Couple Money

Grocery List and Price Books

grocery shopping tips

Tip: Don't shop when you're hungry.

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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:

  1. Write a list of the staples that you get every shopping trip, like meats, bread, juice, produce, snack ,etc.
  2. Visit your normal grocery stores and record the price and the size amount for each item.
  3. You can load up the data on a spreadsheet and figure out who has the deal bycomparing unit prices (apples to aples comparison).
  4. Base your shopping trips on the price book guide on who has the best value for certain products.
  5. 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.

Costco

Meats (I buy the big packs and split them up into 6-8 meal portions)

Frozen Foods

Walmart

Meats (I buy the big packs and split them up into 4-6 meal portions)

Frozen Foods

Juice/Drinks:

Misc.

Your Thoughts

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

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