Monday, March 2, 2009

Price Book

Our family of five spends the greatest amount each month in one area: groceries. The cost of food is easily triple our monthly mortgage. Three huge teen boys can and do eat amazing quantities of food. Eating out not an option with our tight budget;we eat almost all meals at home and try to keep convenience food purchasing at a minimum.
The most useful tool I have found to help make the most of my grocery money is a price book. After reading about how useful a price book could be, I finally started mine about 6 months ago. A price book is simply a comparison tool; record of items you most commonly buy, where they were purchased and how much you paid. I began mine in a half size spiral notebook with dividers. I taped an envelope to the inside flap to hold my coupons.
I subdivided the notebook into categories and labeled the tabs: dairy, meat, household, produce, frozen, baked and convenience. After a weekly shopping trip, I sat down at the table and copied the items I purchased along with price. Within two weeks, I began to see signs of the true tool the price book would ultimately become. It was empowering to read a sale sign and take a look at the same item listed in my book, then compare the current price to what I paid earlier. I could immediately know whether it was a good time to purchase.
For example, I frequently see sugar on sale for $1.69, yet my price book shows that I have paid as little as .99 a bag for sugar. Butter can fluctuate as much as $2.00 or more in a week. Because my price book shows butter has cost over $3.00 per pound, when I see it on sale for 1.89 lb, I can stock up and feel that I have hit a true sale price. I like to shop locally and the price book also helps me see when our stores have a great sale.
Although creating the price book may sound time consuming, it is well worth the effort. Remember, you don't have to record every item in the store- you are simply listing those items you most frequently purchase.
I know we have all read about folks who use coupons to their maximum advantage and manage to save hundreds of dollars on groceries. It has been many years since I have encountered a store that offers the double or even triple coupon savings that super coupon uses relied on.
I always look at the coupons that come in the mail, but often the items offered are ones that I wouldn't normally purchase;they are too expensive. I do check once a week on line for coupons for products that are on my grocery list. A good site for checking is They have a huge database- you type in the name of the product and the database will often pull up a printable coupon. If I find something matching an item on my list, I print it out.
I recently had several coupons for 1.00 a name brand box cereal. I found the same cereal on sale for $1.00 a box! When I expressed the thrill of the bargain to one of my teens, he pointed out that you know you are really getting really old when a free box of cereal is your excitement for the week (said while consuming the entire box- the little ingrate).
In contrast to Sunday morning coupons, those generated by stores themselves are often very money saving. Often they advertise “loss leader” items. Loss leader means those items that the store is selling for a loss with the hope that you will buy other products simultaneously. The promotions are a marketing tool. If you can use restraint and purchase only those items offered at loss leader prices, they can be a huge savings.
Here are some websites that can help you create your price book: