Create a Price Book to Track Grocery Prices
What exactly is a price book? It’s a tool used to track prices of things you commonly purchase (typically groceries – but this can extend to clothing or other things as well) at various stores and different times and places. An informed shopper is a savvy shopper. If you’ve never considered keeping a price book before, here’s why you should: you’ll be arming yourself with the knowledge you need to make informed buying decisions – avoiding the confusing marketing tactics. Being aware of price shifts and at which stores you’ll find the best deals on certain things can really help you save money over time.
Before you begin, it helps to save your grocery receipts for a month or so. That way, you’re already in possession of the itemized records of exactly what my family had purchased when, where, and how much we paid. You can also grab the store circulars from recent weeks and record that data as well.
Grocery Price Book Method One: The Notebook
The “old school” method, the notebook method, is often what people think of when they think of a price book. A spiral bound notebook small enough to keep in your purse. Some people say that if you actually manually WRITE something vs. type it, you’re more likely to retain the information. If that describes you, this may be your method of choice. It’s also great for those that dislike working with spreadsheets (more on that below). There are a number of ways of setting up your price book.
Alphabetically by Item
For most people, it works best to label the top of each page alphabetically. The first page of your notebook is “A”, the second is “B” and so on. Include canned tomatoes on your “T” page, cereal on your “C” page and so on. On the lines of each page, record the store, the date of your purchase, the price, as well as the unit size of each package so you can calculate the price per ounce.
Top 50 Items Strategy
If the thought of recording all of your grocery purchases makes you start to sweat, there is a shortcut that still will help you save money. Start with the 50 items you buy most frequently. You’ll likely end up with things like this on your list:
- Ground Beef
- Frozen Peas
- Canned Corn
- Spaghetti Noodles
After saving your receipts for a while, you’ll notice which items are common purchases. List them in your book alphabetically by item, and again – record store, price, unit size, and date.
If you start getting the hang of this method, you can then decide whether or not to move on to things you buy only occasionally. It’s best to avoid recording items you rarely buy unless you really want to make this more of a project than it has to be. However, in today’s day and age, I find the next method a lot easier as well as more convenient:
Price Book Method Two: The Spreadsheet
I think the most efficient way for you to log your prices is using Google Docs and the Google Drive app. I created my spreadsheet in a couple hours one afternoon. Here’s how you create your Price Book: In the rows across, record the names of the stores where you shop most often. On the left column, write the name of the food items you purchase along with the unit size. In the cells where the store and the product intersect, record the price. What I like about this method is I can make changes on my computer at home simply by looking at my receipts. Because my Google Docs app syncs my computer and my phone, always have the spreadsheet handy while I’m shopping.
After you keep your price book for awhile, your outlook on grocery shopping begins to change. Sometimes you will realize that advertised sales aren’t necessarily all they’re cracked up to be, and sometimes they’re not bargains at all. You’ll be able to spot rock-bottom prices on favorite grocery items and add them to your stockpile without hesitation – knowing exactly how much to buy.
I use a spreadsheet, and I keep all my receipts by the computer….when the kids are napping or not fighting (like that ever happens 😉 I quickly update my spreadsheet….although, I did actually format mine to calculate the price per unit (per ounce, per diaper, per slice….) so that I can keep better track of Costco vs Save-A-Lot pricing…..
Would you be willing to share your spreadsheet?
Kimberly Danger says
My pricing information is in my book, Instant Bargains: 600+ Ways to Shrink Your Grocery Bills and Eat Well for Less.
I do this just with a small notebook but need to be more organized with it. I also like to note what store has what price so I know when a sale comes if it is a good sale or not. I wish there was an app for the smart phone or ipod that I could use. I do use my ipod for my shopping list as I don’t have a smart phone as yet.
I totally agree with Cindy that there should be a smart phone app for keeping a price book that also allows you to compare prices between stores. Who do we talk to so we can make that happen?
The app “Smart Shopper” does this. You hold the iphone/pod up to it, and it will scan the bar code and tell you if it’s on sale, the usual price, and if it is cheaper in a 50 mile radius (or ever how many miles you set it to.) Amazon has one of these also.
*if it’s cheap at another store in a ___ mile radius.
I think the iphone app you’re referring to is called shop savvy. Smart Shopper only calculates what you would pay when you input the % discount.
The PriceMouse digital price book app for iPhone automatically compares prices and unit prices across stores.
With the cost of gas now days, I don’t see how it is cost effective to drive from one store to another to save a few pennies or dollars. Our nearest Target is about 9 or 10 miles, the nearest Walmart is 15 miles, We have many food chain stores close by, as well as CVS, Rite-Aid and Walgreens. I can’t drive from place to place and deal with getting my handicapped husband with walker in/out of the car umteem times. It’s too hard on him and myself.
I wonder if the store that you frequent the most can pull a list of all the items you have purchased, say in last 3 months..along with price paid? It would sure help making a price list..even though prices are subject to change..
Last I heard Walmart would meet other stores lower advertised price. Now not sure exactly how it works and if it’s only for sale items or not, but take your ads with you if you go to Walmart, it might be worth investigating.