Kroger sign
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Kroger sign
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Savings on Aisle 5

If you're a Kroger customer, you're in good company. It's the largest supermarket chain in the country, and the second-largest food seller behind Walmart. In fact, you may be shopping at a "Kroger" without realizing it: The company also owns Harris Teeter, Ralphs, Smith's, Fred Meyer, Fry's, and King Sooper, among other chains. Whether you're a newbie or a frequent shopper like us, there are plenty of tips that can help you get — and save — the most from your next Kroger run, including a new partnership with Instacart that may have groceries delivered to your door at blistering speed. 


Related: Kroger vs. Walmart vs. Aldi: Who is Cheaper for Groceries?

Instacart
Instacart

Get It in 30 Minutes with Instacart

Instacart Express members can get their purchases delivered in shockingly little time — as little as 30 minutes in some cases — by using Kroger's new Delivery Now service. The grocer announced the launch in September. Shoppers in most major cities will be able to order prepared foods and snacks, household essentials like diapers, and fresh foods using Instacart's new Convenience Hub, which offers delivery 24 hours a day on orders of $10 and more. Don't need your order quite so fast? Kroger also offers regular grocery delivery for a fee of $9.95 to $11.95, depending on location. You'll need to allow a bit more time (within a couple hours is usually the fastest speed, and may not always be available) but selection is greater, and shoppers are able to choose from more than 70,000 items.

Kroger Plus Shopping Card (front)
Kroger Plus Shopping Card (front) by Mel McC (CC BY-NC-ND)

Get a Shopper's Card, Pronto

If you're a total Kroger newbie, this is the most important tip to heed: Get a Kroger shopper's card (sometimes called a plus card) before spending a cent, because you can't take advantage of sales or most other perks without one. In store, make a beeline for customer service to set up your account. You can also sign up here online.


Related: Grocery Shopping Mistakes You Don't Want to Make

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Get the App, Too

Kroger knows almost everyone is walking into the store with a smartphone these days, and its mobile app can make the experience a lot more streamlined. You can use it to set up contactless Kroger Pay, download digital coupons, track your savings and fuel points, view receipts, and build shopping lists starting with the items you buy most frequently.


Related: 50 Ways to Save at the Grocery Store

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Buy Gas for Less with Fuel Points

If you do a lot (or even a little) driving, shopping at Kroger can help you save on your next fill-up. For every dollar you spend, you earn a fuel point, and every 100 fuel points earns you 10 cents off each gallon of a single fill-up at Kroger's gas stations. That might not sound like a lot, but you can also earn 50 fuel points on prescriptions and double fuel points on gift-card purchases (or sometimes quadruple fuel points during select promotions).


Related: How to Fill Up for Less at the Gas Station


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Take Advantage of Curbside Pickup

Formerly known as Clicklist, Kroger Pickup is a huge convenience for anyone who would rather shop in their pajamas, avoid dragging young kids through the store, or simply stay a bit safer during the pandemic. You can shop online and schedule an hourlong pickup window up to a week in advance. You can use coupons just like in store, and prices aren't inflated. Kroger will contact you about any substitutions. Best of all, the service is free — no tipping allowed — as long as you spend at least $35. Otherwise, the fee is $5.


In its ongoing efforts to streamline grocery pickup, Kroger has recently partnered with Google. Shoppers at select stores in Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana can use Google Maps to get pickup reminders and share their location with Kroger, potentially leading to shorter wait times after arriving. Google tells Retail Dive that the service will be rolled out to other stores later this year.  


Related: I Tried Walmart's Grocery Pickup and This is What Happened

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IMG_0109 by Dennis Amith (CC BY-NC)

Watch for Mega Events

Seasoned Kroger shoppers know that shopping during Mega Events is one of the easiest ways to stock up and save. During these promotions, Kroger typically includes a wide range of items in a "mix and match" sale, in which customers who buy five or more save $1 on each. While you used to have to buy in multiples of five, Kroger now gives a dollar off each item as long as you buy at least five, according to Kroger Krazy. That means five items equals $5 off, six items equals $6 off, and so on. I Heart Kroger has tracked recent Mega Event items, and it's included everything from popular brands of cereal to chicken breast to toothpaste.


Related: Ways Grocery Stores Have Changed Over the Past 50 Years

Kroger Private Selection Michigan Cherry Cobbler Ice Cream
Kroger Private Selection Michigan Cherry Cobbler Ice Cream by theimpulsivebuy (CC BY-NC-SA)

Scope Out the Store Brands

Buying store brands isn't exactly a groundbreaking way to save, but we can vouch for Kroger's private labels. We're especially fans of the Private Selection and Simple Truth labels. Private Selection is billed as "finer fare" — think raspberry and chipotle pepper salsa, wagyu beef jerky, and other eye-catching options for foodies on a budget. Simple Truth includes natural and organic products, often for way less than what you might pay at a specialty retailer such as Whole Foods.


Related: Store Brand Foods That Deliver Quality and Savings

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Look for Deep Discounts on 'Woohoo!' Items

"Woohoo! Great deal!" Presumably, that's what you're supposed to shout when you suss out an item with Kroger's yellow and red "Woohoo!" tag. These products — often 50% off or more — are priced to move, typically because they're seasonal, getting closer to their expiration dates, or otherwise on Kroger's list to get rid of as quickly as possible. Obviously, a "Woohoo" item isn't a deal if you won't be able to use it before it goes bad, but this can be a great way to save on something you'll be able to eat quickly, or freeze and enjoy later.


Related: Food Expiration Dates and Food Freshness Labels Explained

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Try Out Scan, Bag, Go

At select stores, you can skip the checkout line entirely with Scan, Bag, Go. The program allows you to grab whatever you need, scan their UPCs with your phone as you shop, bag them, and finish by using Kroger Pay. Show proof of payment and you're done — without waiting in line. A couple of catches: You can use digital coupons, but not paper coupons, and there are certain items not included in the program, including booze, anything sold by weight, gift cards, and items with security tags.


Related: These Stores are Getting Rid of Cashiers and Checkout Lanes

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Grab a Friday Freebie

Whoever said nothing in life is free hasn't checked out Kroger.com on select Fridays, when the store gives shoppers a digital coupon for a free product. Simply click it, and as long as you're signed in to your account, it will be downloaded to your shopper's card for use within two weeks. Past Free Friday Downloads have included yogurt, protein bars, canned drinks, chips, rice, bread, and plenty more.


Related: 17 Insider Secrets for Big Savings at Target

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Watch for Cash-Back Offers

Kroger offers cash back on certain products. You'll pay full price at checkout (digital or paper coupons don't apply to cash-back items) and you'll get your cash-back reward digitally. You can redeem it on your next shopping trip, or even transfer it to a PayPal account as soon as you've reached at least $20. We've seen everything from $5 back on Enfamil formula to $1 back on Powerade to 10 cents back on Kraft Macaroni and Cheese — it all adds up.


Related: Websites and Apps That Can Save You Money in a Recession

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Load Up on Coupons

These days, the easiest way to save with coupons is by loading digital offers onto your account using the Kroger app, then scanning the app or your shopper's card at checkout. If you prefer old-school coupon clipping, Kroger will happily accept your paper coupons, too, but the days of popular double or even triple coupon promotions seem to be long gone. Important coupon rules: You're limited to one manufacturer or store coupon per item, expired coupons are a no-go, and digital coupons have to come from the Kroger app or website. Kroger doesn't stack coupons, so make sure you're using the one with the highest value for any given item. Check out more of Kroger's coupon rules here.


Related: 13 Hacks and Secrets for Shopping at Walmart

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Watch the Mail for Even More Savings

Though you might chafe at the thought of Kroger collecting data on you with every scan of your shopper's card, that's also the reason you'll suddenly start getting paper coupons in the mail or online, often for the exact products you already buy. They may also come in the mail with the store's "MyMagazine," which is usually filled with recipes and other food features.


Related: 20 Things You Probably Didn't Know About Costco

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Don't Forget the Catalinas

Catalina coupons are the ones clerks print with your receipt at checkout. Don't stuff them in your pocket or purse and forget about them, because they often include some pretty sweet deals. Some will be offers for items you buy frequently, and others may give you a set amount, such as $5, off a future shopping trip.


Related: 13 Ways Walmart's Grocery Services Are Competing with Amazon

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Join the Kroger Rx Savings Club

If you'll be filling a lot of prescriptions at Kroger, scope out its prescription savings club. Individual membership is $36 a year, while family membership runs $72. In exchange, you'll get access to a long list of reduced-price prescriptions (a handful of common drugs are even free). Of course, if you'll be using an insurance co-pay, you'll have to do the math and see whether you'll pay less under your health care plan — you can't use both.


Related: The Cheapest Pharmacy: Walmart vs. Walgreens vs. CVS and More

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Try Out the Heat-and-Serve Options

Sure, you can get a rotisserie chicken or some pasta salad from Kroger's deli, but the store has expanded its quick-meal options in a big way. If you're willing to pay a premium for convenience, many Krogers have a self-serve "easy for you" section of heat-and-eat frozen entrees and sides. Options include dishes such as shrimp scampi, chicken tikka masala, risotto, and gourmet macaroni and cheese, all sold for about $8 a pound. If you'd rather cook but don't want to run all over the store for ingredients, the store also offers Home Chef meal kits for two, usually priced around $17 or $18 each.


Related: 23 Prepared Meals at Costco to Feed Your Family

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Shop Early to Beat the Crowds

If it feels like everyone is at Kroger on the weekend, you're not imagining things. Saturday afternoon is when stores are most overrun, according to Google. Sundays aren't much better, at least in our area. If you want the aisles to yourself, weekday mornings are your best bet, with crowds the sparsest earlier in the week. If you want to combine low foot traffic with the start of Kroger's weekly sale cycle, hold off until Wednesday morning (and preview the weekly ad before you go). Using pickup? Go during the middle of your time slot to beat the rush, Kroger recommends.


Related: The Best Time to Buy Almost Anything in 2021

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Entertaining? Order Ahead Online

You can order ahead at Kroger for way more than a fancy cake. For instance, you can place your deli order for meat or cheese in advance and skip the wait at the store. You can also order pizzas; platters of everything from sushi and wraps to muffins and brownies; baked or fried chicken; and even family holiday meal bundles that include favorites such as sliced ham, potatoes, rolls, and pie.


Related: Places That Will Cook Your Thanksgiving Meal For You

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Consider Skipping the Credit Card

Like most major chains, Kroger does have its own credit card with perks for loyal users. In this case, the main draw is $5 in free groceries for every 1,000 points earned, with $1 in spending equaling one point (or two points at Kroger-owned stores). Sounds good, but NerdWallet cautions that there are plenty of non-Kroger cash-back cards that give you a much better bang for your buck. You can also use rebate apps such as Ibotta and Fetch Rewards to get a little bonus after you're done shopping, no scouring of fine print necessary.


Related: How to Get Paid to Shop