As a consumer reporter, I'm constantly getting pitches from companies that make grocery shopping apps that they claim are the latest-greatest-fastest-best thing ever. But as a consumer reporter AND mom of a 6-year-old I never seem to have time to actually try out those apps and see for myself.
Enter Shop Smart magazine from Consumer Reports. Shop Smart's editors took the time to test and try different programs and separated the good from the bad. Editor-in-chief Lisa Lee Freeman was so convinced that she says, "Download a few convenient apps that can help you save big on the things you need the most." Here are my favorites from the magazine's recommendations:
1. ZipList. A startling number of people still don't make a list before they shop, even though study after study shows it saves you money by helping avoid impulse buys. This Apple and Android app creates a master list of groceries you buy over and over again, so you only have to do it once. It even organizes the list according to the aisle-by-aisle layout of participating stores.
2. Weekly Ads & Sales. Planning your menus around what's on sale in the supermarket circulars is another huge money saver, but some people can't stand all that paper pushing. This Apple app puts those circulars in electronic form. Shop Smart liked that it covers big grocery chains like Safeway and Kroger but also specialty chains like Old Navy and Best Buy.
3. Grocery iQ. Ever get that sinking feeling at checkout when the clerk asks if you have any coupons and --doh!-- you wonder if there are any good ones for the items you just loaded on the belt? This Android and Apple app finds coupons for the things on your list. Shop Smart found it works best for repeat purchases that you tend to buy every week.
4. SavingStar. Are you a guerilla grocery shopper who hunts down the very best deals at multiple markets? This app, which works on Apple, Android and Blackberry allows you to register all your loyalty cards. You're then given exclusive offers, such as $5 off of $30 spent on Charmin, Gilette or Ivory products. Shop Smart liked what's called the "One or Many" feature which lets you buy items over multiple trips to hit the quantities required for maximum savings.
5. Cellfire. Here's an app that sort of idiot-proofs your grocery shopping, even if you have no list, no circulars and no plan. Sign up via Apple, Android or Blackberry and it zings coupons directly to your loyalty cards. When you scan your card or put in your phone number at checkout, relevant coupons are waiting. There's also a store alert feature which can remind you about available coupons as you walk into the store!
To see more recommended supermarket shopping and coupon apps, check out the September 2013 issue of ShopSmart magazine, available now.