Thursday, January 14, 2010

Frugal Friday - Make a price book

I recently purchased the book Family Feasts for $75 a Week by Mary Ostyn to help me find ways to cut my grocery bill. She is a mother of 10 children, so she has some experience in pinching pennies. She also has a blog, Owlhaven, where she shares many of the tips and recipes in the book, but I've found it convenient to have everything in book form.

One of her strongest recommendations to start a price book. I've thought about doing a price book in the past, but talked myself out of it by telling myself I shopped enough to know prices. But Ms. Ostyn makes some good arguments for documenting prices, so I gave in and tried it.

The challenge is to start with the 20 things you buy most often - milk, bread, juice, meat, pasta, etc. Make a chart and visit the grocery stores in your area. Write down the prices of your oft-purchased items and compare. We're not talking about sale prices, just the regular price you would pay on any given day.

So far I've compared prices at WalMart, Target (not a Super Target, but with a decent food section), Winn-Dixie and a locally owned store called Big B's. I still have to visit another small local store and Aldi. Aldi is the farthest away from me, so it might be awhile before I get a chance to shop there.

Talk about an eye-opener! I've shopped at our Super WalMart for years and just assumed I was paying less for everything. Isn't that what they advertise? Then I visited Big B's and saw how much I was overpaying on some things at WalMart. And this little store is only 3 miles from my house. WalMart is 7 miles away. While it's true that Big B's didn't have a big selection, I see how I could easily save $10-20 a week on the basics. I can make fewer trips to WalMart for the things I can't find at Big B's. Target also had lower prices on some items.

Winn-Dixie was the most expensive on almost everything. I do watch their weekly sales and can sometimes find good deals, but generally their prices are higher. But just two blocks from my house, it is the most conveniently located store.

Here's a look at what my price books looks like right now.

I wrote down the 20 items, then the brand, the price, then calculated the price per unit. I also made a note of the date so I can see later on if prices increase. And since they always do, I'll be able to tell by how much.

When I've finished collecting my data (doesn't that sound all scientific and stuff?), I'll make a master list of each item and the price at each store so I can tell at a glance which is the best price. Then I can make my shopping trips more efficient and frugal. As I purchase items not already on the list, I'll add them too.

For more frugal ideas, visit Life as Mom's Frugal Friday.


  1. Great post! I've always wanted to do a pricebook. You might just motivate me to! :)

    Stephanie @ Coupon Saving Game

  2. I recently made a new price book and you are so right, it is an eye-opener! I was surprised that Target is pretty much even with Walmart as being cheapest around here (Long Island), but was stunned at how much cheaper it was than the grocery store. Knowing what I'd pay for something there helps me to see if I'm getting a good deal at the grocery if something is on sale (and I'm lucky enough to have a coupon.) You just can't trust it when any store swears they have the lowest prices--that is often more opinion (theirs) than fact!

  3. I want to do this! I just don't have much extra time to check out different stores. I mostly just go to Super Target. I have compared their prices to the other big chain grocery store here and they beat them almost every time. But your post does make me wonder about a couple of the smaller grocery stores. Thanks for the great tips!