have a favorite website or app that helps you cut the cost of groceries and meals? Share it in our Forums. It’s a place where you can swap questions and answers on money-related matters, life hacks and ingenious ways to save.