A Price Book is an absolute must-have. In it you record current prices of items you buy consistantly. It can be as elaborate or as simple as you want. Set it up to suit your own shopping style. Do you shop at 3 different grocery stores? Set it up in columns so you can compare prices and then easily spot weekly specials on these items. You can use a spreadsheet on the computer, or just a handy-sized notebook that fits into your purse. Use the Price Book along with your organized Coupons and you are sure to save at the grocery store!
First, make a list of items that you buy very regularly at the store - milk, cheese, etc.
Then, for four shopping trips in a row, visit the stores you usually buy at, writing down prices on all of the items on the list, regardless of whether or not you are buying them.
Now, each week, you can make up a grocery list, grab the flyers for all four stores, and figure out which store is the cheapest for your list. You can identify a few sale items from each store to pick up and use to make a few meals that week, like fresh asparagus on sale, for example - these items are obviously different from store to store. Also note any of the items on the grocery list that are on sale at each particular store that week.
What do you save by doing this? There’s may be a $20 spread between the cheapest store and the most expensive store for a given list. Even more interesting: the ranking of the store varies quite a lot. Roughly 30% of the time, either Skagway, Supersaver, or Hy-Vee is on top; the other 10%, Walmart ends up on top. Given that, an average week saves me $10 for about twenty minutes of work.
Update your price book once month or so. There is quite a bit of drift over time at the various stores and you’ll find often that your earlier notions are no longer true. I know people who swear that Walmart is the cheapest, and they are on some items, but I believe that a big part of this is just habit based on something that may have been true previously.
Once you’ve recorded prices for a few weeks, you might recognize a pattern of when your regularly purchased items go on sale. You can also decide whether you want to pass on an item because the price is considerably higher than you’ve recently paid for it. A price book not only helps you to compare prices, it can be used as a tool to help discourage impulse buying. It helps encourage delayed gratification, too. It won’t take long before you know which store typically carries an item at the cheapest price. You might be surprised by which store has the best deals for the items that you buy regularly.
In time, you’ll discover that you’ll have your own minimum price that you’re willing to pay for an item. I refuse to pay over $1 for a two-liter bottle of soda, over 50 cents for a can of tuna, over 75 cents for a bar of soap and over $1.99 for butter. I wait for these to go on sale and then I stock up.
How to Make Your Own Price Book
Your price book will make you the smartest consumer in the store because you will actually know whether or not an item really is on sale or not. Advertised specials are not always the best deal nor are they always special. The power of such a list grows the more you put information into it, especially when you're finally able to easily compare unit prices for groceries from different stores and at different times of the year.
For instance, you'll know that name-brand Mexican food products will be offered at the year's lowest prices just before Cinco de Mayo, the 5th of May. You'll know when to stock up on steaks, or sodas, or diet foods. You'll understand that canned tuna will be offered at 2/$1 approximately every six weeks--and you'll purchase six weeks' worth of tuna during that buying opportunity.
Start by listing the items and prices of everything you bought this week (you still have the receipts, don’t you?). Break them down into categories that make sense to you: Meats, Frozen, Produce, Dairy, Canned Goods, Non-foods, etc. It might even be logical to use the same main categories you use in your coupon organizing system.
Write down the information that is important to you: size of package, price, different brand price, date checked, etc. The more you write down, the more you can compare similar items—but watch out for information overload: that might make it drudgery and then you won’t use it.
Most people use one page per item—that leaves space for future entries. At first you will think this is too much work, but as you add to your book, you will see how it works to save you money as you shop each week. Keep a calculator handy for unit price calculations! To find any item's unit price, divide the cost of the item by the number of units. For an 8-ounce can of tomato sauce sold for $.32, enter .32, then divide by 8 to find the unit price of $.04.
Develop your own list of store codes. Use a short abbreviation for each supermarket, discount store and warehouse store where you shop. Below is a basic example of information to put on each page.