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Would it surprise you to discover that restaurants alone throw away more than 10 million tons of food ever year? That’s just the U.S. alone, and it can start to feel overwhelming when you think about how much food is wasted every day around the globe (spoiler alert: It’s around 1.3 billion tons). Naturally it is especially disturbing when you also think of all the energy issues, environmental problems and health problems related to food. That’s why I always encourage readers to do the best they can to eliminate food waste (i.e. use coupons, create detailed shopping lists, and always look to get the most out of your food dollars), and now there are also apps to cut food costs and waste, too.
Early in 2018, news of a new app meant to give consumers access to the perfectly good foods that would soon head to the nearest dumpster appeared. The Karma app is one that “helps restaurants and grocery stores sell surplus food that would be thrown away to hungry users who are looking for cheaper eats.” Though active in Europe and parts of the UK now, it is going to expand into many other markets very soon. It allows restaurants to sell off their surplus food and meals through the app, and buyers just head to the restaurant or café to pick up their orders.
The UK is also home to the Too Good to Go app, which works in a similar way, but Karma strives to improve on it by uploading images, so buyers know precisely what it is they can expect to see when they pick up the order.
And what can you do as you wait for these apps to kick off in our part of the world? The good news is that there are still lots of apps that can save legitimate amounts of money on your food bills right now.
As one Time Magazine article pointed out, the “days of loyalty punch cards and clipping coupons are (almost) over.” And we can now turn to different apps to cut food costs. Most are rewards based (i.e. you must spend money to get rewards or money), but if you use them wisely, you can make out quite nicely with them. I think of them as two distinct categories:
You will be surprised at how many untapped resources you have, quite accurately, at your fingertips. My favorite apps for saving on food currently include:
OpenTable – This is an app through which you can make reservations at all kinds of restaurants. Each time you use it to save yourself that space in the restaurant, the app is going to track it and give you points for using it to do so. With every 1100 points, you are given a $20 gift card to your restaurant of choice or you can opt out and take a $10 Amazon card. I can tell you that I take the Amazon card. Why? Because I partake of their Subscribe and Save options. I get my cat litter, cleaners, paper products, vitamins and other consumables sent automatically – and enjoy a 15% discount off most of them for doing so. As long as I have five or more items arriving in a single month, I get that 15%, and because I am also a Prime member, there are some items I get 20% off of when I subscribe.
So, when I use the OpenTable app and book a reservation, I just think of it as taking an even greater discount off my Subscribe and Save orders since I just use the card towards my Amazon purchases.
And as you might remember (because I believe I mention it all of the time), as a fan of affiliate marketing, I love that OpenTable has an affiliate program. I’ve covered this topic in other articles, but to summarize – if you create a blog and write content, you can use affiliate programs to monetize whatever you write about. Just inserting the OpenTable API into the site lets you earn income from everyone who uses the tool to book!
Of course, there are more to my list of apps to cut food costs than those that save you money on dining out. There are also the grocery store oriented apps that can help you find the best deals.
Fans of Groupon might also recognize Restaurants.com as a way of enjoying savings on food. Whether you use the website or the app, you are able to explore many different restaurants in your area, make a reservation and then purchase gift cards through the site to ensure you get a deep discount on all of your meals and dining experiences. The way it works is actually appealing. You look for restaurants in your area and then buy gift cards associated with the restaurant of your choice.
For instance, one restaurant in my area had $5 cards for $2 each. Then, you choose the dollar amount you think you will use, purchase the vouchers and head to the restaurant. Most have minimum purchase amounts. The restaurant I chose had a $10 minimum, so once I paid that initial $10 amount, my vouchers kicked in, giving me 40% off the remainder of the bill. And because they have an affiliate program and a refer a friend deal, I love them even more!
And if you are someone who prefers to eat out more than you cook (which is not always the most cost-effective or eco-friendly option), you might want to try something like Spotluck. This is a fun app that helps you learn about the different eateries in your area by using a “spin the wheel” approach to discounts. Open the app, activate geo location services, spin the wheel on the app and win a bonus discount off any meal at the randomly selected restaurant. Just show the results to the service staff at the time you pay the bill and the discount is applied.
Coupon Sherpa is another app that can get you some freebies and discounts via its online coupons. Add the app to your device, activate the location services and then let it find valid coupons and discounts for the eateries in your immediate area. From previous articles, you know I like this app and site for its many online deals and promo codes for everything from shopping to travel, but don’t forget to see what it has available where restaurants are concerned.
Maybe you are more like me and prefer to save your money by making most of the food you eat and doing so with foods you have purchased at the deepest discounts possible. You might be dedicated to couponing, comparison shopping, warehouse brands and so on. There are also a few more apps that
It is always a surprise to hear how few people are aware of this app as it is one of the few designed to function as a major cost cutting tool. The way it works is simple but requires your input. You itemize the things you buy or need using the grocery list builder. You create a favorites list, can categorize things and create lists for specific stores. The app then sorts things by aisle as it knows the layouts of your favorite stores. It identifies the coupons related to your lists and lets you print them or email them for printing. I think of it as one of the very apps to cut food costs and to do so with the least amount of effort imaginable.
It links to Coupons.com, so if you have an account with that site or use the app, it can migrate all your loyalty cards and other details, enabling you to save with paperless coupons and identify the best deals in each store.
Similar in style to this is Grocery Pal, which shows you in store weekly sales, special coupon deals, and allows you to build shopping lists. It also screens your favorite stores for specials such as CVS, Target, Walmart and more. Either choose one or the other and see savings start to really pile up effortlessly.
I also highly recommend the more basic, sync friendly, apps to cut food costs such as Out of Milk. Here’s how this gem works and helps you save money while cutting food expenses and waste. It lets you create shopping lists that you can share with family and friends. So, let’s say you are at work and remember that you need cream cheese, a half-gallon of milk, a roll of paper towels (I don’t suggest buying them singly, but hey, if that’s how you roll…), and a bottle of paprika. You put it down on the shopping list and then share it with your partner or spouse, roommates or others. Whomever grabs one or more of those items during the day just uses the app to let others know.
No more doubling up on gallons of milk, loaves of bread and all the rest. That’s why this is one of the most frequently used shopping list apps.
I also suggest that you consider the different cash back options when looking for apps to cut food costs. For instance, I am a huge advocate of the use of eBates because it gives you all kinds of coupons, discounts and promo codes.
One place that I am particularly fond of using it is when shopping online at Walmart. I can place an online order for my groceries, use my registered card and get 1%. Since I am headed to the store to buy those discount grocery items anyway, I save myself the time and effort of doing the shopping by ordering groceries for curbside pickup. I get 1% off everything plus any of the deals I might be enjoying through coupons and other Walmart shopping tricks.
If you don’t find that eBates is apps to cut food costs is effective, explore iBotta. Most experts agree that it is a superior app for saving money on your food bills. If you are unfamiliar with it, let me summarize it briefly to show how it is one of the best apps to cut food costs. You load the app to your device and create an account. Link all of your loyalty cards to the app and then look for deals before you shop and activate them doing the steps the app requires.
You can then do the shopping and buy the products at the participating store. You redeem all the offers unlocked for you by snapping an image of your receipt through the app. The app matches up the deals and gives you cash back within a 48-hour window. If you did not notice a deal, but registered a loyalty card, the app also automatically sends the cash back to your account. The Checkout51 app is similar with the only difference being you have to take a few extra steps to upload your receipts.
SavingStar is similar, but not as broad reaching. You must add the deals to your cards before you do your shopping, and then the app sends the cash back or coupon value to your account once you have done your shopping. I love this app because it has produce deals for any store and a freebie every week.
Don’t overlook the many couponing apps to cut food costs as well as exploring the stunning number of ways that Target can help you save on many food, pantry and household items.
It can be difficult to eat in a healthy manner (i.e. doing your shopping around the perimeter of the store instead of buying processed foods in the aisles), but once you master the art of using apps to cut food costs, you can cook at home and enjoy many nutritious, fresh and delicious meals . And even dining out can be less expensive than ever, and focus on the non-chain, local spots with unique and tasty dishes.
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