How I Saved $1,856 Last Year with My Grocery Loyalty Card

By contributing writer, Karen Falter.  Karen is a wife and mother of three who balances family life with her full-time employment as an attorney.


When grocery store loyalty cards first came out, I used them without putting much thought into the process. Getting sale prices on a few grocery items seemed to satisfy my frugal shopping habits. (That is, if I actually remembered to bring the card with me. Now all I need to do is enter my phone number on the credit card keypad).

One Saturday, I realized that I had blown most of my day off driving all over town doing errands. I drove to the drug store to pick up prescriptions. Then I drove in the opposite direction to the mall where I fought for a space to park just to “run in” and purchase a store gift card for a relative. After that I headed to Toys’r’Us to buy a birthday present for my daughter’s friend. Then off to Starbucks to buy a pound of coffee (yes, I am a coffee snob and splurge on this treat).

Exhausted as I pulled into the gas station to refuel my depleted tank, I realized I could use my grocery loyalty card to get a discount. Since this was at the time when gas was $4.00 a gallon, I was thrilled. Every dollar spent at the grocery store earned me 10 cents off per gallon of gas (up to $1.00 off per gallon).

That is when it hit me — the more stuff I can buy at the grocery store, the more I will save on gas — a double win. I am sure this is exactly the marketing ploy: get the customer to buy as many items as possible. Except that I come out the winner because I now do everything to maximize my loyalty card benefits.

Here is what I did to save lots of money and spend less time doing it.

Get Medicated

I transferred all of our prescriptions to our grocery store pharmacy. The prices on the prescriptions are exactly the same, but now I earn fuel discounts from the purchases. Periodically our store offers four times the fuel points for prescription purchases.

Give Unto Others


As our kids have gotten older, gift cards have become the birthday and holiday present of choice. I’m not sure how I missed it, but I finally discovered the huge gift card rack in my grocery store with hundreds of cards for stores, restaurants, and on-line retailers.

I began buying all of our gift cards at the grocery store for the same price but also earned fuel points. During the holiday season the store again offers four times the fuel points for gift card purchases. (If you want to be really frugal, buy yourself gift cards to your favorite stores and restaurants where you already shop and eat to get even more fuel discounts.)

Take Care of Yourself

After maximizing the obvious I began exploring other ways my loyalty card could benefit me. I was surprised that at the grocery store I found all of my favorite personal products such as lotion, shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, and prices were cheaper than at specialty stores.

Be Unfaithful but Smart About It

I stopped being “brand loyal” on products that didn’t matter to me. For instance, if my loyalty card saves me money on a specific dish detergent, I buy it. If I need an air freshener or cleaning product, I buy the store brand which is cheaper with the loyalty card. Same goes for paper products, dog toys, cat litter, tin foil, lunch bags, garbage bags — you name it.

But look around because sometimes a sale price on brand-name items are better than the store-brand price. Also check the price per ounce on items because at first glance, a cheaper price or larger size can be misleading.

What’s in a Name?


Having grocery-shopped on autopilot for most of my life, I began consciously evaluating my brand choices and then expanded my scope to include buying store-brand food products. Because the store is hoping to increase sales of their own brand, these products tend to have special pricing for loyalty card-holders.

Surprisingly, many if not most, are just as good, if not better, than name brand products. Now I buy generic chips, pretzels, crackers, peanut butter, pasta, canned vegetables, soups, packaged cheese, yogurt, coffee creamer, popsicles, ice cream, juice boxes, olive oil — and the list goes on.

Of course, I will pay more for a better-tasting, more nutritious, more cost- effective products. For example, my Starbucks coffee. But now I buy it at the grocery store where it’s less expensive.

Support Your School — For Free

Finally, I realized that if I link my loyalty card to my kids’ school, the grocery store donates a portion of its profits from my purchases to the school — at no extra cost to me.  So far this year, our school has received $14,233 from my grocery store, just from parents like me shopping there.

Many athletic teams also participate in rewards programs, which defrays the cost of the sport for your child. Everyone wins!

The Low-Down: How Much I Gained

In 2012, I saved $1,600 on in store purchases and $256 on gasoline purchases. I can’t calculate how much money I saved in gas by not driving all over town to run errands. But the most precious resource I saved was time.

“Time is money,” they say, but to most families, time is just precious. I love that by consolidating my errands and focusing my energy on the multitude of discounts I can get at one store, I have more time to spend with my children, my husband, and my friends. And that’s priceless.

Karen is a wife and mother of three who balances family life with her her full-time employment as an attorney. Life circumstances and raising three children, who are now 16, 13 and 9, helped Karen discover the satisfactions of frugal living. Frugal is not cheap, it’s smart, and Karen enjoys the challenge of getting more out of what she’s earned. She loves sharing her experiences and tips so that others can see that a quality lifestyle isn’t out of reach.

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  • August 11, 2013, 7:01 am

    Some really good real life examples of how savings on loyalty cards can really add up over the year. Thanks Karen.

  • Becky Marie May 6, 2013, 3:34 pm

    I’ve always wondered if the store loyalty cards worked or not. Thanks for explaining it all. I’d love to have this post in our linkup

    • Amy May 6, 2013, 7:12 pm

      Hi Becky Marie,

      Sure, we’d be happy to be included in your linkup.

      Thanks for asking,

  • Dwight E. March 22, 2013, 1:02 pm

    Great post! I agree that points are everything in this world and most people don’t take the time to thoroughly understand how they work.
    I know me and my wife use a few “company cards” and have gotten everything from free coffee to free gas in the last year.

    • Karen March 24, 2013, 11:32 pm

      Thanks, Dwight. These kind of programs really do work and aren’t that difficult to understand once a little thought is put into it. I try to be smart about it too. For instance, it doesn’t make sense for me to drive 10 miles out of my way to save 10 cents a gallon but I know where to go while I’m in route to/from work so I don’t waste my savings on driving out of my way.

  • Bill Myers March 20, 2013, 11:21 am

    Great post! I completely agree with the buying of gift cards. It saves time and energy as well as racks up those points, especially if you branch out and use them to buy at different places earning points at those restaurants or shops. Many people don’t understand buying gift cards for themselves, however as long as you use them before the expiration date they can come in handy for those rainy days or an emergency.

    • Karen March 24, 2013, 11:28 pm

      Bill, I agree. Using gift cards for one’s self is a foreign concept for most people. It took me some time to figure it out too. I also like Sheila’s response that she uses gift cards for herself as a budgeting tool. That is such a precise way to stick to the budget.

  • Sheila March 18, 2013, 11:41 am

    Our local grocery store offers significant savings on gift cards around Christmas time, such as $15 off $100 of $50 off $300. Not only do I use them as gifts, we use them ourselves as tools for budgeting. Our monthly budget for eating out is $200 and we do normally eat at the same places ie Chili’s, Red Lobster, etc. At Chili’s we do 2 of the 2/$20 specials ($50 w/drinks) and Red Lobster we eat lunch only ($40). We normally do 3 of these per month and then the remaining allowance we purchase 2-Sonic gift cards for the boys, maybe Chick-fil-a for another meal. It helps limit us on how often we eat out and what we spend.

    • Karen March 24, 2013, 11:26 pm

      Sheila, I honestly had not thought about using gift cards a budgeting tool. What a great way to accurately track how much you spend. Once the gift card is all used up, wait until the next month. Thanks for sharing!

  • Francesca March 16, 2013, 7:11 am

    Oh we don’t have the couponing thing here in Tasmania,wish we did !

  • Carolyn March 13, 2013, 9:19 pm

    Great article! Also worth mentioning is the Kroger app for your smartphone that has a digital coupon section. It is way easier that clipping paper coupons and a lot of times I get an “e-coupon” discount on an item without even remembering I checked off that item!

    It gets activated when you type in your phone number or scan your rewards card. You just have to remember to check weekly for new items, especially now that you have all that free time. ;)

    • Karen March 24, 2013, 11:23 pm

      Great information-thanks!

  • Karen March 13, 2013, 7:44 pm

    Jen, my sentiments exactly! :-)

  • Jen @ Jen Spends March 13, 2013, 10:25 am

    This is basically how I shop now, too. I used to drive around to get deals, but decided to quit the rat race. My nearest grocery store isn’t always the greatest, but it’s close by and the gas rewards really help.