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.
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.
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
- Tide 100 oz. $10.77 $11.99 $16.88
- Activia Greek Yogurt 4 pk. $3.47 $3.99 $4.48
- Florida’s Natural Orange Juice $2.94 $3.49 $4.18
- Crest Toothpaste 6 oz. $1.96 $2.19 $2.68
- Colgate Toothpaste 6 oz. $1.60 $1.89 $2.68
- 2 Liter Bottle of Coke $1.60 $1.79 $1.98
- Progresso Chicken Soup $1.58 $1.67 $2.48
- V-8 Juice 64 oz. $3.43 $3.99 $3.48
- Pantene Shampoo 12.6 oz. $3.84 $4.19 $4.98
- Ken’s Honey Mustard Dressing/Dip $2.98 $4.79 $4.78
- 1 Lemon 50 cents 79 cents 88 cents
- 1 Head of Lettuce 98 cents 99 cents $1.68
- 10 lb. bag of Russett Potatoes $3.99 $3.99 $4.98
- Pillsbury Brownie Mix $1.98 $2.19 $1.58
- Ragu Spaghetti Sauce $1.48 $1.79 $2.78
- Meuller’s Angel Hair Pasta $1.38 $1.49 $1.98
- Belvita Breakfast Cookies $2.98 $3.69 $3.81
- Smart Balance Spread $2.78 $2.99 $3.48
- Store Brand Large Eggs $1.68 $1.69 $1.69
- Store Brand Butter $2.56 $2.79 $4.48
- Arnold Multigrain Bread $2.96 $3.29 $4.29
- Pillsbury Ref. Pie Crust $2.50 $3.19 $2.98
- Eagle Brand Sweetened Milk $1.64 $2.59 $2.58
- Carnation Evap. Milk $1.00 $1.59 $1.98
- Bayer Baby Aspirin 120 ct $6.36 $6.39 $8.98
Total Amount: Walmart: $68.94 Kroger: $79.43 Ingles: $96.75
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 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.
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.
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
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.
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:
Potatoes (5 lbs.)
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.)
Campbell’s Crm, of Mush. soup
Ken’s It. Salad Dressing (8 oz.)
Lay’s Potato Chips
Ritz crackers (20 oz.)
Cleaning & Laundry
Bounce dryer sheets (80 ct)
Tide Det. (100 oz.)
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.
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.
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Thanks for reading and happy saving!