9 Secrets Every Kroger Shopper Should Know

Kroger offers infinite ways to save significantly while getting groceries, even gas. But if you don't know about them, you'll miss out.

A kroger sign on a brick wall
Photo: Allrecipes Image

Every local grocery store tells a story — its setup, its product selection, the quality of its produce, and the starting price points of everyday staples. Indeed, all of these elements are indicative of the neighborhood itself.

That's why when I moved to Atlanta from New York, the first thing I mapped out when I became smitten with any home listing was what my nearest grocery store option was.

Because it was a new city for me in a new region of the country, there were new brands to explore. Among those was Kroger, a Cincinnati-based chain whose signature blue font I'd noticed everywhere in the Atlanta communities I was exploring.

My first visit was not an impressive one, however. The location I went to left a lot to be desired, with its shabby shelves and limited selection.

I told my realtor and friend that I didn't want to look in that neighborhood anymore, that I didn't want to live anywhere that Kroger was my only option. I explained that as a recreational grocery shopper, my nearest supermarket needed to bring me joy. She laughed.

But then she followed up with an ask: Before I wrote off all Krogers (and the neighborhood) based on this one store, please visit another.

That was the best advice she could have given me because, overachiever that I am, I visited several — and it turned me into a crazy Kroger fan that now lives happily within a stone's throw of two.

Since my relocation, I've spent a great deal of time in Kroger's aisles, scoping out all their deals and secrets for saving and scoring the best foods. Here are some of those tips and tricks for shopping at Kroger that I'm passing along to you.

1. Get the Kroger Plus Card, and download the app. Pronto.

In this day and age, this may seem like an obvious tip. Every supermarket has its own loyalty program now, and Kroger is no exception. However, the perks you get with it when you use their app are stupendous.

Not only do you automatically get the sale prices when you input your account's associated phone number, you also get access to digital Kroger coupons, many of which you can use up to five times.

Other Kroger Plus Card perks:

  • cashback with purchase opportunities
  • weekly digital deals
  • a personalized carousel that tells you when your frequent buys are on sale
  • a preview of the next week's circular days before the sales start

What's more, I love that you can look up current prices for anything so you can always check if it's cheaper elsewhere. Clicking on the item's listing in the app tells you where to find it in the store nearest you, or you can use the in-app map for the location you're in so you're not perusing aisles endlessly.

2. Pile up even more savings with store specials and bonus Kroger coupons.

Secret ways to save are like an infinite bucket of Legos at Kroger: endlessly stackable.

One of Kroger's most popular deals is a dollar off every item when you buy five or more things from a rotating portfolio of brands and products. You don't need to download any coupons — it's all automatic so long as you buy the clearly-marked participating brands.

A recent example: A deal for toilet paper, cinnamon raisin bread, almond milk, cheese, and crackers. You need only buy one of each of these items to save an extra buck off every one, for a total of $5 in savings on items that are typically already on sale.

You'll know which sizes/quantities are applicable to the sale by the yellow and red tags that say "SALE; Save $1 Each" next to the price tag on the shelves.

Because these specials are throughout the store, they're hidden in plain sight. That means it's best if you can do a little reconnaissance with the weekly circular before you set foot in the store.

If you prefer a more tangible way to shop around bonus deals, you can look forward to in-mail coupons as a Kroger Plus member, too! The store sends out convenient envelopes every month or so with coupons specific to your frequent buys. Each mailer also contains a coupon for a no-strings-attached totally free item.

You can also clip additional coupons from the store's recipe magazine, which they mail from time to time. A seal on the magazine helps you organize the coupons into a tidy little file you can keep in your purse or glove box.

3. Keep an eye out for sell-by markdowns.

In an abundance of caution, many supermarkets throw away a shameful amount of produce and packaged food when it nears a best-by, sell-by, or expiration date, even though it's perfectly safe for consumption. It's part of why food waste is a huge problem here in the United States, and grocery stores are tremendous perpetrators of that waste — but Kroger is working to reduce that.

They do their part by giving people the option of buying food at a significantly reduced price, typically 40 percent or more off the regular prices. This Zero Hunger | Zero Waste program is a win-win, as it allows the store to salvage some potentially lost profit or at least break even, and it lets budget-minded consumers shop for meals they were planning on consuming right away anyway at a significant discount.

Poke around in the Kroger bakery or near the dairy section. Look for racks by the bathrooms or seasonal sections near the checkout lines. That's where you'll find the shelf-stable and non-perishable goods that they're cycling out at a significant discount.

Every Kroger has a small display with heavily discounted in-house baked and packaged bread; pastries like croissants, danishes, and muffins; and treats such as cookies and cupcakes that are as little as a day old. I've seen whole-wheat sandwich bread marked down to as little as 49 cents a loaf, as well as baguettes baked in store for the same price

My absolute favorite discounted find, though, is the salad and fresh bagged vegetables. Chopped salad kits can be expensive, even on sale, but when they need to make room for more — which is often, since they get very frequent produce deliveries — they don't hesitate to slap a red and yellow sticker on ones that still have as much as three days of in-fridge storage left to them.

4. Look for regional and local goods.

Kroger's not a standalone brand — they're part of the same company that owns Mariano's, Metro Market, Pick'n Save, Ralph's, Jay C Food Store, City Market, Baker's, King Sooper's, Dillons, Harris Teeter, and more. All of these stores combined carry over 25,000 local products across 32 states. That's a lot of local!

In Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky, the Kroger brands partner with local growers heading up 80 acres of farmland to supply their store's produce. Their newly launched Go Fresh and Local campaign has them doubling down on their commitment to locally-grown foods.

Plus, they've committed to investing $10 billion in diverse suppliers by 2030, after already increasing their investment in small businesses and artisan makers by 21 percent last year.

5. Take advantage of their awesome partnerships.

In addition to small and local makers, Kroger partners with big brands, like Home Chef. This meal kit maker provides quick, easy, and affordable dinner solutions that are prepped and ready for cooking straight from the store — and it doesn't require subscriptions or commitments of any sort.

Look for meal kits in the vein of Blue Apron, oven kits that are ready to bake, pre-seasoned and totally prepped entrees with instructions, and full lineups of prepared dishes that just require reheating.

In more chilled, ready-to-eat treats, Kroger sources their fanciest cheeses from the experts at famous Murray's Cheese. This NYC brand has been part of culinary history since 1940 and is notable as among the best cheesemongers in America, with proprietary jams and artisan selections that can make your home charcuterie board a big wow.

6. Don't sleep on their private label brands.

Kroger's white label line is Private Selection, and it's consistently good at a fraction of the price of competing brands. In this collection, you'll find a lot of seasonal items and limited-edition products, including gourmet European imports and American artisan-style foods.

The range of these private label products runs the gamut. In baked goods alone, you can get nice real-butter croissants baked fresh on site, or packaged wide-pan bread that is truly fantastic and comes in a much greater variety than several national brands combined. I love that they have both light and dark rye, and such a large assortment of multigrains that I have yet to try them all. The rolls are great, too, particularly the everything bagel and soft onion and poppy.

Don't overlook the Private Selection items in the frozen aisles. Try the fancy pizzas, and look for the private label's options in the premium meat, pasta and sauce, and cheese and deli departments.

If you're looking for more organic foods, Simple Truth is the logo you want to look for. This is Kroger's own organic and natural foods line, and it's often priced in line with conventional brands. The goal with this brand was to make these types of foods accessible in every way (and compete with the more expensive Whole Foods).

7. You can fill up your car at the Kroger Fuel Center for a discount.

Think you need a BJs or Costco membership to get a discount on gas? Nope, Kroger has that, too. Many suburban locations have their own fueling station and at prices that are equal to or sometimes even better than their neighboring gas stations.

The more you buy in the stores, the more you can save at their pumps. Every dollar you spend earns you a fuel point, and you save 10 cents per gallon for every 100 fuel points redeemed.

In a world of crazy points conversion, the easy 1:1 ratio is refreshing. The fuel points do expire monthly, but realistically, you need to feed your car nearly as often as you have to provision yourself, so racking them up and using them should be a piece of cake.

8. You can shop in store, do grocery pickup, or get your groceries delivered.

Kroger partners with Instacart in most cities for grocery pickup and delivery. They also have their own programs as well, and you only have to spend an easy $35 to get your groceries picked and brought to your car as you sit in one of the designated parking spots.

If you need quicker gratification but don't have time or patience to get to the store, they also deliver for $6.95 from certain locations. So if you're hosting dinner but forgot an ingredient, Kroger's got you covered.

9. Choose from paper or plastic.

Okay, this is a tiny differentiator, but I really love that they offer paper bags at both their regular cashiers and self-checkout. I hate using plastic since they're generally wasteful (unless you need to line your bathroom trash bin), as many people tend to double-bag and just throw out or litter bags. But Kroger offers medium sized and bottle-sized paper bags, and I appreciate that — among this giant list of other things.

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