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Saving Money with Grocery Lists and Price Books
For us, food is the biggest monthly expense after housing. While we don’t want to spend a huge amount, when we cut costs we focus on items we don’t notice a huge difference between competitors (like rice). If the quality and taste are the same, store brands are our preference. We will spend money for things we really enjoy though and won’t skimp on quality.
How to Make a Price Book
People hear ‘price book’ and typically think it’s overly tedious and don’t think it’s time well spent. I disagree and have found that it can help you with buying your staple items.
Having a price book isn’t complicated. Here are a few steps to get you started:
- Write a list of the staples that you get every shopping trip, like meats, bread, juice, produce, snack ,etc.
- Visit your normal grocery stores and record the price and the size amount for each item.
- You can load up the data on a spreadsheet and figure out who has the deal bycomparing unit prices (apples to aples comparison).
- Base your shopping trips on the price book guide on who has the best value for certain products.
- As a comparison, sign up for MVP/VIP etc emails from the grocery stores to see if any sales are on your grocery and if they are a better deal than the price book listings.
You’ll discover trends on certain items and where you’ll most likely find the best deal. Costco and Wal-Mart can have good deals on dry foods that last for a bit. For our more time sensitive foods, we tend to go to Wal-Mart or take advantage of Harris Teeter’sVIP specials.
I try to check the prices as we visit, but I need to update the price book soon. Using a price book along with paper and printable online grocery coupons can drastically cut down your bills.
Planning Your Grocery Shopping
We’re not crazy about grocery shopping, so we try to make this easy. We use Costco for our bulk items, dry goods, and juices. Wal-Mart typically has the cheapest prices on some more perishable items that we eat. We recently had a Trader Joe’s open up in our new place and have visited there for some items.
How do we organize our shopping?
We keep a white board and make a rudimentary shopping list. This seems really elementary, but it is the most important step. Can’t figure how to make a good food list? Try working backwards. Think of the meals you like to have this month. Do you like spaghetti, chicken wings, or tacos? Break the meals down until you have a list of items (ie spaghetti sauce). A shopping list also helps in keeping you from overspending.
By the way, you should also try Supercook to help you come up with some meal ideas. With what you have in your pantry, you may have some options for planning your meals.
Buy meat in bulk and freeze. We try to get a good amount of meat on sale, divide it up for several meals, and then freeze it. That tip drops the cost per pound down. When we get home, for example, I have broken down ground beef into several bags for meatloaf, spaghetti, tacos, hamburger helper, etc.
Take advantage of sales that you’d actually buy without the sale. Sometimes I want to buy something because it’s on sale. It’s not something that we use a lot or even at all. When you do that you’re not really saving money, you’re spending more. It’s not bad if you do this once a shopping trip if you want to expand your menu, but if you’re on a tight budget, try to minimize this.
Sample Grocery List
Here are some items that we buy regularly. Depending on the season, we’ll add certain things.
Meats (I buy the big packs and split them up into 6-8 meal portions)
- Ground Beef
- Pork Chops (Costco has some thicker cuts which work well with stir-fry)
- Fish (Tilapia, Tuna, Salmon) and Crab Meat (special occasions)
- Pizzas (I love their 3 pack thin crust pizza.)
Meats (I buy the big packs and split them up into 4-6 meal portions)
- Ground Beef
- Pork Shoulder for Roast
- Lunch Meats (Honey Ham and Roast Beef)
- 8 Bags of Different Stir-frys (I try to grab them when they’re on sale, if not, I’ll go to Costco)
- Leafy Spinach
- French Style Green Beans
- Pizza (Freschetta Pizza is my favorite here)
- 100% Juices (Cranberry, Grape, Apple, etc)
- What’s on Sale Juices (Sometimes we find some good deals) This week we got Pineapple Juice.
- Simply Limeade/Lemonade
- Ice Cream
- Cheese (Cheddar mainly for chili and potatoes)
- Bag Salads
- Red Potatoes
- Beans (Black, Red, Pink, Pigeon)
- Soups and Broths
What does your grocery list look like? Where do you get your groceries? How do you create your shopping list? How often do you shop?
Photo Credit: iboy_daniel