Have you ever been at the grocery store and noticed an item on sale but you weren’t sure if it was a good price or not? Or perhaps you are shopping your favorite warehouse club and you see that huge box of cereal. But how does that box equate to the box you buy at the super market? Is it the equivalent of 2 boxes? 3 boxes? 4 boxes? And what’s a good price? Is that big box really saving you money, or would you be better off waiting for the cereal to go on sale at your grocery store?
If you have spent much time shopping for groceries, you can probably relate to these dilemmas.
You no doubt have noticed that prices for the items you regularly purchase can fluctuate, sometimes by quite a lot. Some items go on sale on a periodic basis. Is it about time for the next sale? Is the sale price a good deal? Are you likely to get a coupon in this week’s paper for it? Should you stock up? How much should you buy? Prices on items can also fluctuate depending on where you buy them. At the grocery store? Warehouse club? Drug store? Dollar store?
If you are trying to squeeze every last dollar out of that budget, it is beneficial to buy not only the right items, but at the right times and from the right places to maximize your dollars.
Lots of questions but how do you know if you are really getting the best deal?
Start a price book
There are patterns to the prices on common items. Figuring out what those patterns are can take a little time and patience.
One great way to do this is by creating a price book to track the price of items you regularly purchase.
This can be a simple notebook where you record prices or it could be a spreadsheet if you prefer to do things electronically. Personally, I always favor simple. A notebook where you simply jot down the information as you walk through the store will provide you with all the info you will need.
Once a week or so or as you shop the stores you regularly visit, simply record the date and the price of the item. It is also a good idea to record the size of the package (how many ounces, how many items, etc.) That way you can compare the prices apples to apples if different stores sell the product in different packaging.
Continue to do this for a couple months and you will start to see patterns.
Doing a price book the easy way
So you say, “Ok Bob that sounds like a good idea, but it also sounds like a lot of work.” Well, it can be if you track everything, but here’s how to ease into it.
Think about the 10 things that you most often purchase. (Or if you really want to make it easy just select the 5 things you most often purchase.)
Now keep a price book on just those items. Since those are the items you most often purchase, they are also the items that will probably give you the most savings.
Choose those 10 items that you buy most often and start tracking them. If you have the opportunity check the price of that item at different types of stores. Follow the price for a couple months.
If you do this you will start to get a feel for how often the item goes on sale and what is a good price. You can also use this to stock up on items when they are at their best price. Just make sure you are able to use the item before it spoils.
After you have done this for a couple months and have a pretty good idea on those 10 items, start tracking a few more items. Follow this cycle a few times and you’ll soon have a very good handle on how you can make the most of your grocery dollars. (And you won’t spend 5 minutes staring at the box of cereal at the warehouse club trying to figure out if it was a good deal or not.)