5 apps that will help you save money on groceries and more

A person shops on May 7, 2014 in New York City. Spencer Platt/Getty Images

TORONTO – With two growing boys, two finicky cats, and a wife who loves to cook, it’s next to impossible to keep the refrigerator full or the pantry shelves stocked. When it comes to household items like toilet paper, paper towels and toothpaste, no matter how much I buy there never seems to be any around. I’m constantly running to the store and some weeks it feels like I’m spending more on the staples I need at home than I’m making at work.

If your family is anything like mine (and I know I’m not alone in this scenario because I see the same people at the store each time I go), you’ll understand the need to stretch your dollar as far as you can.

A couple of months ago I decided I was going to take control of the shopping situation and I started using a few select apps on my phone. These apps have helped me save a lot of money, keep track of the best deals around and plan out my shopping list to get the best bang for my buck.

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Here are the five (free) must-have apps I highly recommend if you’re looking for ways to save money in your daily life.

Checkout 51 (iOS/Android)

When I first tried saving money on my grocery bill I immediately started clipping coupons. And boy, did I clip a lot of coupons. The problem of course is every time I went to the store the coupons were nicely organized at home and not with me. Checkout 51 helps solve that issue.

Checkout 51 gives you money back on certain products after you purchase them. Some items will give you 0.25$, while others could give you a few dollars back. The app shows you what products you can get money back on that week so you know what deals you can get ahead of time.

After you purchase items on the list you photograph and upload your receipt via the app. The receipt gets checked and once approved (usually within 48 hours) the money you earned gets added to your account. Once you hit $20 a cheque is mailed out to you.

Snapsaves (iOS/Android) is essentially the same thing, but I’ve found that Checkout 51 is faster at accumulating money (there is nothing wrong with using both).

GasBuddy (iOS/Android/Blackberry/Windows Phone)

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With the cost of gas rising to astronomical highs across the country, finding the station closest to you with the lowest price per litre is a major bonus. GasBuddy does just that.

GasBuddy relies on users to confirm and update prices at stations so that the most current price per litre is listed.

The app uses the built-in GPS on your phone to locate stations near you or you can search a specific area anywhere in North America (so if you’re driving somewhere further away and want to see if it’s worth it to wait to fill up, you can check before heading out).

If you sign-up for a GasBuddy account and report prices for them, you’ll also be entered to win a $100 in free gas gift card giveaway.

RedFlagDeals (iOS/Mobile web)

If there is a deal to be had in Canada, it is most likely being discussed on RedFlagDeals long before you hear about it.

While the main site does post select offers, it’s the forums where you really want to visit to find the greatest discounts. RFDers are hardcore about their shopping and they know what the best price of pretty much everything is and will tell you when to jump on a sale to stock up.

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I’ve saved money on everything from LED bulbs and rechargeable batteries, to take-out pizza and dish detergent, thanks to the RedFlagDeals community.

For Costco members the site is most beneficial as people post the sales of the week (along with images from the store) for both West and East Coast shoppers. This is handy so you know whether it’s worth making a trip to the giant box or not.

Although you don’t need the app to get the benefits of the site, it does help when you’re out and want to check on a deal (or share a finding with fellow RFDers).

Flipp (iOS/Android)

Flipp takes the weekly flyers crammed in your mailbox and puts them on your phone or tablet in a clean, searchable app.

While you can search for a specific flyer and browse flyers as you would if they were sent to your house, the best capability of Flipp is being able to search for a product, such as milk, to see all the flyers that have it listed and for what price.

Checking if a sale at a store is worth it — while standing in the aisle — is a huge bonus. I don’t purchase any big items now without referencing Flipp first.

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You can also clip items to a shopping list in Flipp and add flyers for stores you frequently shop at to your favourites for easy reference.

PC Plus (iOS, Android, Blackberry)

Collecting PC Points used to be for PC Financial customers only. Over the last year, the programme has had a complete overhaul and now anyone can join the new and improved PC Plus programme to earn free groceries at select stores across Canada.

Besides being your actual points card, the app lets you load special offers of the week (the items that are going to earn you extra points), see your points balance, find participating stores, get recipes and create shopping lists.

A thousand points is equal to a $1 in groceries. In one small $50 shop I was able to get a total of 15,000 points (or $15) by purchasing special offers I needed. In the last two months I’ve cashed in $50 worth of points twice and I still have enough points to cash in another $30 worth.

If you don’t do apps, PC Plus also has a points card you can request.

SOUND OFF: What apps do you use to help save money on your daily needs? Let us know in the comments below, via Twitter @GlobalNews or on our Facebook page.

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