One of my strategies for lowering my overall grocery bill is to shop at several stores. For many people, this would be a waste of gasoline, but I have access to 3 different chains simply driving to work and back, and if I drive to Aldi (my main shopping place, which is not on my route to work), I pass two other branches of those stores on the way there and home. So for me, it doesn’t cost me extra gasoline to go to a number of places. It does add a little more time, but I feel my time is worth it. Mileage may vary on that one.
The problem I’ve encountered is that keeping track of the normal prices at all these stores and then comparing them against each other on the fly becomes a little more than my brain can handle. I do use a price book – in that I record the prices of the things I buy every week and compare them to the prices I paid in the past. But when I look through the sale circulars it isn’t always apparent to me if something on sale is actually a good deal compared to what it might cost at other stores because of the different unit sizes and the myriad of different prices I might have paid for that item before.
To help figure this out, I’ve started a list of per unit “buy it now” prices. These are prices on items that if I see anything below that price (or can use coupons to get it there), it is a very good deal and I should stock up. For example, I frequently see boneless chicken breasts on sale in store circulars. I’ve done my research, and decided that $1.70 a lb or less is a price rarely seen for that item, so if I can get chicken for that price, I generally buy it. Keeping that one price on a single sheet, versus pages and pages of prices over time, helps me to streamline my shopping preparation. Yesterday at Walgreens, I used a combination of manufacturers coupons and a $5 off $20 one day only store coupon to get Pampers Crusiers diapers for about $0.22 per diaper. My buy it now price on those is $0.25/diaper (for those of you whom that seems way expensive, realize my daughter is in size 5′s, not size 1 or 2 where the cost per diaper is much lower). Knowing what I usually pay per diaper and what I consider a good bargain cut out a lot of the hassle of deciding if it was a good deal or not.
Creating the buy it now list did take some effort. I made a detailed list of everything I have bought in the past 6 months or so, and then looked at all the prices I have paid for those items and decided what the bargain threshold was for each item. The bargain threshold was usually close to but not the rock bottom price I have paid for the item in the past – because I may never see some of those prices again with the rising cost of food. Then I put that single price next to each item. In a few months, I will re-evaluate the list, comparing it to what I have been actually paying for items over that time period and decide if some of my buy it now prices are too high (I can always find that price) or too low (I never ever find that price any more). And I can adjust when needed. Maintaining the list should not take too much more effort than just keeping track of prices does – and for those who don’t want to keep track of prices formally, you can just save all your shopping receipts. that is how I started my price book in the first place, just saving my receipts.
For now, I will stop at Meijer on the way home from taekwondo tomorrow and pick up some organic milk for my kids. $2.50 for a half gallon is an unbeatable sale price for me.