New ways to slash grocery bills

There’s no debating that today’s grocery bills are out of control. Sadly, snagging a deal on household staples such as cereal and toilet paper can be as much of a thrill as hitting a great shoe sale these days.
However, there is some good news: Deals on groceries are getting easier to find as competition is heating up. ShopSmart, the shopping magazine published by Consumer Reports, compiled a guide on stretching your grocery dollars to the max.
“The price of groceries today is through the roof,” said Lisa Lee Freeman, editor in chief of ShopSmart. “Luckily, the number of great deals and special incentives that grocery stores and other retail chains are offering is also on the rise, as these places try to encourage you to spend more of your grocery dollars with them.”
Changing the ways you save on groceries
Between free shipping for online orders, an ever-expanding catalog of mobile apps and deals, and a slew of other incentives offered by grocery stores, coupon clipping just doesn’t cut it anymore. ShopSmart suggests utilizing these money-saving tools:
1. Coupon sites and apps. The biggest selection of coupons is found online. Sites such as Coupons.com and SmartSource.com usually have up to 100 deals at any time, compared with no more than 30 coupons in newspaper circulars. Additionally, CouponMom.com and SmartSource.com have new mobile versions that let you scroll through offers and pick the coupons you want from your phone without downloading special software or apps.
2. Social network offers. More grocers are using Facebook, Foursquare, and Twitter to lure customers with deals. Use Foursquare on your phone to get deal alerts when you’re near a store. Wal-Mart uses Facebook to post coupons as well as specials at the store closest to your ZIP code. Whole Foods offers one-day sales, recipes and more through Facebook and Twitter.
3. Store sites. With dozens of sites and apps for finding and managing coupons, even veteran coupon clippers can feel overwhelmed. The solution? Focus in on the stores where you do your weekly shopping and check their websites and circulars for list builders and apps. Also, make sure to find out if the store accepts other stores’ coupons.
Must-see
supermarket sites
Some chains have morphed their sites into personal shoppers and diet coaches, with shopping lists and menu advice from nutritionists. They’re also using social networking sites to make special offers. ShopSmart identified two standouts:
WholeFoodsMarket.com— it has always been a great site for healthful, budget-friendly recipes, cooking videos and solid nutrition. But now you can connect with your local store on Facebook and Twitter to access exclusive deals and in-store events, such as craft-beer happy hours and lunchtime cooking classes.
Wegmans.com. Even though Wegmans is a regional chain with stores in Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, the site is worth checking out for diet and nutrition advice no matter where you live. The company has also pledged not to raise prices on 40 of their customers’ favorite products for the rest of 2011.
If you do nothing else…
1. Start clipping. Get multiple copies of the local paper for extra coupon savings. Also, check in-store dispensers, receipts and products themselves for coupons.
2. Sign up. Registering for websites such as CoolSavings.com, Coupons.com and GrocerySmarts.com is free and gives you access to tons of downloadable coupons.
3. Always carry your store loyalty card. If you keep forgetting, try the free CardStar mobile app, which stores all your loyalty cards electronically in one place.
4. Watch the register! Make sure that you’re getting the sale price and that all your coupons are scanned.

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