Chances are you comparison shop. When you need a new car, washer, computer– you don’t just run out and buy it, you shop around! Shopping for groceries doesn’t have to be any different. The point is to maximize the value, but paying out as little money as you can manage. With something like a computer, you can get online and within an hour have a pretty extensive list and research. With groceries, it’s a little different. If you want to comparison shop groceries, you’ll need a price book!
What is a Grocery Price Book?
Simply put–a price book is a way for you to track what you are paying for different types of groceries. If you are like me, you are shopping at multiple stores a week buying food, toiletries, household items and more. A price book is a convenient way to reference how much a particular item costs across multiple stores.
Why do you need a price book?
A price book, quickly allows you to see if you are paying the absolute best price for an item.
Have you ever wondered how you can fine-tune your grocery budget even more?? Once this is set up, this is a pretty simple way to plan out your meals, grocery list and evaluate the best use of your grocery budget dollars.
How do you set up a price book?
There are a couple of options when it comes to setting up a price book. I’ll be honest, when you are starting from scratch, it’ll take a bit of time, but once you’ve got it set up– it’s simply a matter of periodically updating.
Option 1: Good ole pen and paper. You can carry a notebook around with you and write down items, prices, brands, price per/unit as you go.
Option 2: A google docs spreadsheet. Again, you can add and edit as you go from your phone, but it’s in electronic copy. I love this version because you can sort it a bunch of different ways and it stays nice and neat.
I’ve put together a Price book Excel template if you want to jump in with making your own price books ASAP.
Option 3: Keep your receipts and as you make purchases, when you get home, you can add to your spreadsheet or notebook paper.
If you aren’t keeping your receipts anyway, you are leaving money on the table!! Check out Ibotta* and Checkout51. You can upload your receipt and earn cash back on certain items that you purchased! You should check what items are earning cash back prior to going to the store to see if anything you need would qualify.
How do I Set Up a Price Book Spreadsheet?
In either Excel or Google Docs, I’d set up columns with the following headings:
–Category: It makes it easier to search and organize data in the event your spreadsheet becomes incredibly large. For example, I have different categories on different tabs in my excel document.
–Date: the date of the purchase
–Item: the item you are price comparing
–Store: the store where you are purchasing the item
–Size: you can often find different size containers for items– like cereal for example. You want to make sure you are comparing apples to apples
–Brand: the brand of the item you are purchasing
–Price: the price of the item. Also, if the item is on sale at the time of purchase, I make sure to mark it with an asterisk so I know that it’s not the regular price.
–Price per unit: how much the item’s price breaks down. i.e. price per ounce so if you are comparing a larger and smaller can of the same item, you can see which one is actually cheaper.
If spreadsheets aren’t your thing, I’ve also created an easy to use Price Book Printable.
What items go into my price book?
I like to track the items I’m buying really frequently. If I’m buying a one-off can of cranberries for Thanksgiving, I don’t clog up my spreadsheet with those. The only way a price book is effective is if it stays current. If you are only buying cranberries once a year, chances are you aren’t updating it all that frequently.
Items I’m tracking: Milk, bread, eggs, canned tomatoes, cheese, ground beef, chicken breasts, bananas, oranges, sandwich meat, etc.
You’ve got your book/spreadsheet set up, now what?
You take a week or two and fill everything in. I don’t make any special trips to check up on prices, just when I find myself there, I make sure to make a note.
When you have your sheet filled with prices, I HIGHLIGHT the lowest priced item along with where I’m able to find it. This is my quick way to see what I’m buying and from where.
What about weekly sales?
Many grocery stores have circulars that will show you whats on sale that week. A few of my favorite ways to check the circulars are:
I like to check these while I’m doing my meal prep and making my grocery list, just to make sure there’s not something that I’m buying that’s on sale that week and that would beat my price book low price.
If you are looking for more ways to save money, check out my post on Frugal Living Ideas and Rocking Your Grocery Budget Every Month!
Price books don’t have to be fancy. They don’t need to be complicated. They just need to be clear and useful for you. You’ll be surprised once you have everything in place how quickly you’ll be able to get your grocery lists in order and how much money you’ll save over the course of the month.
I’d love to hear how this works for you. Please comment below!!