A blog about spending wisely in your twenties, with advice on everything from cooking to saving money on gas; how to teach yourself to save money instead of spending it, traveling without breaking the bank, and much more.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Save a Ton on Food with a Price Book!

In April, I started putting together the beginnings of a price book for grocery shopping. I recorded the lowest price per unit for every item I might need to buy in May at three different stores, two near my house and one near my work. Buy researching prices before I shopped, saved anywhere from 5 cents to over a dollar per unit on nearly every item. My May shopping haul should keep my basics stocked for a month or more.

To make your own, make a list of the items you buy the most often (save your grocery receipts to help figure this out). Make a seperate list for each store you plan to shop at. Record the price of the item, the weight, and the price per unit of weight. For items like bagels, use 'bagel' as the unit of measure. Sometime packaging can be tricky, a 10 pound bag of flour might cost more per pound than buying two 5 pound bags. Buying items based on unit cost rather than total price gets you far more for your money. By the same token, buying TOO much of something because it's cheaper per unit can be a bad idea if you won't use up the item before it expires. Once I gather the data, I use Excel to sort it; first by item, then by unit price.

I did my shopping last week using my price book. I was able to reference it when confronted with a sale price - even though cheese might be 25% off at one store, its everyday price might be still lower than that at another store. If a price went up between my price survey and my actual shopping day, I could use my list to determine whether to go ahead and buy the item or if I should wait and buy it for less at the next store.

The cost in gas was probably negligible, Fresh & Easy and Stater Brothers are less than five miles from my house and Food 4 Less is less than a mile from work. Eventually I'm going to see if the money I save comparison shopping is negated by the gas mileage I use by shopping at three different stores. I've got a sneaking feeling that I'm still saving money.

My impulse buy was three 10 packs of Jalapeno & Cilantro Tortillas at Fresh & Easy. They were marked down and 50% off, making them not too much more than a 30 pack of plain flour tortillas at Food 4 Less. This came out to about a $1 splurge. Even though I bought a slightly more expensive item, my price book told me just exactly how much more I was spending.

The initial gathering of price data for a price book can be a pain in the butt, but once you've gotten it once, you can keep it updated using your grocery receipts. It may seem like a lot of work, but when you make $1400 a month, every little bit counts!

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