Kroger is among the largest grocery chains in the United States. With nearly 2,800 stores nation-wide, whether you are shopping at an actual Kroger store or one of their many affiliate stores, these tips and tricks will help to keep thousands of dollars in your pocket.
These tips are coming from a seasoned extreme couponer-turned-frugalista, so you know you’re getting the best advice there is. Kroger is my #1 favorite place to shop for (and to save on!) groceries. Here’s how you too can be a Kroger saving pro.
Ways to Save at Kroger (from an Extreme Couponer turned Frugalista)
1. Mega Sales
Kroger and Kroger affiliate stores run what are called Mega Sales multiple times per year. The participating items are almost always exactly the same from Kroger to affiliate store (baring regional brand differences like Domino sugar for C&H sugar etc). During a Mega Sale, you’ll want to buy participating items in multiples of FOUR, FIVE, SIX or TEN, depending on the promotion. Many times we will save $4 if we buy FOUR participating items, sometimes it is $5 when you buy TEN. You can mix and match any of the participating items, and each store should have a master list of all inclusions at the front of the store. Remember that you CAN always use coupons on top of the Mega Sale savings.
2. Use reusable bags
While this tip doesn’t exactly save money as it used to, it certainly saves time! And time is money, right? In order to speed up my shopping process, I like to take in my reusable bags and use those during a Mega Sale to separate my non-mega items from my mega items. If I need to buy ten participating items to get the Mega Sale savings, I will go about my shopping as usual, placing the participating items in the reusable bags and the non-Mega outside of the bags. When I hit ten items (for example) I can close that bag and move onto the next. This keeps me from having to pull over at the end of my shopping trip to A.) remember which items are mega and which are not and B.) counting them, which inevitably leads to frustration and having to pick one (or two) more items.
3. Know your Filler Items
During a Mega Sale, it is imperative that you count your items (or use the bag as outlined in #2). If you find that you have 18 participating Mega Sale items (when you need to hit a multiple of ten) you could either put eight items back (silly, I know) or you could add two more items to the mix. Since you’ll save an additional $5 (for example) by purchasing two more items, it’s a great idea to pick up two of the most inexpensive items you can find that are also participating in the promotion. Find a 49¢ cup of Kraft Easy Mac and you’re saving more money than you were before – by purchasing MORE! These are called “filler items” because they get you to the next multiple of ten (for example) while also feeding the piggy bank.
4. Ten for Ten Sales
Did you know that on the 10/$10 sales, you don’t actually have to buy ten? One item will ring up $1.00, two for $2.00, three for $3.00 etc. Don’t feel like you have to buy ten boxes of anything just to see those savings. Same thing with 2/$6.00. Each will ring up $3.00, so unless you need two, don’t feel like you have to buy two.
5. Buy One Get One Sales
Depending on which store you shop, whether that is Kroger or an affiliate store like Dillons, King Soopers etc, you may not need to buy two items or a BOGO sale. How do you know? It will say so on the shelf tag. It will say “items will scan 50% off with card” so get just one item if you don’t need two. The only caveat to this rule is in the meat department when an item has variable weight; then you do have to buy two.
6. Ad changes
Know when your ad changes. Some Kroger stores change their sales on Sunday, while others change on Wednesdays. By watching the sales and buying your staples while they’re cheap, you’re saving right off the bat. Many times the sales run very similar across all of the Kroger and affiliate stores, with regional brand variation. If Kroger has Barilla pasta sauce on sale for $2.00 per jar, Dillons or King Soopers will also have Barilla pasta sauce on sale, but perhaps for $1.67 instead.
7. Know your End Dates
Find a rockin’ price but the item is low on stock or perhaps even sold out? Check to see when that sale ends on the shelf sticker. In the bottom corner it has a date; the date that this price break will expire. If they are sold out now, you can check back next week etc, just make sure you get all you want by that end date to see the savings. Sometimes those long-term discounts can last for weeks or even months! This would end 11/8/16.
8. Load Digital Coupons to Your Plus Card
By using your Kroger (or affiliate) Plus Card when you shop, you’re saving hand over fist. Another great reason to use your Plus Card? Digital Coupons! You can load coupons to your account via their website or their app, even right there in the store! Say you’re looking to buy dishwasher detergent (assuming you don’t make your own! 😉 ) and all of the brands are comparable in cost. While you’re standing in the dishwasher detergent aisle, pull up their mobile app and search for dishwasher tabs among their coupons. This can turn a so-so deal into a great deal just by adding the coupon to your card! It will come off automatically when you get to checkout, one coupon per item. During special promotions they will allow you to use certain coupons up to five times, in one transaction only.
9. Price not ring up right? It’s free!
Did you know that the price an item rings at the register must be correct – or you get your item for free? It’s true! Next time you are in a Kroger store, look for price guarantee signs. This is just one of the reasons I watch the register screen like a hawk while my items are being rung up. If it rings up incorrectly, take the receipt to Customer Service and inquire about the policy. Note that policy may vary from store to store and the manager has ultimate discretion.
10. Miss an item on the Mega Sale? Take your receipt and add it.
During a Mega Sale promotion, each item that is included in the Mega Sale will have a + sign between the item description and the price when rung up at the register. At the bottom of your receipt, it will have a + = ___. Hopefully you got the correct amount of items needed for maximum savings, but sometimes we miss an item or miscount. In this instance, simply take your receipt and your Plus Card up to customer service, along with a “filler item” mentioned above. They can look up your transaction, add that participating item to that transaction and hand you the $5 savings (for example) you should have seen at the register. Definitely check your “+ =” at the bottom of your receipts!
Catalinas are coupons that print at the end of your transaction. These can be marketing tactics (say I buy Huggies I might get a coupon for Pampers etc), or you could earn a Catalina for purchasing a particular item in specified quantities. For example, if you were to buy six boxes of Kleenex brand tissues, you might qualify for a coupon for $2.00 off ANYTHING in your next transaction. These coupons print from a Catalina printer, powered by Catalina Marketing. In coupon slang these are commonly referred to as “cats” and you can see a master list of these offers on my husband’s coupon blog, Penny Pinchin’ Paul.
12. Rebate apps
Rebate apps for your smartphone are excellent to use at any store, but Kroger and its affiliates specifically! Ibotta is the biggest, the best, and much of the time they offer a $10 BONUS with your first rebate submission. Simply open up the app, select which store you’ll be shopping today (Kroger, Walmart, Target, CVS etc) and see what offers they have available. You can search for a specific item, or scroll through to see what savings are being offered at the moment. Unlock the offer then purchase the item. When you get home (or in the car before leaving!) simply scan the bar code of the product, then upload a picture of your receipt and the amount will be added to your account, usually within just a few minutes! Hit $20 and cash out via PayPal, Best Buy gift cards or Starbucks gift cards – the options are extensive and impressive!
13. Closeout/meat markdowns
Always check the closeouts and meat markdowns! There is a special section for closeouts at each store, many times back by the bakery or near the dairy department. Many times the meat department marks down meat that needs to be sold before spoiling as well, and many times they do this at the same time every single day. By knowing what time that is, you can complete your shopping while these markdowns are happening, landing you a roast or some steaks at a fraction of the cost. Not cooking meat today? Throw it straight in the freezer and use it later. No harm no foul!
14. Rain checks
If the store is sold out of a particular item, ask for a rain check! You’ll want to check with your local Kroger or affiliate store because they should only offer rain checks on advertised items. You are typically given 60 days to redeem those rain checks, which can work out nicely when you have a coupon (or a coupon comes out weeks later for said item) that you could use on top of the price break.
Using coupons, whether these are printable coupons or newspaper insert coupons, especially when the item is already on sale will save the most money. On my husband’s coupon blog, we post the new coupons every single weekday and we also post a PREVIEW of the coming Sunday’s insert coupons on Thursday the week before. Dillons is our Kroger affiliate, and Paul rocks the deals (which will be VERY similar to all Kroger and other affiliate stores)! If you’re brand new to couponing, you may want to watch this video I did when I was still blogging as Deal Detecting Diva on Coupon Organization 101.
16. Fuel Points
Fuel points are offered for each dollar you spend at Kroger. Get one point per dollar purchased, when you hit $100 in one month you get 10¢ off per gallon of gas, up to $1,000 purchased per month or $1.00 off per gallon of gas. The fuel points accumulate per month, and will expire at the end of the following month. So if I earned 40¢ per gallon of gas in March, I would be able to redeem those fuel points one time, and they will be available through the end of April. Use the fuel points when you’re almost on empty.
One important thing to know about fuel points: It is the amount you PURCHASE, not the amount you PAY. If you’re using coupons, you’ll still get the full value of the item, no matter what you actually pay after the coupons have been applied. Also, you get 2X fuel points on gift card purchases (excluding Kroger gift cards and AMEX and Visa) and sometimes they offer 4X fuel points instead. This makes for a great opportunity to buy gift cards to Old Navy, Olive Garden etc, and then use them yourself. Double whammy!
17. Freebie Fridays
Every Friday Kroger and affiliate stores offer a Digital Coupon that you load to your Plus Card for a freebie. Check every Friday for your free offer, sometimes they give away some very nice items! We will remind you every Friday at this link. You MUST load the offer to your card on Fridays, but they typically give you 2 – 3 weeks to actually redeem before it expires.
18. Home Mailer Coupons (Best Customer Coupons)
When you sign up for a Kroger (or affiliate) loyalty Plus Card, you will start receiving “Best Customer” digital coupons to load to your account as well as an occasional home mailer booklet of coupons. These are often tailored to what you are already purchasing. Apparently my family buys a lot of tortilla chips, onions, lettuce, mushrooms, eggs and milk because those are the coupons we most often receive.
Many of the coupons sent out via email or even home mailer coupons are for Kroger brand items. For this reason, you can not “stack” these coupons with manufacturer’s coupons because, well, they are store brand items and there are no “stackable” coupons. Make sense? The exception to this rule is if you are sent a coupon for $3 off your $15+ Frozen Department Kroger STORE coupon, you could purchase $15+ in the frozen department, use that $3 off store coupon AND any Green Giant, DiGiorno, Birds Eye etc coupons (assuming you bought the specified items listed on the coupon).
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