Creating a Grocery Price Book for Smarter Shopping on a Budget

Until a month ago I had no idea what a price book was. My husband is a chef (score!) and he always knows what a good price for food is, but he’s not the one who regularly goes grocery shopping. I am. I can never remember what I’ve paid for chicken breast or a gallon of milk but I figured if I want the best price for an item I need a reference. Time for a price book.

What exactly is a price book?

A price book is a physical or digital spreadsheet detailing your regular purchases. It lists the lowest price you’ve ever paid for an item, the brand, the date, where you bought it, and most importantly the PRICE PER UNIT.  I use my price book for food items, toiletries, cleaning supplies and any other types of items I buy regularly. Diapers anyone??

Why a price book?

A price book is a tool/reference to be used when you go grocery shopping to help recognize the lowest price.  It tells you when to buy that item in bulk, postpone purchasing, or buy a minimal amount of the item until it goes on sale.

How do I make a price book?

  • Choose your method: a physical notebook or digital.I’m a digital kind of gal- I use my iPhone for everything and I know I’ll always have it with me when I go shopping. I forget my physical grocery every single time I go to the store so having it on my phone works best for me. There are price book apps available, so feel free to look around and see what works best for you. The ones a saw cost a few bucks but I wasnt stoked on their features. I like a customizable spreadsheet so I downloaded the Google Sheets app and made my own.  If using a physical notebook I’d recommend doing everything in pencil so you can erase old info and update it with the new. On the top of each page label it with different categories for easy flipping (I.e. “Dairy”, “Meats”, “Canned Goods” etc). Then across the first line of each page create column headers: “Product” “Brand” “Quantity” “Unit” “Price” “Price Per Unit” “Date” and “Store”. If using a digital method, check out a few apps available out there and see if one suits your style or download Google Sheets. I like Google Sheets because I can work on it on my desktop or phone and it saves immediately. No hassle. Below is a small example of my Price Book. It’s constantly under construction as any price book should be.

 

  • Collect your old receipts. Dig through your purses and wallets, the floors of your car, old grocery bags etc. The more info you have for your price book the better- but don’t worry too much if you can’t find any. If you have the time (and I don’t when I’m going grocery shopping with an 18MO) you can go down the aisles of the stores you frequent and input the info there. I’m about saving time and just getting S$?% done quickly so if you can do this then more power to ya!

 

  • Input the info you collected into your price book. I personally like to only record the lowest price I’ve paid for a specific item- not EVERY price I’ve ever paid for an item. I don’t need a record of when I overspent, I just want a record of what I WANT to be paying for strawberries. If I paid $3.00/lb at Costco in December but $2.00/lb in January at Safeway I will only keep the $2.00/lb at Safeway entry in my book. Make sense? But everyone has their own methods- this is just what I like to do (hence using a pencil if you’re using a physical notebook). It’s important to calculate the Price Per Unit- how much you paid per pound or ounce or per specific item. This is how you will know you’re getting the best price especially since not everything comes in consistent sizes. If I paid $6.73 for 3.2 lbs of pork loin I want to record this but what I want to know is what did I pay per pound. Not every pork loin comes in 3.2lbs and not every can of tomato sauce comes in 14oz cans so it’s important to break the items down to the simplest measurement for the best method of comparison.

 

  • Start Using Your Pricebook: Strategy is EVERYTHING! Most grocery store items go on sale cyclically, meaning every 6, 8 or 12 weeks most grocery store items will be discounted. The real key is recognizing when those sale cycles are so you can plan your purchases ahead. For example if you notice the lowest price for Refried Beans hits every 12 weeks and you know you use 2 cans of Refried Beans every week, then when the sale hits you should buy 24 cans of Refried Beans to hold you over until the price drops again in 12 weeks. If you use coupons, this is the time to use them for even lower prices. WIN!!

If you’re between sales cycles, just buy the minimal amount you need. Maybe it’s 1 can of Refried Beans until you absolutely need them again, or maybe you skip the Refried Beans until it’s on sale again.  Or find an alternative like Black Beans or beans in a bag. Some items I can’t stock up on, like gallons of milk, but by using my price book I can see the lowest price paid and possibIy go to a different store. FoodMaxx sells a gallon of milk for $3.47 but Costco sells 2 gallons for $3.59. Costco wins but ONLY if I can purchase other items there as well. If I’m going to 10 different stores for my grocery items then I can guarantee I’m not saving any money because I’m spending it on gas.

Also, compare frozen fruits and vegetables to fresh.  Depending, fresh produce can be frozen or it may be cheaper to buy the fresh stuff. Bell peppers were recently $.23 so I bought a ton, diced them up and froze what I knew I couldn’t use. I even made some stuffed bell peppers with ground turkey and quinoa and froze those.  And for more savings check out the Ibotta app- get money back for your every day purchases just by taking a picture of your receipts.

*At this point, you can start calculating the exact cost of your meals*

 

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This Article Has 2 Comments
  1. Love this post! I do something very similar, and I have expanded this idea to include meals and their ingredients and exactly what each meal can cost at the lowest price! I also list our 4 most shopped at stores so I can keep it all on one list. Love that I’m not alone in doing something like this! Thanks for sharing your ideas and methods!

    • Silicon SAHM says:

      Thank you so much! Love that you’ve expanded it to include meals! I’d love to do something like that one day- our grocery bill can be all over the place (my husband is a chef so sometimes he brings meals/food home and sometimes he doesn’t so there’s no consistency- but hey I’m not complaining!!) This method has really helped us out, glad to hear that something similar is working well for you too!

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