(Click above for free printable comparison list)
Every Tuesday, all month long, I have been talking grocery budgets. We started with an honest discussion talking about our Monthly Food Costs. Then I shared my free printable monthly food tracker, while you chimed in with how you handle budgeting your food. Last week, you gave some amazing wisdom with your #1 piece of advice for someone new to the world of cutting food costs without coupons.
This week, I am going to briefly share a necessary evil – the grocery price list.
A price list or price book is an ongoing list of items that you commonly purchase, and a means of recording how much you pay for them at the different stores, as well as noting their rock bottom prices.(The lowest amount they reach during a sales cycle.)
If someone is truly going to slash their grocery budget, they need to understand grocery sales cycles, know what is truly a sale vs. a marketing ploy. Not every sale is really a sale, but when you spend a few months tracking those prices, you will soon understand and know how to spot a good buy, thereby stocking up at the perfect time.
As I have introduced friends to the world of couponing, I often cringe as they share their excitement of a “great buy” on “item xyz.” Not wanting to burst their bubble, I smile and kindly tell them their next step – keep a price list until you truly know when that good buy occurs. Often, their great buy is $1 – 2 more than I would spend on the same item.
Over two decades ago, I first read about this concept of a grocery price list in one of my favorite books, The Tightwad Gazette. She addresses exactly what many of you are thinking right now,
At first you may think this is too much work and the idea of shopping at so many stores will be inconceivable. It will pay off. A good strategy is to shop at different stores each week of the month so that within a 30-day cycle you can hit them all. We have our shopping system down to once a month with only a few short trips to hit unbeatable sales.
Keeping a price book revolutionized our shopping strategy more than anything else we did. For the first time we had a feeling of control over our food budget.
It might take you a total of five hours to make up a price book for comparison shopping, but after several years of supermarket excursions, you may discover that your hourly “pay” for those five hours was over $1,000.
I was correct, wasn’t I? If you have tried comparing grocery prices before, you are thinking it’s too much work. What if I could tell you it could save you hundreds of dollars a month? Would that change your mind?
Determining those rock bottom prices that I refer to in my grocery guru posts are key in slashing your food budget with or without the use of coupons. I don’t have the time to shop at three different stores each week, but by zeroing in on what I will pay helps me navigate those decisions better.
For instance, I won’t pay more than $1 for a box of cereal, so if it’s $0.50 – $1, that means it’s time to stock up, so we’ll have enough to last till it drops to that price again. Oh, I am getting ahead of myself. We are going to go into the nitty gritty of rock bottom prices and this grocery list in another post.
For now, I challenge you to determine how much money a month would you need to save in order to make the hassle of comparing grocery prices worth it? It’s honestly different for everyone, and for some, it’s still not worth the inconvenience.
Would it make any difference to know that we’ve created a Free Price Comparison List that you can just print off for your ease and convenience?
What if I told you that the price of peanut butter is increasing by 50% next month (true statistic) and that is just the start of rising food prices? Would that help convince you that it’s time to start taking a hard look at this area?
I’d love to hear from those of you who have done a grocery price list and what revelations were revealed. Did it make a difference with how you shopped?
For those that have never done done this before, have you found something that works better or does the thought of starting just seem daunting?
How can we help? I’ll address it in the “nitty gritty” rock bottom price list post. 🙂
Now off to see what you are all cooking up for Tasty Tuesday. I love all your recipe inspirations.
As always, thank you for linking up to your direct recipe post and not your general url, as well as including a link back here in your post, so that everyone can join in on the fun. Please limit your links to newer posts.
What a great printable! Thanks so much!
I also made a price comparison list after reading The Tightwad Gazette four years ago and it really did open my eyes. One interesting thing I learned was that buying from Costco often wasn’t the cheapest way to go. For example, I could get things like cereal for close to free at a supermarket when pairing a good doubled coupon with a sale but it was still over $4 per box at Costco. Four years later, I still know things such as my price point on bread is when it goes $2 or lower and then I buy a lot and freeze them. All because of that journal Amy D recommended.
@Diana B, Amy and ‘The Tightwad Gazette” changed my life too. Her book is still my favorite thing to ‘gift’ my frugal friends with.
Thanks for sharing the great printable. I know a bunch of approximate prices in my head for things I typically buy but I need to write them down. This will be great!
I made a price book years ago, and it was a tremendous help to me, but then I let it slack off. just recently I started again, but this time I keep it posted on my blog using Google docs (http://www.qechdeals.com/p/my-price-book.html). I need to update it with recent rising prices, though.
Living in rural Iowa with limited grocery stores – my rock bottom prices fluctuate since I need to factor in the gas cost to get to another store. Is it still cheaper to save 25 cents an item if I have to drive 40 miles to get it? It depends on the price of gas, how many I need and if there are other things I can also get to justify the trip. Sometimes the more expensive item is actually the cheaper item.
Thanks for hosting, Jen! The whole idea of couponing and doing price lists seems very daunting to me, but I am really wanting to learn! 🙂
Amy Daczycyn (Tightwad Gazette) turned my shopping life around. It’s good to read that she is still influencing families to save money. I read her newsletters, then books, with growing excitement as she explained creative ways to save money AND live a great life! If she hadn’t “retired” way too early, I am sure she would be blogging away with you, Jen , and your wonderful fellow frugality gurus.
I started keeping a price book for my grocery store on Jan 1st and have been keeping up with it all year. I live in a small town so I typically shop at the same store every week. Even though the price book was originally meant to compare prices across multiple stores, I have found it VERY helpful just in using it for my 1 store. I am able to see the rock bottom price for each item on my list. It also helps me to weed out those “sale prices” that aren’t really sale prices. So for anyone that hasn’t done this yet, maybe just starting out tracking one store is a good way to get your feet wet!
Thank you so much for the printable. Really enjoying your posts this month!
I love my price book, though it needs updating right now. I’ve been working on updating mine with prices for grass-fed beef and the like. I have a few places posted on my website.
I’ve had a similar conversation with some family members, and I wriggle too when they make the statement that x store always has the best prices on cleaning products. I don’t update my price book as much as I should right now, though I carry a mental list of the prices. Currently, I shop a bit more for convenience than price, and I freely acknowledge that.
@Barb@A Life in Balance, Convenience is sometimes my plan too – I’ve got four small children and if I can get everything I need and only get them out of and back into the car once, I do all my shopping at one store!
Thank you so much for the price list, this is going to help me so much!
Thanks for the printable comparison list!
PS: Sharing our Savory Sausage B’fast Muffins (sort of like a McGriddle only healthier and not so sweet). Enjoy!
I’ve always wanted to do a price comparison chart and now my lazy self can just print it! Thanks!
Great idea, I know you’ve said it before – but it really does help SO much to know what’s a deal and what isn’t. My hubby and my dad both have been guilty of the “10/$10”-type sales, buying for a dollar what I could usually get for 75 cents! 🙂 We’re winding down our spending, after two weeks of stocking up at our local Spartan sales! I love those – it’s so nice to have boxes of pasta, cans of spaghetti sauce, soup, fruit & veggies, and baking goods in the pantry, and a freezer full of meal starters. Now if I can just make it to the meat sale in February, we’re good! 🙂
Keep it up, I’m still reading along every day (or every other at least)! 🙂
This is one of the single best tools there is. I was looking for lentils a couple weeks back. I had never had them before, but had found a recipe that made me want to try them. In one store I found green and red lentils in the bulk bin for $.26/ 100 grams, in the bean and grain section they were selling 450 gram bags (just under a pound) of the green for 2.38 and red for 2.18. In the ethnic foods section they were selling 1 kilogram bags (just over two pounds) of either for $3.99 and in the organic foods the 450 gram bags were 1.49. This was all in one store. I’m glad they didn’t have any more departments. Putting the important part of that information in a price list can add up to big savings over a year’s worth of typical grocery items.
Thanks for the printable Jen! Do you write down the price of an item at its current price and then add the sale price and such so you can keep track of all the prices you see? Should I date a sale price to see how often the items goes on sale? Am I over-thinking or being sensible? ha!
Adrienne – you are not over thinking. You are right on track. I’ll go into more details on the next post, but your goal is to find out the rock bottom price which will be the cyclical sale price. So, I compare with the lowest regular prices, which in our area is Walmart and Aldis.
If I am looking at canned tomatoes, I see what their every day low price is (unit price too) and mark it. Then I start tracking the higher priced stores and their sales, since for me, that is when it becomes the cheapest. So anytime something goes BOGO, typically it’s cheaper than Walmart (but not always).
Soon, you’ll notice that those items start going on sale every 8 weeks. I also realize that those items have coupons, so I will NOT buy them until they hit that price again.
This is a great idea – my parents always knew which items were regularly cheapest at which store. I don’t know if they tracked the sales or not.
I only have one store in town (plus a dollar store with only a few grocery items) and then one store 20 miles away. So I keep my list mostly in my head! And if I only need one or two things I have to think about gas to drive 20 miles. 🙂
Also, I always have to remind myself that sales in a non-competitive, non-chain grocery market are just not the same as in bigger markets – I never find cereal for $1.
Absolutely Abbie – it’s not going to be the same and with the price of gas, you are shopping smarter. Is there a way for you to keep in touch with the sales of that store 20 miles away and then really stock pile certain things? Since I live in the country as well, I do drive for my deals, but then I have more than one store. I have tons of choices, so it makes the trip worth it for sure. Plus, unfortunately, most of my “life” is that 20 miles away. There are trade offs for us living so far out, aren’t there? So often, I wish I could pick up our house and land and just move it in ten miles. 😉
@Jen, I live in the country too…but my husband commutes to the city 35 miles away where EVERY shopping option you could hope for is. I have him often going on a lunchtime loss leader bulk buy for me so I don’t have to make the drive OR I piggyback with him into town and run my errands while he works (and kids are at school). We try to save driving trips whenever we can. The pricebook has, without a doubt, been the number one cost saving tool for my grocery bills. I use coupons, but more often then not, they encourage me to buy something that I wouldn’t have otherwise.
I have something to ask on this post. I keep my price book on my antiquated palm pilot/phone and am planning to upgrade to an iPhone very soon. Does anyone use a smartphone app for their price book? If so, please share….
I think I need to see next weeks post to understand completely. It seems like a good idea and I’m on board. I just don’t understand the logistics. Do you write down the price for everything, each time you go to the store? Do you write base price, or sale price? Do you make a note of the date of the sale? Or do you do a different sheet each time you go while you’re still getting information? Really, I would love to do this but it seems so overwhelming. I’m sure I don’t understand completely! I saw you told someone earlier that you will go into more detail in your later post, so I will wait for that. Most helpful would be a step-by-step walkthrough of how you get started. Pretend you’re talking to a 3 year old (because after being at the office for 11 hours today I feel like one)!
Thanks as always for your awesome tips!
I can’t believe I haven’t found this printable before. I just moved and have been wanting to start a list of comparison prices at my local grocery stores. Now I have a handy list! Thanks.
I am new to your website and so excited to implement all of your ideas. I was wondering if you got around to writing you “nitty gritty” rock bottom price list post that you referred to in this post. I have been scouring your blog and have not found it. Thank you.
enjoyed your site. valuable info. thanks a bunch