Thursday, January 3, 2013

Today We Start Saving Money At the Grocery Store! How To PRICE BOOK

Ok, if you are an old frugal hand when it comes to the Grocery Store, this isn't for you.
But......if you regularly feel you spend too much on groceries, it's time to take control of your money!

Want to know my secret to saving money on groceries?
No, it's not coupons, though they DO help.

I keep a PRICE BOOK.
And you should too!
It's an awesome TOOL to help you keep more of your $ in YOUR pocket and out of the grocer's till.
It's not very hard to make one and it just takes a couple of minutes a week to update it.

And here is my Step-by-Step Guide to making one if you've never tried before.

Let's start 2013, a brand new year off on the right foot!

Here is what you need to begin--

A small notebook, notepad or even just a piece of loose leaf paper.  Something with lines is better than plain bonded paper.  If you only have bonded paper, get a ruler and a pen and make some lines on it.

Here is what I am going to use.  It's something I had here in the house, just taking up space.  I didn't go out and buy anything.

I've got a little notepad with a cover.
You need 6-8 different colored markers or pens.  Use what you can find around the house.  If you can't find 6-8 different colors, use the pen colors and marker colors you have....a blue pen, a black pen, a red pen, a black marker, a brown marker, a pencil, etc.  As long as you can tell a difference when you write with them, which instrument was used.
You also need a small calculator to take into the store with you.  If you have a smartphone just use the calculator function on your phone.

1.  The first thing you do is get out a piece of scratch paper or open a word document if you want to do this on your computer.
You are going to list 20-30 items you buy on a regular basis in the grocery store.  It can be anything.  Food products, pet products, health and beauty and/or paper products.

Here is my list of 30 items.

ground beef
chuck roast
hot dogs-premium
chicken breast
chicken whole


salad greens

spaghetti sauce


cheese provolone

ice cream-premium

soda 12 pack

And here is my explanation why I chose these items.....

ground beef-this is the most used beef for us. I look for 80% or higher.
chuck roast-a cheaper cut that can be slow cooked and taste as good as other cuts
hot dogs-premium types like Nathan's/Sabrett's/Hebrew National
pork-boneless one, either cut up chop style or whole
bacon-any brand
chicken breast-on bone, not boneless, always cheaper than boneless
chicken whole-for roasting, soup/stews, cut up yourself, versatile
salmon-our preference and expensive, need a deal

butter-needed for so many things
cheese-block or shredded in bags, 8 oz. size--cheddar and mozzarella-both usually on sale for same price during sales

While many veggies go on special seasonally, these ones are needed year round in many dishes.
Mirepoix (your carrots/celery/onions)form the basis of so much in cooking. Potatoes are versatile and good as a filler too.  Fresh salad greens are a must for my family.
salad greens

pasta-a staple in our house, no brand loyalty, something is always going on sale
spaghetti sauce-ditto
coffee-so expensive, worth finding a deal on
soup-cream --I use these 2 soups in dishes frequently.  They are building blocks or can be eaten as soup.

flour-a staple no one should be without, unless you are wheat allergic-then buy rice of coconut flour
sugar-another staple sweetener
honey-we use a lot during the winter both in cooking and tea

ham-we don't use this much but it freezes well.
cheese provolone-an augmentation to the cheddar/mozzarella mix, can't find in blocks here

pizza-no brand loyalty, any name brand or premium house brand
ice cream-ditto
broccoli-a "go to" veggie for my family, like to have it stocked

soda 12 pack-something is always on sale but we tend to be brand loyal
chips-premium, any brand

Now here are some other items I didn't include but you might want to....
Milk(our state has regulated prices so it's useless for me to price book this)
Condiments like ketchup, mustard, relish, mayo
Pet Food
Toilet Paper

You don't have to put everything you buy on this list and you can expand or change up stuff on your list after we get 6 weeks or so in.
This first list is just to get you started.

Now that you have your list of 20-30 items, go list them down in your notebook/notepad/sheet of paper.
It will help you if you visualize your grocery stores floor plan and list your items in the order in which you visit that section of the store from first to last.
If your fresh produce section is first, start with fresh veggie items, if the meat section is first, begin with the meats when you write your list.....

2. Pick one of your writing instruments to be your WEEK ONE color.  I'm going with the black marker I wrote my list of items with.

3.  Take your notebook and pen/marker for Week #1 with you the next time you go grocery shopping.

4.  As you go through the store, note the price(or if there are more than one of that product you would consider buying, note the lowest price for similar items/sizes).
* Since sometimes you may be comparing 2 different sized items here, if there is no shelf tag giving the per oz. information, use your calculator(or phone app)to figure which product is less money.

The first time you take your Price Book to the store and have to write down the prices it might take you a little extra time to do your shopping.  It won't take much extra time, 10-15 minutes maybe.  If you are pressed for time, maybe go to the store the first time and NOT buy anything, just do your price book so you can concentrate on getting it right.

5.  Now you put your Price Book away until the next week's sales ad begins.  Just put it on the shelf and next week when you head out the door to grocery shop(hopefully you have a LIST at least!lol), grab the Price Book and another color of marker/pen and repeat Step 3 and 4.

We will do this for the next 6 Weeks.  Then we will sit down and analyze our data and see what the sales cycles look like in our stores.

*** If you want to compare prices between 2 stores as well, it's easy to work that into our Price Book.

WEEK ONE--When we go to the store and write in the prices, just put a letter or symbol next to Store A's price and a different something next to Store B's price.

For example--I shop regularly at Weis and a local market named Carone's.  Week One I will go to Weis and note that ground beef is $2.99 lb. and I'll put a little W next to that price.  Then I'll go to Carone's that same week, and note that ground beef is $3.29 lb. and I'll use the SAME COLOR PEN to write $3.29 but put a little C next to that price.  I now can look back in 6 weeks to see that the best price was $2.99 and Weis had it during Week One.

The Grocery Sales start here on Sunday, so the next sales week is 1/6-1/12.
So I will wait until Sunday to give everyone a chase to get their supplies together and get their items listed in their PRICE BOOK before I go start filling in WEEK ONE's price data and post it.

So why don't you come along and try this?!
What have you got to lose?
Not much I'd say......but you potentially have pennies and dollars to gain when you are giving less money to the grocery stores.  8-)



  1. I think you must have read my mind, I just picked up items to start my price book :)

    1. We are definitely on the same wavelength today.
      I hit publish and went to look at your post and saw what you were talking about. LOLOL

      Good time to start a price book tho, the beginning of the year and all....

  2. That's an interesting notion... Right after moving, I started a little checklist with my most purchased items (that I thought) and started to record prices, but it was so disorganized I lost interest. Also, I only shop once or twice every 2 weeks, so the list would be difficult to compile... do you have a photo of what week 6 looks like?

    1. Tanner, To get the framework laid you would have to note prices every week, so you'd have to go to the store the weeks you don't buy anything just to get the selling prices for that week. Just looking shouldn't take long but it does throw something else to do into your week. You could do the prices every other week but it wouldn't give you accurate enough info.

      I don't know what you mean about photos of week 6?
      I need to do week 1 thru 5 first. Week 6 is way down the

      By Week 6 each item/line will have 6 prices on it, in a row, one price in each of the diff. colored inks. If I do 2 stores I'll have 12 prices on each line, 6 sets of 2 prices in 6 diff. colored inks.

    2. Oh, sorry. Thought you had done this before. Was just trying to get some reference of what it should look like. I'm too much of a visual person. I'll give it a go, since I can walk to Acme from work, but not to Food Lion, so I'll have half and half of the prices.

    3. I have done them before but I thought I'd start at square one and build one so everyone who's interested could see as we go along what is involved in the process. I'll share visuals as I do them, ok?
      If you do Acme, go each week and write down the prices and if you do Acme and Food Lion you have to go to each every week and write the prices. I know it sounds laborious and time wasting but it's important to do both every week the first 6 weeks. After we finish the basics, we go to maintenance mode and that's alot less work and you don't have to go to each store every week.

  3. Thanks,I decided to make one this year and your way makes the most sense to me. I was making it too complicated. I have been reading you for awhile now and enjoy your writing.

    1. I hope this is helpful and instructive Anonymous.
      Thanks for your kind words.

  4. This is awesome! Such a timely & helpful post!! :)

    1. I thought with prices going up I'd tackle this tool. Once you've done it, it's easier to understand how to use it.

  5. So do you shop at a different store each week until you have prices from a few places??

    1. Theresa,
      No, for 6 weeks I'll shop at the same 1 or 2 stores, each week and check the prices on those 30 items each week and write them down. I won't necessarily buy all 30 items in these 6 weeks....only if I really need them.
      The note taking is independent of what I am buying this 6 weeks. I am gathering the price information that will form the basis of my data in the book. After this first 6 weeks, our process changes but I'll get to that in week 6 and 7. For now, just check the prices of your list of items each week at your store(s).

  6. sluggy I have kept one of these ever since I read about Amy D doing it. It was then that I realized that most stores have there sales in a 6 week cycle.

    I should have you get me some ground meat and mail it to me they are charging up to 5.99 a lb here in Philly so that is another one of those if I don't see it marked down we don't get it. This week is SR cancan sale also so I will be stocking up on that.

    I make sure to always keep my book and coupon holder in my purse(ok my binder is in the trunk with my coupons..I have issues...dont judge me LOL). Like I know this week SR is due to have peter pan pb on sale(and they do) so I stock up with enough for 6 weeks. This will take me to the next sale.

    I am loving your posts! But I am telling you when I make my last debt payment I am buying a good bottle of something and driving right up to your house!!! So don't call the the locals and tell them you have a drunken stalker it will just be me


  7. I've always been interested in keeping a price book. Most of our budget is spent on produce (my husband is obsessive about having LOTS of variety) & we purchase it at Costco. Not each item every time is cheapest there, but we only go to one store, & on average, their produce prices are the cheapest. I think their prices are pretty consistent week over week, but maybe I should pay closer attention.

    My goals this year (with regard to my grocery budget) are to reduce waste, freeze more efficiently, substitute for ingredients, make more from scratch, & buy less cheese! I love cheese, but don't really need all of the variety we typically have. ;-)

  8. Good ideas! I typically shop at like 4 or 5 different stores already. But this might help me make the best decisions... Thanks!

  9. Try as I might I will just never be as in control as you! But I still try!
    I know a few people that you should be put in charge of! And then turn it into a tv show. I would be hooked but I would have to get cable 1st!

  10. Excellent way to start the new year! I have never had an official price book, just the one in my head.


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