By following a few tips and investing a little time, you can save on your grocery bill and food costs. REI is the city's first large retailer that's a co-op.

Grocery coupon, promotions tips:

Tips from the Savvy Shopper, aka Laurie Dixon, include saving and filing coupons to use as needed, taking advantage of special promos and a reminder to read the fine print or find out store policies.

Be sure to check store policies concerning the use of coupons and rewards including doubling, amount allowed and coupon stacking. For example, Walgreens "Rewards" now expire, but CVS/pharmacy is still pretty lax about its "Rewards" coupon expiration dates.

Only Giant Eagle still offers coupon doubling up to 99 Cents. Kroger and Meijer offer coupons at face value. However, some stores allow you to stack coupons-adding the value of a manufacturer's coupon to a store coupon to get more off of a particular item. For example, a 50 cents off manufacturer coupon plus a $1 off store coupon would net you a savings of $2 at Giant Eagle- Remember, Giant Eagle doubles manufacturer coupons so it's worth $1 + $1 store coupon.

Digital coupons: Kroger, Giant Eagle and Meijer (mPerks) allow you to use digital coupons. Kroger and Giant Eagle require you to "upload" them to your card to redeem at checkout. Meijer allows you to use your phone number and a PIN at checkout to redeem digital coupons and activate accumulated points for its rewards program. You can also print out manufacturer's coupons. Go to or and click on "coupons" to clip and print coupons. You must download the software first before you can print coupons at the site. According to Dixon, you can clip them twice and use up to two for an item from the site. (*Do not make photocopies or attempt to sell them-this is illegal.) Walmart now offers digital coupons that you "clip" and print and use in store. To see what coupons they have visit

Another tip is to stockpile items when they are on sale. Unless the item is nonperishable or freezable, don't buy too much unless you have a mega fridgerator or freezer. I like to buy my favorite gluten free chips, VitaminWater and kombucha on sale, but I always check the expiration date and buy what I can consume before it expires. Dixon says that items in most Kroger/Walmart/Meijer/Giant Eagle stores go on sale roughly every 12 weeks (3 months).

If a store circular has an item with a coupon indicated, Dixon suggest using to look for the coupon. It will show the value, date and which coupon publication (RedPlum, SmartSource or P&G etc.) or site ( featured it and the expiration date.

Check the coupons for items before you buy. Some specify a certain version of a brand item. Example: A coupon may only be good for only the peach-scented hair shampoo not the strawberry-scented shampoo or for two shampoos.

Check store promos, too, to make sure you can buy individual items for the same sale price. For example at 10 for $10 get 11th free sale at Meijer allows you to buy each item for $1, but you do get one free if you buy 10 (11 total), dropping the price to $.90 each. Kroger has been running buy 8 items and get $8 off or buy 5 get $5 off and you MUST buy 8 or 5 of the participating items to get the discount. Also, be sure to get the Catalina coupon or promo price if you bought the participating items. I recently bought items in a P&G promo at Meijer, but the register's coupon printer wasn't working so I went to customer service and got the $5.

Wholesale Store Clubs: Sam's Club and Costco both offer bulk items and more for a lower price. It's a good deal to stock up on batteries, food you use often, cutlery, plates, herbs and cooking supplies. For the most part, they carry similar items and both offer Gas Stations, Hearing, Pharmacy and Vision services at most stores. Prices are fairly similar, but I find Sam's Club has cheaper produce and Costco carries more high-end designer goods such as hair, skincare, makeup, clothes, jewelry, etc. Both now offer special extra deals with $2 or more off certain specified items for a limited time. Costco also has more food samples and has a higher customer and employee satisfaction rating. Basic memberships are $55 at Costco and Sam's Club and cover household members. They also offer business and VIP-type memberships. Sam's Club allows nonmembers to shop for a fee-usually 10% of order price, but occasionally offers guest days. To buy at Costco, you must be a member. You can wander through each store for free to see which one you like best before buying a membership.

My tips:

When they have specials at Kroger, Meijer or Giant Eagle on gift cards I know I'll use, I buy them. Kroger recently wrapped up a 4x fuel points on gift cards special and I bought some for birthdays, a trip, gas, and restaurants. Meijer often has $5 or $10 off if buy specified ones and Giant Eagle always has save 20 cents FuelPerks with $50 gift card purchase. Giant Eagle occasionally hasspecials, often on iTunes, so check the circular.

Often when new stores open they have blockbuster deals or freebies. This is a good time to stock up on items or get a pricey item for cheap. I remember going to Macy's (then Lazarus) at the Mall at Tuttle Crossing when it opened and got a $20 voucher I used to buy some nice towels on sale. I recently redeemed a coupon I got in the mail for the new DXL store (formerly Casual Male XL) to get a free polo shirt for my dad, which was a $35 value.

Try using an app to help you find savings. Target offers the Cartwheel app and the Find & Save app on iTunes allows you to find an item, check when it's on sale, where and compare prices.

Although I hate carrying all those cards, you get better prices and deals with store shopper cards. Also, follow your favorite stores on Social Media-Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest-to get special deals. **Also, at the very bottom of this entry I've included a basic primer on when certain items are usually on sale.**

REI (Recreation Equipment Inc.)

The main reason I wanted to write about REI is that it's a co-op. It's the first big retail store in town that is one. You can shop here if you're a member and if you're not a member. The difference is that members accumulate "points" to determine what their share of the co-op rebate profit is. Basically, you pay a one-time fee of $20 to join and you're a lifetime member. If you spend $200 during the year, you're likely going to get that rebate profit money (10%) you spent for the membership back.

My friend posted a deal on Facebook where if a friend joins, both her and the friend get a $10 gift card to use at REI.

They will also be offering events, called "field classes" you can sign up for. Visit the website and pick the Columbus and Cincinnati region. *It's not up yet, but should be soon. Make sure you note any fees for a class and the location-these are for either Columbus OR Cincinnati.