Karen Hellier

Freelance Writer, Coupon Lady, eBay Entrepreneur: Helping You Save Money and Work From Home

Tag Archive: save money on groceries

How Creating a Price Book Can Help You Save Money on Groceries

Using a simple notebook as a price book can save you tons of money at the grocery store! I created a comparison chart of grocery store prices and was amazed at the results!

I love to grocery shop! Yes, I know, from what I have heard I am in the minority here, but there’s always been something special to me about buying food to nourish my family. Once I discovered how to use coupons correctly, I became addicted to saving money at the grocery stores. So today I want to share with you the value of creating a “price book” which will help you save money on your groceries.

What is a Price Book?

What is a “price book” you may be asking? It’s simply a notebook in which you keep track of all of the items you and your family use regularly, and what the normal price is for those items are when they are NOT on sale, at every store you would consider shopping in.

I always advocate that shoppers go to more than one store to take advantage of the store sales in each store, therefore never paying full price for an item. But I also know that is not always feasible. So a price book allows consumers to compare pricing between all of the grocery stores in their area to find out which store has the items that they would normally buy at the most inexpensive price. So if you only have time to go to one store in a given week, you know you will be shopping at the store with the lowest prices in your area.

An example of a price book to compare grocery store prices. This will help you save money at the grocery stores!

An example of a price book to compare grocery store prices.

My Price Book Experiment

To show you how large the current difference in pricing can be, I took a few hours on Friday and went to three stores in my area to compare prices. Although I consider myself a savvy shopper, I was quite surprised at the difference in prices between these three stores. I did this when we first moved to town a few years ago, and so have been shopping in the least expensive store, and shopping the other stores for sales. But my price book is messy so I started a new one giving examples of just a partial list of items I buy regularly.

In my area, there are three grocery stores that are located within five minutes of each other: A Walmart Superstore, Kroger, and Ingles.

I wrote down a list of approximately 25 items that we use regularly in our household. Since there are just two of us in our home, we probably use fewer products than a family with children or pets so if you have a larger family than just two, you will probably have more products and are spending more money on your weekly groceries than we do.

Please keep that in mind when you see the results. If you have children, you will be spending/saving more money than we do since you will need more items to feed and care for a growing family.

Would you rather pay $1.48 (Walmart), $1.79 (Kroger) or $2.78 (Ingles) for this same jar of spaghetti sauce? A price book helps you discover the least expensive prices so youc an save money on groceries!

Would you rather pay $1.48 (Walmart), $1.79 (Kroger) or $2.78 (Ingles) for this same jar of spaghetti sauce?

My Comparison Shopping Items

Here are the results of my creating a price book to compare grocery prices:

Item                                                    Walmart Price                       Kroger Price                              Ingles Price

  1. Tide 100 oz.                                    $10.77                                   $11.99                                       $16.88
  2. Activia Greek Yogurt 4 pk.              $3.47                                    $3.99                                        $4.48
  3. Florida’s Natural Orange Juice       $2.94                                    $3.49                                        $4.18
  4. Crest Toothpaste 6 oz.                    $1.96                                    $2.19                                         $2.68
  5. Colgate Toothpaste 6 oz.                 $1.60                                    $1.89                                         $2.68
  6. 2 Liter Bottle of Coke                     $1.60                                    $1.79                                         $1.98
  7. Progresso Chicken Soup                   $1.58                                    $1.67                                         $2.48
  8. V-8 Juice 64 oz.                              $3.43                                    $3.99                                        $3.48
  9. Pantene Shampoo 12.6 oz.                $3.84                                    $4.19                                        $4.98
  10. Ken’s Honey Mustard Dressing/Dip $2.98                                    $4.79                                        $4.78
  11. 1 Lemon                                            50 cents                                79 cents                                    88 cents
  12. 1 Head of Lettuce                            98 cents                                99 cents                                    $1.68
  13. 10 lb. bag of Russett Potatoes         $3.99                                    $3.99                                         $4.98
  14. Pillsbury Brownie Mix                       $1.98                                    $2.19                                          $1.58
  15. Ragu Spaghetti Sauce                      $1.48                                    $1.79                                          $2.78
  16. Meuller’s Angel Hair Pasta              $1.38                                     $1.49                                          $1.98
  17. Belvita Breakfast Cookies                $2.98                                     $3.69                                         $3.81
  18. Smart Balance  Spread                    $2.78                                     $2.99                                         $3.48
  19. Store Brand Large Eggs                  $1.68                                      $1.69                                          $1.69
  20. Store Brand Butter                         $2.56                                     $2.79                                          $4.48
  21. Arnold Multigrain Bread                  $2.96                                     $3.29                                          $4.29
  22. Pillsbury Ref. Pie Crust                    $2.50                                     $3.19                                           $2.98
  23. Eagle Brand Sweetened Milk           $1.64                                      $2.59                                           $2.58
  24. Carnation Evap. Milk                        $1.00                                      $1.59                                           $1.98
  25. Bayer Baby Aspirin 120 ct               $6.36                                     $6.39                                           $8.98

Total Amount:             Walmart: $68.94              Kroger: $79.43                  Ingles: $96.75

Would you rather pay $3.47 (Walmart), $3.99 (Kroger) or $4.48 Ingles) for this 4 pack of Activia

Would you rather pay $3.47 (Walmart), $3.99 (Kroger) or $4.48 Ingles) for this 4 pack of Activia yogurt?

Price Differences Between 3 Stores

The difference between shopping at the least expensive store on my list and the second least expensive is $10.49 each week. If you did this each week for one year, you would be spending an extra $545.48! Now, in this case, that store is Kroger and if you use gas points and get gas at Kroger you will get a small amount of that back in gas points ( you get 1 point for every dollar spent, and for every 100 points you get 10 cents off a gallon the next time you get gas). But we are still talking about a difference of at least $500!

What I Could Spend $500 on Besides Groceries

There are a lot better things I can think of to spend $500 on than giving it to a grocery store! An extra $500 in my budget could get me:

  • 5 nice dinners out with my husband
  • 1 round-trip plane ticket to visit my relatives in Connecticut
  • 3 nights in a hotel on a road trip
  • 1 nice nest egg in my bank account for emergencies

What I could Spend $1,446.12 on Besides Groceries

Now, if I shopped at the most expensive store instead of the least expensive store, I would be spending $27.81 more each week. That doesn’t sound like all that much but over the course of one year would add up to $1,446.12! Again, there are many more things I would rather do with that money than give it to a grocery store. That extra $1,446.12 in my budget would get me:

  • 14 nice dinners out with my husband (more than 1 a month)
  • 3 round-trip plane tickets to visit my relatives in Connecticut
  • 9 nights in a hotel on a road trip
  • 1 seven-night cruise to the Caribbean
  • 1 really nice nest egg for emergencies

You may think I am exaggerating about that cruise but seriously, I just looked this one up. Smartcruiser is offering a 7-night cruise in a balcony room on either the Regal Princess or Royal Caribbean’s Adventure of the Seas for $839 per person. When you include taxes and tips, that $1,446.12 that you gave Ingles in extra grocery money could pay for a one week cruise! Seriously, would you rather give your money to a grocery store or use it to go on a nice warm cruise or some other vacation???

The money you save on groceries may even be enough to send you on a cruise vacation!

The money you save on groceries may even be enough to send you on a cruise vacation!

 

The Advantage of Keeping a Price Book

The purpose of this post is just to show you how much money you can save on groceries if you keep a price list and know the prices at your local stores. It’s important to update your price book and monthly is good, even every six months is helpful to check on the standard price of items you purchase regularly. Not everyone has the time to do this, especially if you work full time and have a family. But creating a price book even once, and updating it annually will help save you money.

Now you may not think this list was realistic because maybe you purchase store brand items every week, and never buy brand name items. This was only a sampling of items that we use in our household. I try to buy the least expensive item I can as long as we like the product. And I do use many brand name items because I have coupons for them which makes it less expensive than the store brand.

I actually got prices on many other items but had to cross them off the list because all three stores either didn’t carry the same size/brand and it wouldn’t work for this example. But this price book will work even if you only use store brand items. The important thing is to know which store carries items that you buy at the least expensive prices.

In the examples above, I used the three stores that are most local to me. This doesn’t mean I am promoting that everyone shop at Walmart, or not to shop at Ingles. When my husband heard the results of my experience creating this price book, he asked me why anyone would shop at Ingles. I told him there are many reasons including:

  • because they have never compared prices between stores
  • because they like the store and know where everything is
  • because they are comfortable there and don’t want to learn a new store

But in the interest of saving money, I would much rather shop at the least expensive store for items I need that aren’t on sale in a given week, and then shop for just the sale items at the other stores.

So, there you have it my friends: the importance of creating a price book so you know for sure which stores in your area have the best prices on items you buy for yourself/family on a regular basis.

If you are interested in creating your own price book to compare the cost of groceries in your local area, continue reading below.

How to Create a Price Book

Creating a price book is fairly easy. All you need is a notebook, a pen, and approximately one hour for each store you would consider grocery shopping at in your area. If you live in a town that only has two stores grocery stores in which to shop, then it is fairly simple. A town with 3 or more stores will require more time.

When considering which stores to shop in, you also must consider how much gas it will cost to go there. If there are three stores within a short radius of each other, those would probably make the most sense to shop at and check prices at, rather than two in town and one 45 minutes away.

Step 1

Take an ordinary wire-bound notebook with college ruled pages as you can get more items on each page. You can usually get these notebooks for less than a quarter during back to school days in August and September so I always stock up.

Step 2

Open the notebook up to the second page so you have two clean pages to work with. On the left write the word Item, then make a column for each store you want o go to. Using a ruler keeps things in straighter lines but that’s not really necessary unless you have three or more stores. Leave the larghest space in the item column so youc an write the size next to the item.

Item                                  Walmart                        Kroger                     Ingles                              Publix

Step 3

Then go through each of your cupboards in your kitchen, bathroom and cleaning closet and write down on a separate piece of paper all the names of items that you would purchase regularly.

Step 4

It’s best to keep the same types of products in the same area on your list so that when you go to the stores to write down the prices, you will find the items you need prices for all together and aren’t going from the produce department to the laundry detergent area to the paper goods area.

For instance, produce may be the first area you come to in most stores so you would have that as the first area in your price book:

Apples

Bananas

Oranges

Cucumbers

Lettuce

Mushrooms

Onions

Potatoes (5 lbs.)

Spinach

Tomatoes

Next could be health and beauty items:

Dial soap bars (8 pk)

Crest toothpaste (6 oz.)

Edge shaving cream

Neutrogena bar soap

Oil of Olay Moisturizer

Pantene shampoo (12.6oz.)

Secret Deodorant (1.7 oz)

Then grocery items

Bumble Bee Tuna (6 oz.)

Sugar

Flour

Campbell’s Crm, of Mush. soup

Progresso Soup

Cheerios

Quaker Oatmeal

Ken’s It. Salad Dressing (8 oz.)

Lay’s Potato Chips

Ritz crackers (20 oz.)

Cleaning & Laundry

Comet

Scrubbing Bubbles

409 Spray

Windex

Bounce dryer sheets (80 ct)

Tide Det. (100 oz.)

Step 5

At each store, walk around to every department and write down the price of the item, including the ounces or pounds. You should do this on the same day to get the base price of that day.

To do this correctly, you will need to plan a day to just do price checking. If you do plan it on your regular grocery shopping day, and you need to grocery shop, go to the store you think is the least expensive last so you can get your shopping done after recording your prices and your food won’t go bad as you head to other stores for price checks.

Step 6

Keep the price book updated in case prices change.

How often you update your price book is up to you, but knowing your prices can really help you save money on groceries.

Here’s an example:

I know that I can get one of my husband’s favorite snacks at Walmart for $1.50. Because of my price book, I know that is the least expensive price in my area for these Harvest Snaps snapeas. But I also know that Ollie’s Bargain Outlet sells the same item for $1.29. I also know that a 12.6 oz. bottle of Pantene shampoo costs $3.84 at the least expensive store in my area. And at Ollie’s Bargain Outlet it costs $2.99. If I have a coupon for one of these items, I can sometimes get it cheaper at my local store because Ollie’s does not accept coupons, but without a coupon, Ollie’s has the best price.

The closest Ollie’s to me is about 40 minutes away so in terms of gas, it wouldn’t make sense (or cents!) to go to Ollie’s every week to buy these items. But when I am at Ollie’s during my adventures at nearby thrift stores, I stock up on a few bags of these peas, and the shampoo if I need it.

Knowing prices helps you save money on groceries!

Knowing prices helps you save money on groceries!

 

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8 Ways to Save Money on Groceries Without Using Coupons

I am a huge fan of using coupons to save money on groceries. In fact, when I lived in Connecticut, I used to teach classes on saving money with coupons. If you are someone who loves using coupons and would like some extra tips, I added a link to an article I wrote about saving money with coupons at the bottom of this article.

But I also know there are many people who find the whole coupon thing too time-consuming and don’t use them. This article is for you so please keep reading!

Below are my top eight tips for saving money without using coupons.

  1. Check out the Sales at all of the Stores you Plan to Shop at Before you Leave your House

Who wants to pay full price for an item when you can get it at a discount? Certainly not me, and hopefully not you. If you purchase the Sunday paper, go over all of the sales fliers and make a list of what you want to buy before you go to the store. Being organized helps you save money at the grocery store because you are not aimlessly wandering around looking for things you might need.

If you don’t buy the Sunday paper, go online and check out the weekly store flyer (s) and make your list from that so you will be prepared.

And to save money: stick to your list!

2) Buy Items Only When They Are on Sale

If you make a habit of purchasing items at the grocery store only when they are on sale, you will find that you never have to pay full price for most of what goes in your grocery cart! Now, this is not always true for perishable items that you can’t freeze well, such as produce. But for the most part, if you buy items only when they are on sale, you will save money.

3) Stock Up

This is true for coupon users as well, but it you can purchase enough products when they are on sale to tide you over to the next sale, then you will have cupboards full of items that you never paid full price for.

Example: The IGA near my home had Coke on sale for 4 for $4.44 this week. My husband drinks Coke and sometimes it is hard to find it on sale. Without a sale, Coke is usually $1.59 to $1.69. So, knowing that there should be another sale on Coke SOMEWHERE near me in the next 8 weeks, we purchase enough to get us through 8

IMPORTANT: Did you know if there is a sale on something where you get 4 for $4.44, or 2 for $5.00, etc. you usually don’t have to buy the number they suggest??? Many people get caught by this. Unless the specific sale signage says,”Must buy 4 or 2″ to get that price, you can buy 1 single item and still get the sale price. Or in the case of 4 in a sale, you can buy 2 or 3 if you want.

The store advertises it that way to trick consumers into thinking they HAVE to buy that many in order to get that price. They are sneaky that way because it brings in more money for them. Make sure you check with the cashier or store manager if you have any doubts, but grocery stores rake in a lot of extra money by suggesting a certain number of items that consumers think they have to buy.

4) Plan Your Menus Around What’s on Sale

I once read a statistic that said you could save 30% off of your grocery bill each week just by planning your weekly meals based on what’s on sale at the grocery stores.

For instance, if you were planning a beef roast for your family one week, but can’t find it on sale, buy another form of beef instead that you can find on sale. Thinking of serving lamb chops but find a sale on pork chops that week? You will save money if you buy what’s on sale and serve that instead.

The same holds true for other products that would go with your main dish…if you want a salad, see which is less expensive: romaine lettuce or head lettuce. How about tomatoes: is there a sale on a certain kind? Planning for mashed potatoes? Check sales on Idaho, Red or Yukon Gold. Every penny you can save really adds up when you get to the checkout lane.

5) Be Willing to Shop at A Few Stores Instead of Just One

I know this is hard for many people, but each week the different stores in your town have different sales. By being willing to check out the sales at more than one store and shop in two or more each week for their sale items, you will save money.

You don’t want to spend a lot of extra money on gas though because that would defeat the purpose of saving money on your groceries. So this will only work in areas where there is more than one grocery store to choose from.

If you do live in a town where shopping us limited, but there is a certain store with something you use on your way to work, or on the way to drop your child off at a dance class or swimming lessons, use that trip to stop and grab the sale item(s) so that you aren’t going out of your way.

6) Shop at the Stores That have the Least Expensive Prices on Items You Buy if you Run Out

The easiest way to do this is to make a price notebook of things you usually buy and write down the price the item usually sells for at each store when it is not on sale. Your price notebook page could look like this:

Item                                                   Stop & Shop           Walmart          Shop Rite    Big Y

Maxwell House Coffee 24 oz.                 $6.77                     $5.98              $6.24         $6.99

Knorr Noodles and Sauce                       $1.25                      $1.00               $1.00         $1.39

Secret Deodorant   1.7 oz.                     $2.09                     $1.74               $1.79         $2.19

Soft Soap Liquid Soap  7.5 oz.              $1.49                         $.99              $1.29         $1.59

The list should continue like this for every item you buy on a regular basis. Then, on the weeks you run out of a certain item, you know the store that carries that item for the least amount of money and you can go there to purchase it or add it to your list when you shop there for sales if that item isn’t on sale that week anywhere else. This list should be updated every six months.

7) Check the Markdown Shelves

Most supermarkets and Walmart Superstores have a markdown shelf or bin. You can get amazing deals by getting in the habit of checking them every time you shop. Stopping by the markdown area every time you shop will save you money, especially on items like bread, pastries and grocery items that will store well or can be frozen.

8) Don’t Shop with Your Credit Card

Carrying cash and using only cash to shop for your groceries will keep you within your budget better than if you pay with a credit card. Paying with credit, especially if you have a lot of credit available on your credit card, means you won’t be all that concerned about how much money you will spend at the store. So, that beautiful looking chocolate cake with chocolate chips on it may find its way into your cart.

But paying with a limited amount of cash, and preferably just enough to cover your groceries will keep you focused on your goal. You won’t be as tempted to purchase that cake, or any one of a number of extra goodies if you pay only with cash and don’t want to be embarrassed by not having enough when you get to the checkout lane.

Tips on how to Save Money with Coupons…

Hopefully, these tips will help you rethink your grocery shopping strategy and save money at the grocery store. If you use coupons or would like to start, here’s an article that will help you with that:

https://toughnickel.com/frugal-living/Save-Money-With-Coupons-15-Tips-From-The-Coupon-Lady

Do you have any other ideas on how to save at the grocery store without using coupons? Please leave a comment below.

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