Stores have all kinds of tricks to encourage us to spend more money. One of them is marking items with special “sale” tags or quantity discounts like 3 for $5. The only way to tell if the item is actually a good price is to know what the item usually costs. A price book can help you do that.
Keeping a price book is simple. All you need is a small notebook where you can record the price you pay for commonly purchased items. You can refer to the book to determine if a deal will actually save you money and track which grocery stores tend to have higher and lower prices. A price book can include as many items as you like or just the staples you buy frequently. For example, I keep a list of prices for the items I buy every week like apples, milk, chicken breasts and string cheese. Knowing the usual price for these staple items allows me to spot a good deal really easily and helps me recognize when a deal is actually just a gimmick.
Click out our video below for a simple guide to starting a price book and start saving today!
Christine Hradek is a State Nutrition Specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. She coordinates ISU’s programs which help families with low income make healthy choices with limited food budgets. Christine loves helping families learn to prepare healthy foods, have fun in the kitchen and save money. In her spare time, Christine enjoys cooking, entertaining and cheering on her favorite college football teams with her family and friends.
My objective when going to the grocery store is to spend the least amount of time possible in the store, yet get everything I need, eliminating the need for a special trip later. (Research shows that the more time you spend in the grocery store, the more money you spend.) I usually end up going every week to 10 days, depending on how many meals I am cooking at home. My tips are below:
Go when it is not crowded. It takes less time and the shelves are usually well stocked. Five o’clock at the end of the week is the worst time. Saturdays are also bad. Early morning and late at night are usually good times. My sister goes after line dancing which gets over at 7:30 p.m. The other sister sends her husband with a list at 7:00 a.m. on Sunday morning.
Shop at the same stores. This way you don’t spend time searching. I regularly shop at two different chain stores. One store is less expensive, but doesn’t have everything I buy. I shop there when my other store doesn’t have many items I want on sale.
Make your list according to the layout of the store. That way you just go down the list in order and don’t have to crisscross the store (taking more time, more chance to forget something, and more temptation to buy things you don’t need). I make my list on an envelope and stick any coupons I want to use inside. I write both the item and the price on the list. If it is on sale, I write S. If I have a coupon, I write C. Sometimes I don’t buy the brand on sale or use the coupon because I check the other brands and compare prices on the spot, looking at my list with the price.
If you have tips that work for you, I would love to hear about them. Just hit the comment section and send a note.
Planning meals is important if you want to save money at the grocery store, but most people admit they don’t do it.
I know people who have 10-20 meals that they know their family likes and they just rotate them throughout the month, adding in seasonal foods and specials. Others just buy food when it is on sale and then plan meals based on what they have that needs to be used up or how much time they have. I am in that last bunch. I grocery shop about once a week rotating between two stores that I think have the best prices. When there is a good sale, I stock up. When planning meals, I include at least one food from each food group and sometimes more than one vegetable.