Saturday, April 22, 2006

Price Book: From Theory To Practice

"I know all the theory. I'm still having a problem making it work for me."

What do you do with your price book once you have recorded the prices? Again, let me refer you to the concept's originator, Amy Dacyzcn's Tightwad Gazette. She does an excellent job explaining both theory and practice. If you haven't read this book yet, do. It's a fun, creative, motivating read, and one that should be in most libraries right now.

My family's price book is simply a list with the lowest prices for each product recorded in a column. Here's how it works: when I find a product on sale cheaper than I've ever bought it, I pencil the new "target price" next to the item. When I see the item in a grocer's sale flyer a month later, I check my list to see if it meets or beats that price. If so, I stock up. You record the information as unit prices, so you can compare the big jars to little jars. When you discover a new cheap grocery, like Aldi, or tackle a big box store like Sam's Club, bring the price book along. Only your notes will let you know if that big can of pickle relish is really as much of a bargain as it looks. Gradually you will develop a mental list of target prices that make budget shopping a breeze.

Examples from this week--I ducked into an unfamiliar Kroger to escape the hailstorm. Undergoing inventory, lots of items were tagged "final sale" or "closeout."

Peanut Butter: Kroger brand regularly goes on sale $1 for the 18 oz jar, or 6 cents/oz.
Closeout on 40 oz jars for $1.65, or 4 cents/oz. I bought the last two jars.

Sugar-Free Jam: we normally buy Kroger brand, which goes on sale $1.50/15 oz jar, or 10 cents/oz. I prefer Smucker's, which runs about 21 cents/oz. The closeout tag showed these Smucker's preserves for 12 cents/oz. They had more unusual flavors like blackberry and apricot, so I stocked up. A little above my target price, but worth it for the quality.

Sweetleaf SteviaClear: I've never bought this natural sweetener before. I had priced the 2 oz. bottle on the Internet for $12-$14 plus shipping. I noted this in the pricebook for future comparison. This Kroger had a natural food section with Stevia on sale for $9.99 a bottle, or $5/0z. (Yikes!) I needed to try it in a recipe this week, so I bought it while I was there. No need to pay shipping or gas to Wild Oats--the price book gave me the confidence that, if not the lowest price,$9.99 was at least a fair one.

Spike Seasoning: Bought this blind because several Sue Gregg recipes call for it. I noted the price, $2.19/1.9 oz, in the book for future comparison.


Mom2fur said...

Oh, I love the idea of a 'target' price! I just started a new price book. I had had one a while back but was so well-stocked I hardly needed to compare prices. Now I'm back again since I have to start restocking some things. I'm having a lot of fun.

Catherine at Frugal Homemaker Plus said...

I also do the "target" price. It's really eye-opening. It really pounded home the idea of never assuming Wal-Mart is cheaper, or that the biggest package is cheaper, or that store brands are always cheaper, etc.

MommyLydia said...

You say you only put down a unit price? Maybe that is part of my problem. I've been writing down

Freezer, gallon, Glad, 15 bags, $2.59 17cents/bg
Freezer, gallon, Hefty, 25 bags, $3.00 12 cents/bg
Freezer, gallon, Ziploc, 15 bags
Freezer, gallon, Ziploc, 38 bags


Also, what do you do with sandwich meats like bologna for unit prices? # of oz? or # of slices in a package?

And do you use a regular size notebook, a 3-ring binder so you can add pages? How do you find the item you are looking for?

Anonymous said...

Oooh...Stevia! Please share with us how your recipe works out. I've read a lot about stevia lately, but I haven't been brave enough to try it (it feels risky to pay so much and have the family decide they don't like it). I would love to hear how it works out... :)

Queen of Carrots said...

I also would like to know how you organize it--I can never find where I have things written.

Also, if you figure out how to juggle a price book, pencil, and calculator, while keeping a baby from falling over in the cart and a toddler from climbing into the freezer, let me know. For now, I just try to do it from memory--which, since I buy few stockable things that even go on sale, I think is working OK.

Jenn @ Frugal Upstate said...

Unit price is really important! I go by weight, but I can see where with things that come in slices price by the slice might make sense.

I am at the point where I don't even write it in the pricebook unless it is a cheaper price than is already in there. I also use abbreviations for the store to use less space.

The best way to organize it is probably in the order that you go through the grocery store-that way you just sort of flip through in order. Personally I organize mine in catagories that make sense to me. Meats, Dairy, fresh veggies, canned veggies, dried beans, condiments, baking supplies (which is where eggs and oil go in my little world) They aren't alphabetized or anything, so it does involve a lot of flipping.

I do most of my shopping at Aldis and Save a Lot, and from actually putting my pricebook together I know they usually have the cheapest price on most things. The exception is sale items at other stores, and usually I do that comparison with the fliers at home-not with the kids and shopping in the store. The only times I really pull it out in the store is if there is an unexpected sale item, an item I buy very infrequently, or I'm in a store that I don't usually shop in.