Grocery Budget Tips: Tip 14 – Keep a Price Book

Welcome back to the grocery budget series I am in the middle of writing.  In this series, I will share the top 20 ways that I can think of that our large family uses to keep the grocery budget from getting out of line.  To learn more, visit our introduction.  Here is tip 14:

Keep a Price Book: The concept is simple – keep a running list of the prices you have paid or noticed on items you buy regularly.  Track sales.  Over time you can recognize your stores sales cycles, best time of year to purchase items, and prepare for seasonal items to be clearanced.  You can also price compare between stores – if I am shopping at a new store or at a store where I don’t normally purchase an item (for example, I usually purchase my all purpose flour at Sam’s Club instead of Gordon’s because it’s cheaper for a 25lb bag.) When I am at Gordon’s, I glance at the cost of all purpose flour when I walk by, just to make sure it’s still higher than Sam’s, so I know I am still getting a better cost on the all purpose flour at Sam’s.

We tend to buy most of the same items month after month, which makes tracking prices easy. I have small half-sized binder that I have made dividers for, I print off pages that I made to fill the dividers, then copy prices from my receipt onto the pages as they apply.  Depending on the store, your receipt may give the size of the item you have purchased, but if I can’t remember the specific size of an item, I just go find where I put it when we got home and write it down.  Unless prices change a ton, I don’t usually have to do a lot of writing each month.  If the price is still the same, I don’t write anything down.

I track prices each time I shop, for every item I buy.  For oddball items I purchased just to try, I don’t usually track those prices unless I plan to buy it regularly.  Items I may only need once or twice a year, I track in a separate section for oddball stuff that doesn’t need it’s own space in my divided sections.  I keep about a half page dedicated to a single item, so I can track sales or prices at other stores for the same item.  All similar items go in the same divider – all the dairy products I buy, go in a section I titled, “dairy,” and so on.

The things I track include date, store, item, size, price per unit, total cost, note whether it was a sale or not and if it was, what the normal cost it.

When I grocery shop alone, or only with one or two kids, I may take my binder to the store with me and either track as I go, or jot down prices for items I want to compare to later.  If i am curious about the cost of an item not on the list but want to buy it for the following month, I jot down the price for it on a scrap piece of paper so I know how much to budget for it next month.

Grocery Shopping Day is almost an all day affair at our home.  After we spend the day traveling to 3-4 stores, we then come home and unload and put the items away.  Then, I sit down to track prices.  Thank goodness it’s only one day a month due to our once a month shopping.

As we build our farm up more and more, I am hopeful that next year we may need to shop less and less!  Keeping a price book is not for everyone, but if you only have so much to spend and need to get the most bang for your buck, this can help you.  It’s also fun to be able to look back at items you used to buy, and no longer have to (perhaps you will learn to make and can chicken broth instead of buy it, or you grew tomatoes and canned your own sauce so you no longer need to buy it, or you learned to bake your own bread or tortillas, etc, etc.) and see how much you can save with actual dollar amounts.

You can find all sorts of free printable templates for a price book with google if you would like to give it a try.  Check them out!


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