Beware of little expenses; a small leak will sink a great ship.
~ Benjamin Franklin




 Compare Supermarket Prices With A Price Book

Have you noticed the trend in grocery store pricing lately… how fast grocery prices are increasing?  I’ll use the 5oz can of Star-Kist or Chicken of the Sea Tuna as an example.  Once upon a time this tuna sold for 4 for $1.00.  Then for several years it was $0.50 a can (through most of this year); recently tuna went to $0.67, followed by $0.88 and now one 5 oz can is $0.97 cents (some stores have it up to $1.29 per can).  I was dumbfounded when I saw the new price; the supermarket had just raised the price to $0.88.  How could they change the price again and again in such a short time?


Unfortunately economic predictions are that this is just the beginning of sudden increases in grocery store pricing.  During this time of economic unrest, droughts and other calamities it is more important than ever to know and compare food prices in order to save money and to stock the pantry with bargains when you find them.  The best way to keep track and compare supermarket prices, products and sales is to utilize a grocery price book.



PRICE BOOKWhat Is A Price Book?

A Price Book is a shopper’s best friend and one of the most powerful weapons in your financial arsenal!  It’s what sets one shopper apart from another and enables us to beat the grocery game.  A price book tracks the lowest prices paid for grocery items you regularly buy and over time reveals a product’s sale cycle.  You will use your book to compare your best prices against current store prices providing you with an opportunity for substantial supermarket savings.



A Price Book gives you the data you need to know who’s actually got the best price and when a sale is really a sale.  By knowing the item’s price and the sales cycle you can be ready to stock up when prices are low — relying on your stocked pantry until the next sale.  (Sales cycles are typically 8-12 weeks long, depending on the merchant.)



Using the price book when you’re grocery shopping is a wonderful and revealing thing, it really rocks; but I must admit, creating a price book is not so wonderful.  However you do learn a few things along the way coupled with a little shock when you see what you’ve been paying on some items at your store compared to other stores!


Putting together a price book is probably the hardest step of the whole grocery budget plan; it’s tedious, time consuming and not so much fun.  Nevertheless, it is so, so important to do!  Simply remind yourself that your price book is the single most important weapon you have for saving money and maintaining your grocery budget.  This is war and you want to win!



Putting together my price book was really an eye opener.  I became more aware of sizes, brands, how much I was paying for nutritious food as opposed to junk food, and the biggest discovery was the difference in prices from store to store.  I began to get excited about the price book and its potential.  I usually shopped at Wal-Mart but as I went through different store ads, Homeland Stores and Crest Foods had sale items at half the price of what I was paying at Wal-Mart.  I ended up solidly scolding myself for not taking this more seriously sooner and vowed to always use a price book going forward; I could have been saving hundreds of dollars!  My first trip out with just a partial price list I saved $66.00.  Best advice: Get started NOW!



*Picture this… a subtle smile on your face and a little strut to your step.  Why are you so confident and satisfied… because you know you’re the smartest shopper in the store as you sashay out the door with bags full of goodies that you bought at minimal prices!


How To Make A Price Book

  •  Select A Recording Form – Begin by deciding what form you will use to set up your price book and record information.  You can use a spiral notebook, binder or computer spreadsheet (recommended) to track price book information.  Set it up whichever way will be the easiest and most convenient for you to use.


  • Choose a Recording Method – There are generally two different methods people use when setting up a price book;   alphabetically or categorically.  Will it be easier for you to find cheese under the C’s or under Dairy?  How about Cumin – C’s or Spices?  It’s your choice; use whatever makes the most sense for you.  I simply used my master grocery list, which was set up by the supermarket layout and categories.  I set my price sheet up in Excel making it much easier to make adjustments or change layout.


If you don’t have an office program you can download Open Office free, it has a word and spreadsheet program, I have used it also and it has similar functions to Microsoft Office.


  • Headers for your pages Set-up your pages with the following columns:  Item, Date, Store, Brand, Size, Unit, Price, and Unit Price.


Example Price Book Page

Example Price Book

 **To get the unit price divide the sale price of each item by its size.  (Break pounds down to ounces)

Create a separate column for the unit type so you can set up Excel to calculate the unit price automatically.

Example Formula:  =SUM(E3/C3)  – enter the formula under Unit Price.


  •  Capture Data –  Remember all those grocery receipts you’ve been saving…it’s time to get them out so you can record the items and prices in your price book.  This is also where your master grocery list comes in handy; it lists all of the items you buy.  Jump-start your price book by grabbing local sales fliers or go online and browse their ads; begin filling in your price book with items and unit prices for things you use.  In the beginning try shopping at a different store each week, recording the information in your price book.  In a very short time you will have a clearer picture of the sales the stores run; you will get a feel for where you can save the most money and which stores benefit you the most.  I ended up with about 4 or 5 stores that I monitor and shop at regularly and a few that I monitor just in case they have a great sale on something.


You can see by the examples above the unit price is what really matters.  I do leave some things in pounds or each for my convenience; list your units in the way that works with your shopping style.  Begin by entering the best price you’ve bought an item for to date.  If you find it at a better price later, update your price book, that way you will always have the best target price for each item.


At first it may seem like an overwhelming task but take heart, as time goes by your entries will slow down and you will have built an impressive price list database for reference.  Keep in mind that it will take more than a day or two to put together, it will probably take a good month to get your price book filled and in order.  Then it will be easier to maintain, you only need to update if the price is lower than what your price book already has listed.


Shopping Magic

Your Price Book doesn’t have to be 100% complete when you start using it, even a baby price book will help with saving money on groceries.  As you’re building your price book you’ll gain skills that will turn you into a grocery guru.  Take this month and discover the best prices in your local market and record them in your price book.  You can get a lot of information with local store fliers use them to add data.  Like fine wines, price books improve with age.


Armed with your price book you’ll be able to spot an item that’s on sale at a super low price and you’ll know it’s time to stock up.  Here’s an example of how stocking up on a great deal helps others too.  Homeland had 10 lbs for $0 .15 a pound, (usually $0.40 lb) so I bought several and passed them to family and a couple of needy neighbors.  In the same week, Buy for Less had sweet yellow onions 3lbs for $0.97 (usually $2.46-2.99); again I stocked up and passed them around.  For $2.42 you’ve got two of the ingredients for potato soup and many side dishes.  It’s so empowering having my own price book, finding those wonderful bargains and a joy being able to share with others.


You’ll come to know when staples will be offered at their lowest price of the year.  Example: Brand name Mexican food items reach their lowest price around or right before Cinco-De-Mayo or May 5th, Mexican Independence Day.


When you find a must have bargain item, buy as much as your budget will allow and as much as you can realistically store without waste.  I tend to stock up on items that I can freeze or canned and dry goods for the pantry.  In the case of perishables I tend to share the wealth as in the example above.  If you stock up on a perishable items that you can’t eat fast enough and end up throwing half of it away you didn’t save money you lost money;  so be smart when stocking up.


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