When it comes to saving money on groceries, knowing your prices is key.
You don't have to know all the prices of everything in every area grocery store. But you should become familiar with the lowest prices on the items that you buy regularly.
One way to do this is to keep a price book. In this book, you write down prices on each item that you buy, keeping track of sales prices and getting a feel for what the sale cycles are like, thus telling you when to stock up on that item.
Although this works for a lot of people, it was too difficult for me.
A simple price book works great, however! I use a small journal/notebook that fits in my purse. In this book, I have different food items listed. Usually one or two items per page, so it's not too cluttered. Instead of listing lots of regular prices plus store sales prices, I've listed the lowest regular price that I can find on that item. In some cases, the two lowest prices.
For instance, an 8 ounce block of cheddar cheese costs $1.99 at Aldi making the cheese $3.98 per pound. But Sam's Club has a 5 pound block of cheddar for $10.86 bringing the price down to $2.17 per pound. So naturally, if making a trip to Sam's Club, I will purchase cheese there. But, say that I'm in a hurry and I just need one block of cheese for a recipe and I don't feel like driving to another town for Sam's Club for cheese. Then I'll purchase a block at Aldi, since that's the lowest regular price for cheese that I've found.(Unless a quick glance through my sales ads tells me that another store has cheese on sale at a lower price.)
Having this written down really helps me to remember. Continuing on the price of cheese, Food Lion has 8 ounce blocks of cheese on sale 3/$5 this week or $1.66 each. That's a $.33 cent savings from the Aldi cheese. Wow! I should stock up, right? Wrong. Since I'm making a trip to Sam's Club anyways, I'll get the cheese there where it still is $2.17 a pound vs. the Food Lion price of $3.32 per pound.
In my price book, I have written:
--Aldi- 8-oz. for $1.99= $3.98 per pound.
--Sam's Club-5 pounds for $10.86= $2.17 per pound.
--Aldi-8 oz. for $1.99= $3.98 per pound.
--Sam's Club-5 pounds for $8.82 = $1.76 per pound.
--Aldi- 16 oz. for $.99
--Sam's Club- 5 pound tub for $4.86= $.97 a pound
Sour cream isn't that big of savings at Sam's Club. So sometimes, I get it there and other times not. I often have coupons for Daisy sour cream which will make it nearly free at another store combined with a good sale.
I can tell at a glance what is the lowest price. It's simple, uncluttered and doesn't take a lot of time and effort to maintain.
So that's how keeping track of the regular prices can save you money. After a little while you'll be able to tell at a glance whether or not the brightly-colored sale ads are going to really save you money. You'll know if something is at a good stock-up price. This also helps you to determine whether or not "big box" stores such as Sam's Club or Costco are really going to save you money.
We love to eat and don't get out much so the day that the sale ads come in the mail is a highlight of the week! My husband will read through saying, "Hey! Such and such is on sale for 2/$5! I say, "But I can get that at ___________ store for $1.50 this week!" Good times!:-)
Basically, what I've done is determined my target price. Each person has to do this for their own area as prices and stores vary so much. The target price is the price that I have determined to be the lowest around and therefore the price I want to pay.
A 15-ounce can of Aldi diced tomatoes is $.49. If I see a sale on tomatoes, my first thought is "Is this really saving me money over the Aldi brand?" And then I proceed to figure out the price with buying on sale and with coupons if I have them. If the price turns out to be less than $.49 a can, then I will buy them. If it is a significant savings, I will buy as many as I can afford.
Chicken breasts at Aldi are $2.19 a pound. However, these go on sale quite often at other stores for $1.99 a pound or less. When this happens I stock my freezer so I don't have to purchase them at full price. So I rarely buy chicken breasts at Aldi.
Determining your target prices will take a little time but after a bit you'll figure it out. You'll most likely find that a certain store(or two) will almost always have the lowest prices across the board. In my area, Aldi and Sam's Club are almost always the lowest. I shop at Harris Teeter, Bi-Lo and Food Lion for the sales. If the sales on a particular week are slim, I know that I am getting the lowest prices by shopping at Aldi so that's where I plan to do most of my shopping for basics.
A price book doesn't have to be complicated but rather an extension of my brain where I write down the lowest prices that I've found. This helps me remember prices and identify really good sales which save me money!
**For more frugal and money-saving tips, visit Life As Mom's Frugal Friday!