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June 29, 2010


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we do not have any book of the sort. One of the reasons is that we are generally very careful with cash and never really buy more than we need. We don't have the need to track each and every expense because of a God given virtue called discipline. It is something that i have learnt from my mum

It seems like a lot or work for not a lot of reward. My wife does the shopping and can tell what is a good deal, what is ok and what is not a deal at all.

Also isn't this what Terry's List is @ Never used it but hear a lot about it...does the $10 for the list make up for the time doing it yourself?

Both myself and my husband know in our heads what the more expensive items we buy "should" cost - large tins of coffee, mangoes, certain skincare products I use, chicken breasts etc - as I hope most people do, but for the little things I couldn't be bothered writing it down and chasing all over town to save a few bucks or dealing with the warehouse stores. I guess some people are more OCD about it or like the challenge though, good luck to 'em.

I'm starting a book like this because my brain works that way. For those of you who just work by knowing what things "should" cost, you've already done this process in your head on a simpler scale.

Not impressed.

With the price of gas, I am not going to drive all over town to save 40 cents on cheerios. It's not even worth my time or gas money to drive across town to save $2 on steak.

If I want to save a lot of money, I just eat cheerios instead of steak! Then I could use this information because I'd only be shopping at 1 store and it would be easy to take advantage of those great money saving specials! Otherwise, thanks but I'll pass.

MC --

I have an upcoming post on the time/travel and costs it takes to shop at several stores -- it's MUCH less than most people estimate.

And it's not saving 40 cents -- it's saving $40 off your $100 weekly grocery bill.

Stay tuned...

My wife has done this for several years, so now she has a really good feel for where to find the best prices.

We eat mostly whole/organic foods, so now we buy most of our stuff at Costco or the neighborhood health food store (and now that it is the farmer's market). And we buy quite a bit in bulk direct from farmers.

I keep lists of everything, but not similar to what Ms. McCoy suggests in her book.

I use ListPro on my Windows Mobile phone. I keep a complete shopping list there along with some price info. I also keep a list of weekly sales in ListPro. For items I buy most often, however, I keep the prices in my head. For example, I know not to pay more that $1 a roll for papertowels - no matter how "big" they tell me it is; I know that the regular price of 20oz ground turkey is around $4.99 - and 2 for 1 is a great deal but 20oz for $1.99 is even better. I know that Costco's 10# box of oatmeal for $7.29 is a much better deal than the absolute low at Safeway of $1.99 for 16oz.

I've looked at the, but $10 a month for only one store takes the fun out of the game. I'm lucky to live within 2 miles of at three grocery stores and 2 drug stores, so I can shop for the best deal at the competing stores each week. I stock up when the price is great, and wait for the next sale to replenish the pantry. An extra freezer helps.

ListPro is adaptable, so maybe I'll put some of my staples in a list similar to the one suggested so I can double check that I'm getting a good deal. I think I would add a date to the data, as old prices aren't as meaningful as the most recent prices.

I only have a small Wal-mart Superstore and a very small Kroger near me and the closest town with a grocery store is 12 miles away. Wal-Mart keeps their prices about the same as the Kroger's. So the system does not work for me...unless of course I want to use gas in the equation.

I'm interested to see what FMF has to say in regards to time/money saved. Personally I do not think this is worth the time with how busy life is without keeping track of the cost of every item needed on a grocery list. My wife and I do our major grocery shopping together and would much rather go to one store and have it all done in an hour than hop from store to store. Yes, it would be nice to save a few bucks but I just do not think it is worth the extra hassle. And we don't even have kids yet!

FMF - be sure you account for those of us who have to load/unload multiple kids and deal with those kids in multiple stores. Ideally, we would pick and choose ten different stores in town to buy different things but reality is we really have to limit it to three or four at the very most, and do them in separate trips.

You can save a boat load of money if you keep track. That is if you have the time. Running a house hold is a full time job and it is prudent to maximize the saving where ever possible. If you are working a part time or full time job that is outside of the house hold, time is crunched and you may not have the time to devote to keep track of those deals. Hence the need to know when a good price is a good price and minimize your time so that it is spend in quality utilization with the family.

A peeny saved is a penny earned but a penny used wisely in purchases rewards a working parent with time with the family.

I just started to make one on an Excel worksheet. I take my weekly grocery receipts and take the prices and units from my groceries and list them, then calculate out the unit cost. Then I take my weekly adds and coupons and start comparing. It's amazing how much you find you can save when you actually realize how much you've been paying for your everyday staples.

You think you know, but you don't, until you see it in print.

I also have just started to track this in excel. I figure I'll only track the main items I buy in bulk - I mostly eat produce, and those prices to fluctuate quite a bit. So I'll track bread, cereal, cleaning products, toilet paper, pasta, etc. It's really not taking long to collect the data. I figured I would start with Costco prices and then go from there. I want to get it all to fit on a 3x5 card that will fit in my coupon file.

The Tightwad Gazette also recommends keeping a pricebook.

Visiting lots of different stores takes a lot of time -- driving around, unloading and loading my children, wandering around in an unfamiliar store. Time is very valuable to me; the less time I spend driving around to different stores, the more time I have to do the things that I enjoy.

I learned to do this from The Tightwad Gazette, too - and it makes feeding three adults (2 serious foodies) on <$200/month possible. I started over when we moved: it involves going to each store and writing down the shelf prices for a typical list, which is just the work of a Saturday. Then use the circulars to keep up with the loss leaders. Don't expect the list to be perfect, as you try new things, add new pages. Consider it a game - the grocery stores are playing it against you, play back!

I do use just paper for this list, in a binder, because it boots up faster, never runs out of batteries, is easy to read in strong daylight at the farmer's market, unlikely to be stolen out of my cart, etc. If people think I look odd - well, that's what an extra $1000/year in the household account looks like, me with a binder.

I did this for a while a few years ago, after reading her book, and found it very helpful. I don't drive all over town for groceries. For example, I learned that my Target sells cat litter for 20% less than my pet store (unless it's on sale at the pet store) so now I remember to stock up on on it it whenever I go to Target. I never would have noticed that unless I wrote it down, and now it's just part of my routine which saves me $20 a year, with no extra effort. I also started learning what a "good" price was for many items, and when I saw them for a "good" price, I'd plan that week's meals around it. There's a very wide range of prices for several of my staples. Another example: OJ at Trader Joes, $1.99, OJ at my other main grocery store: $4.99.

We do this, on an excel spreadsheet, that is loaded on our phones. That way we can take it with us.My husband and I work together because honestly if he goes shopping he only buys what is on our list so we save more money that away.

But the trick is to figure when you have a "stock up" price. Often supermarkets will roll prices on a particular product every couple of months. So if you know when the lowest price hits and you have a coupon you can save more money and then you buy more of that product. Once you have been doing this for about a month, you are basically living off the stock up price stuff and perishables.

Don't over complicate this. Starting a Price Book is not nearly as time consuming as some believe. No matter that stores sell 30,000 items, I regularly buy fewer than 50, and most months only 25 or so. Also, it doesn't take months to create something usable. It only takes the receipt from your last shopping trip and less than 15 minutes to get started. Aim for good, not for perfect. It is a living document. I'm lazy and hate driving from store to store.


I started with one week's receipt from one store and jotted down what I was keeping track of in a small notebook. Every week, I updated it after shopping trips, wherever they happened to occur. I emphasize the price per 'my family's' serving of the things I actually buy and loosely group items along broad categories (protien, starch, vegetable... you get the idea). This takes less than 5 minutes to maintain.

In the true spirit of laziness, I don't upload a spreadsheet. [Perhaps MINT.COM will get that level of granularity some day?] A small notebook that fits in a purse has the added benefit of always being with me. I have the receipt in my wallet and can update/review the price book anytime, any place. I had it with me when my sister dragged me along to the new Trader Joes in her neighborhood to buy some wine recently. Only with the book could I evaluate if it was worth a return trip, since I have 16 other grocery shopping options closer to my home.

There is a Sams Club, Whole Foods, Wegmans, Acme, 3 Shoprites, 3 independent Thiftways, A StopNShop, an Aldi and 2 Farmers Markets all within a short drive and along routes that we typically drive. The local Target & Wallmart also offer groceries. Picking one place and doing ALL my shopping there each week or chosing the store based on what is attractive in the weekly circular is practicing willfull ignorance in my mind. Driving around and fully evaluating each is a fulltime job for someone else. I've been in each at least once over the past few years. My price book showed me that I only need to go to 2 on a regular basis, and it also shows me which items & stores are the most economical for my family. This, along with meal planning saves alot of time and alot of money.

Think of it this way: The stores are already keeping your Price Book when you use your frequent shopper card or debit card. They know exactly what you spent last week, last month, last year for every single item and they make decisions with that information. Why wouldn't you want access to the same data.

IMHO you need to have a real enthusiasm for shopping and frugality to get into this.

Semi-Demi-Exboyfriend always amazes me because he carries a price book around in his head. No joke: he knows what everything costs at any given time in a whole series of stores. It's because he loves to shop, and because to him saving a few pennies here and there is a game. Never writes anything down...he just knows.

Don't laugh. It's no weirder than ex-DH, who loves to read bus and train schedules. ;-)

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