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The data on coupons is rather disheartening lately. But just because many manufacturers are cutting back on coupons, doesn’t mean they’re not offering deals. You just need to know where to look for them.

The latest numbers from Kantar show that coupon distribution so far this year has plummeted by 16.7%. And the number of manufacturers offering coupons is declining even more sharply – so far, 2,377 different manufacturers have participated in couponing this year, as compared to the 3,282 that did just two years ago.

So with prices going way up, and coupon distribution going way down, where can you find savings on your groceries and household necessities?

Data shared with Coupons in the News by the market research firm IRI indicates that promotional levels for many products are back to normal, after steep declines during the coronavirus pandemic. So even though prices are on the rise and the number of available coupons is declining, some combination of sales, rebates or other discounts can still get you some good deals at the grocery store.

Take cereal, for example. Kantar’s data showed that the number of cereal coupons in the Sunday newspaper inserts plunged by 73% in the first half of this year. Things are starting to pick up, in both print and digital (Kellogg, for example, offered insert and Coupons.com printable coupons this past weekend for the first time this year). But IRI’s data shows that you don’t need coupons to save money on cereal right now. After declining the past couple of years, in-store promotional levels on cereal are once again on par with where they were in 2019. The same is true with other grocery categories like pasta sauce and refrigerated meats. You may not find a ton of coupons in these categories – and the regular prices of these products are a lot higher than they used to be – but you’re much more likely now to find a price cut or a buy-one-get-one-free sale that could save you as much or more than a coupon alone could.

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IRI’s figures show that the best deals can be found in the “snack nuts/seeds/corn nuts” category, where the number of promotions and the percentage of the discounts being offered are among the highest of any category – well above 2019 levels. Deals in many other categories, though, are a lot harder to find. Inflation is hitting chicken and pasta producers hard, so the number of promotions and the percentage-discount on those products are far down from pre-pandemic levels.

And promotions in some categories may be deceiving. Deals on paper products like paper towels and toilet paper were nearly impossible to find a couple of years ago. Today, IRI has found that the number of promotions available has returned to pre-pandemic levels, but the savings have not – the average discount now is far less than it was back in 2019. So you don’t have to pay full price for your paper products anymore, but you’re still not getting as great a deal as you used to.

If you’re not happy with the sales, and the lack of good coupons lately – there are always cash-back apps. Kantar found that digital rebates grew 26% in the first half of this year, with more than half a billion offers activated. And Ibotta, the largest cash-back app, is happy to point out just how much its users are saving. It compared the food inflation rate with the average monthly earnings of Ibotta users, and found that in the month in June, the average monthly grocery bill rose $4.67, but the average Ibotta user saved $9.65. So “our savers are beating inflation on their groceries,” Ibotta concluded.

One final data set to consult comes from the retail data analytics company 84.51°. It’s been tracking consumer sentiment all year, and found that shoppers’ desire for coupons and deals peaked in June, but dropped significantly in July. In June, 63% of shoppers told 84.51° they had been looking for coupons, sales and deals more often. And those survey findings corresponded with data showing that site visits to Kroger’s digital coupon page rose 15% in June. But something happened in July – only 57% said they’ve been looking for coupons, sales and deals more often, the lowest percentage since February.

So do shoppers not need deals as much as they used to? Are there now enough in-store sales that they don’t have to work so hard to seek them out anymore? Or are there so few coupons available, that they’ve just quit looking? Any of all of the above is possible. But whether you’re actively looking for deals or just hoping not to spend so much at the grocery store anymore, if you’re able to do without chicken and pasta for a while, can cut back on your use of paper products, and want to make nuts your go-to snack, you could save a lot of money on your next grocery bill – with or without coupons.

Image source: Walmart

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