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How I Tame High Food Costs with a Grocery Price Book

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Are you struggling to buy the same amount of groceries on the same income as just a few months ago? A grocery price book may be the solution.

It feels like every time I walk unprepared into a store these days, I walk out with fewer groceries and a lot less money.

Notice I said unprepared. When I grab my price book or review it before I go shopping, I’ll walk out with more money in my pocket and sometimes more groceries, too.

What’s a Grocery Price Book?

A grocery price book is a tracker where you record the prices of items you buy most often. It helps you recognize price trends so you know when to stock up. You also outsmart those “sales” that aren’t really sales.

How to Make One

There’s nothing complicated about this system: you pick a format, categorize items, and jot down key details during your shopping trips or from the receipts.

Soon, you’ll recognize which stores charge more than the others for the same thing, and how often sales happen at each store.

The trick is waiting for prices to drop then stocking up on enough to get you through to the next round of sales. But, let’s go over it in a bit more detail.

Choose Your Format

The first step to creating your own book to compare grocery prices is deciding the format you want to use.

Digital: You track prices in a spreadsheet or table saved to your phone. This is portable and convenient, but it can be annoying in a crowded store.

Paper: You use a notebook or the free price tracker further down to track your usual items then update it after every shopping trip. 

I’ve gone back and forth using both methods but always wind up going back to the paper version. Mostly, that’s because I’m old.

Also, I order groceries through a phone app for pickup, and switching between the shopping app and the spreadsheet app drove me up the wall.

What to Track?

Your grocery price book should include the name of an item, the brand if applicable, the store where you saw it, the date you saw it, and the price they charged that day.

It’s also good to track the size or the per unit cost, since some stores routinely offer items in sizes the others don’t carry which makes them look more affordable even when they’re not. 

Organizing for Price Comparisons

The whole idea here is to make it simple for you to see there’s a good deal at a store on the things your family routinely buys.

For that to happen, your grocery price book needs to be convenient for you. So, organize your book to reflect how you think. Some people organize theirs by store, others by product. You know your brain best.

Using A Grocery Price Book

To stretch your budget with your grocery price book, start collecting data and write down prices.

Use this information to compare current and past prices at the same store and against what other stores are charging for the same item. Then you’ll know where and when to shop for the best deals.

Gathering Data

When you first set up your price book, go through your wallet and purse to look for old receipts. Enter them into your book oldest to newest, and record latest store flyer prices, too. This creates a baseline that you’ll use for price comparisons.

Recording Prices

Every time you come home from a shopping trip, use your receipt to update your book. Do the same with store flyers if you have time. The more current your data is, the better prepared you are to recognize good deals.

This is probably the most tedious part of maintaining a grocery price book but, also, it’s the entire point.

Planning Your Shopping

If you make a list but don’t want to carry your book with you, note the high and low prices next to each item on your list. At the store, you can see how the current price falls on the sales cycle.

If you order for pickup like I do, you can take your time comparing the current price against the historical trend. This helps you spot something that’s not on sale this week but probably will be soon. Don’t stock up too early.

Pro Tip

For maximum savings, hold on to coupons and use them to stock up when things are at the lowest price. A fifty-cent off coupon on a rock-bottom price will leave you with more money in your pocket than when it’s applied to it’s peak cost.

How I Fill Out Mine

1. Create categories: My book is in categories: produce, canned goods, boxed goods, meats, dairy, frozen, household, pets, and personal. 

2. One item per page: Within each category, I keep a different page for each item. For example, egg prices on one page, ground turkey on another, steak on its own page—you get the idea. 

3. Compare prices: When I’m sitting down to order groceries, I’ll check the price on the app against my book. If it’s a good deal, I stock up.

4. Compare stores: Occasionally, I spot a deal at a store known for higher prices. This might mean hitting more than one store to snag such bargains. So, I’ll buy enough to get us to the next sales cycle or to reach the minimum for free pick-up.

Either way, I win the grocery roulette by scoring the best price thanks to my notes.

Grab the Free Grocery Price Book Tracking Sheet

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