How to Create a Grocery Pricebook

Tips to help save money on everyday groceries and get the best dealsHave you ever gone shopping for groceries and stocked up on things, only to find out that they went on sale the following week? It’s annoying, right?

I don’t know about you, but I hate spending more than I need to on the items I buy on a regular basis.

To avoid that, I’ve made note of what constitutes a good (or great!) price on those items and where it’s typically best to get them at.

Get the right things at the best prices

Setting up a price book allows you to buy the right items at the right places, for the best prices. In my case, I focus more on the right places part — knowing that I’m already saving money on all types of groceries just by doing that much.

I also stock up when I see non-perishable items at their best (or close to best) prices at those locations. For the most part I stick with a nearby grocery store plus Costco. I don’t like to drive all over town (wasting gas in the process) so this works best for me. Plus, I usually get gas while I’m at Costco to save money on that too.

How it works

Generally speaking there will be some types of food that are better to buy at the grocery store, and other types that are consistently less expensive at other stores. For example, items like meat and breads that can be frozen are almost always cheaper at the warehouse stores. Canned goods may be cheaper at stores like Target. Grocery store sale prices may beat them all. But how do you know for sure?

The easiest way is to compare prices between grocery stores and other food stores by keeping a price book. To start one, save your receipts the next time you go shopping, and note the prices of things you usually buy. For example, list date, the item, the location, and how much it was at that location, and then go to the other stores you’re interested in and write down their prices for those same items.

In each case, note whether or not the items in question were on sale, and mark down the price per ounce or gram (in addition to the total price). Compare after a few trips and you’ll have a good idea of what’s usually cheaper where. I’m sure there are apps to help out with this too if you’d rather do it that way instead of using a paper notebook.

The savings will add up

After just a couple of trips to each store it will become obvious which items are consistently cheaper where, and you can then focus on only buying those items at those locations. Over time, you’ll also be able to tell when to really stock up on individual items like toothpaste, toiletries, canned or jarred goods, and other items with a long shelf life. (Items go on sale on a seasonal schedule too – here’s a list you may find helpful for that.)

A caveat

Of course, to really save money by buying food at the stores where they are priced lowest, you have to be sure to buy ONLY the items you came for. If you walk into Target and get a great deal on a can of chili but throw in a hundred dollars worth of bedding, you’re better off sticking to the grocery store and avoiding the bedding temptation.

Using a grocery price book wisely can really save you money on the things you buy regularly, especially if you also use it in conjunction with Karen’s receipt technique. So if you haven’t tried one or both of these yet, give them a shot and watch your savings add up.