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If you live on the West Coast, you’ve probably been to WinCo. This employee-owned, no-membership-needed supermarket is based in Boise, Idaho, with locations also in Washington, Oregon, California, Arizona, Utah, Texas, and Nevada. WinCo has awesomely low prices, an admirable bulk section, and friendly employees who never fail to say hello as they work throughout the store.
While surface-level savings are easy to come by, here’s how to save the most at one of the most inexpensive markets for groceries in America.
1. Use one manufacturer coupon per item.
Yes, WinCo takes manufacturer coupons—both newspaper and Internet! Cashiers will only accept one manufacturer coupon (no competitor coupons) per item. If you’re printing Internet coupons, make sure the barcode is clear and bold so the register doesn’t have scanning issues. Keep in mind there’s no overage or cash back for coupons with a higher value than an item’s purchase price.
For even greater savings, match manufacturer coupons with sales and rebate-app offers from Ibotta, Checkout 51, and mobiSave. See how I got Hamburger Helper for $0.13 a box when I stacked a manufacturer coupon with an Ibotta offer here.
2. Know where everything is with the Shops app or by printing out your local store’s map.
3. Find huge discounts along the Wall of Values at the front of the store.
As soon as you enter a WinCo, scan the hall or “Wall of Values” for super-low priced items that have been purchased in bulk. WinCo passes these bulk savings on to its customers.
4. Join the mailing list so you don’t miss special savings.
One of the reasons why WinCo is so cheap is because they don’t spend a lot of money on advertising. While you may receive weekly mailers from other grocers, you’ll rarely—if ever—see a mailed WinCo flyer. When they do come out on occasion, make sure one of them lands in your mailbox by sending WinCo your address on their contact page.
Oftentimes, you’ll find single-page store flyers at the front of the store. Grab one! There are usually coupons on them.
5. Look for green tags to find sales and specials in-store.
Scan the aisles (and bulk section!) for green tags, and you’re bound to save big. Sale prices tend to last approximately 3 weeks and are determined by the quantity purchased by your local store. While yellow tags indicate regularly priced items, you’ll often find that WinCo’s yellow-tag prices beat other supermarkets’ sale prices!
6. WinCo competes with other local grocers, so prices fluctuate.
WinCo competes with other local grocers, especially Walmart, so prices will change as they try to match or beat competitors. As a result, prices will also vary by region, just like the WinCo hours can vary.
7. Pink Gluten Free and blue Organic shelf tags makes finding specific foods easy.
8. Organize your cart for easier bagging.
Expect to bag your own groceries at WinCo. This is just another way prices stay low; instead of bagging groceries for you, employees spend their time doing other tasks throughout the store.
Unless you were a cashier or bagger in a previous life, bagging may seem…inconvenient. Keep things moving—for you and the customers behind you—by grouping items as you put them in your cart (frozen, refrigerated, canned, etc.).
9. The bread from the bakery is just as good as the name-brand stuff.
Find double fiber, rye, whole wheat, and French sliced loaves for cheap in the bakery section. WinCo bread is good quality, too. I found double fiber sliced bread for $1.98—the name-brand stuff goes for $3 in the bread aisle.
10. Skip the toiletries, they’re cheaper elsewhere.
The toiletry, makeup, and medicine selection at WinCo is limited, and the prices aren’t as competitive as other stores. You’re better off stacking multiple coupons at Target, price matching at Walmart, or using store rewards at a drugstore.
11. The best items to buy in the bulk section are baking supplies, honey, tea, nut butters, spices, and candy.
Check out the deals in the WinCo bulk foods aisles. Also consider Meals Ready to Eat (MRE) foods in bulk for camping, road trips, and emergencies.
12. Buy bulk products by the case or sack and save 5%.
Ask any employee working in the bulk foods section if a certain product is eligible for the case discount, and they’ll place an order for you when you need it. Think baking supplies during the holidays and candies for parties or Halloween!
Bonus Tip: Some stores hold case lot sales, where you can stock up on your family’s favorites (canned foods, cereal, oats, pasta, and more) by the case at extraordinary discounts. Ask your local store if they participate.
13. Don’t shop on the weekends.
The only good part about shopping at WinCo on a Saturday or Sunday is the samples. Other than that, avoid shopping over the weekend and during rush hour on weekdays (4 PM – 7 PM) unless you’re prepared to fight your way through the crowds of carts and people.
14. Plan to pay in cash or debit–no credit cards accepted.
15. Bring your own reusable bags for a $0.05 discount.
Some WinCo stores offer a $0.05 reusable bag credit per bag that you use. Not only does this help with your bill, but reusable bags are typically roomier than the plastic or paper bags you have to fill yourself at WinCo. Roomier bags = less bags needed = less trips to and from your kitchen when unloading the car. Plus, they’re better for the environment, so we should all use them—$0.05 credit or not!