For many families, groceries make up a large portion of their monthly spending. If you’re looking to spend less every month, it’s possible to save a considerable amount of money on groceries.
Knowing your prices is one of the best strategies to save money on groceries. It helps you evaluate the sale flyers to know if a sale really is the best price in town.
Prices are always changing. If you track the prices, you’ll know when to stock up and how much to buy.
The simplest way to really understand your local food prices is to create a grocery price book.
What is a grocery price book?
A price book, also called a price comparison chart, is a sheet that tracks the prices of the items you buy most often. It takes sometime to set up, but you’ll earn back your time quickly.
To really see this in action, take the example of my favorite brand of bouillon, Better Than Bouillon Chicken Bouillon. Here are the prices at my local grocery stores:
- Wegman’s: Regular price of $3.99
- Giant: Sale price of $3.99, Regular price of $4.49
- Walmart: Regular price of $3.58
When I was browsing Giant, I saw that the chicken bouillon was on sale and thought I should stock up! It’s a good thing I didn’t. It turns out the sale price really isn’t a sale at all. If there’s a sale that really is less than the everyday price at Walmart, I’ll be sure to stock up then.
In this article, I’ll walk you through exactly how to set up a grocery price book for yourself so you can begin saving money on your grocery bill.
What’s The Best Format For A Grocery Price Book?
A spreadsheet is a great tool for organizing your grocery price book. While spreadsheet programs like Excel or Open Office will work, my personal favorite is a Google Drive spreadsheet. I can access the spreadsheet from my smartphone while at the grocery store to check prices on the fly.
If you really prefer to use paper, it’s possible to use a paper notebook to track prices. Make a page for each item you use frequently and then create the necessary columns across the page. You can also create a binder with pretty printables like these at Organized Home or by using free printable lists available here at Canadian Budget Binder.
What Do You Track In Your Grocery Price Book?
There are a range of things you can track in your grocery price book. It’s a balance of collecting enough information to be useful, while making it simple enough to maintain.
I track the store, product category, item, brand, size, price, whether it’s a sale or the standard price, and the date. I then calculate the unit price of each item.
Ultimately, you’ll want to compare the unit price of the item to what’s the lowest price. That’s the price of the item divided by the size.
I’ll use the price of walnuts an example:
It’s now possible to compare the 48 oz bag the bulk walnuts in the bin at the same store. The price is 20% less. That’s a considerable savings.
Tracking sales by date is also useful. By tracking the prices over time, you’ll be able to identify the length of the sales cycle and when the sales occur. If you have a good guess of how much you use, you can buy enough when it’s on sale to carry you through to the next big sale.
Building Your Price Book
To get my initial list, I looked over my receipts to find items that I bought multiple times over the last month. You can start with a smaller amount — say 10 items — if that helps you get started. I’ll add more items to my list as I continue to shop every week.
There are several ways to get prices: receipts, grocery store flyers, and visiting the store. I wanted to get an overview quickly, so I just walked around my local stores and wrote down prices. If you don’t like the sound of that, it’s fine to just work off your recent receipts and your local flyers.
Groceries are sold in so many places, from your local grocery store to even gas stations. Personally, I chose to start with 5 grocery stores that are within a 10 minute drive of my house. Over time, I’ll check the smaller stores like the international grocery store and the pharmacy.
It took about 10 hours to capture 400 prices at five different stores. While 10 hours seems like a lot of time, I’m sure I’ll earn back the value of my time quickly. If I buy 100 items a month at $0.50 less each, I’ll save $50 every month!
How To Use Your Price Book
Now that you’ve built up your price comparison chart, you’ll want to use it to continue saving money. To avoid stopping at a large number of stores every week, visit stores on a monthly rotation. If you visit one to two stores every week, you can cover all the stores on your list on a regular basis.
You’ll also want to continue to check for deals. The easiest way to do this is to look at the grocery store flyers online and just go ahead and add in prices as needed.
Now that you know exactly what to do to get started with your grocery price book, it’s time to start saving!
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