In order to get the best bang for my buck with a coupon challenge, I realized that I needed to figure out how to optimally pair coupons with sales (and hopefully, doubling) to get the best deals.
How do I know when something's at the lowest price to get the best deal? I *know* that my memory is horribly bad - I can remember a good price for avocados and artichokes, because they go on sale so infrequently, but beyond that, I am not really sure if I'm seeing a good deal for peanut butter or hamburger buns. Grocery store circulars and end caps are not necessarily the best indicators of the lowest prices - their goal is to get you to buy stuff, and if that includes making it appear that something's a better deal than it is, well, why wouldn't they take advantage of it? Also, I generally only shop at one store - but what if there are better prices at other stores in my area, maybe that aren't quite as conveniently located, or maybe that are unexpected?
Obviously, I need a price book.
I love tracking things. But for some reason I've never really put my mind to tracking prices at the grocery store. (I did try it once and I got yelled at by a store manager, so I abandoned my cart and walked out and never shopped there again - and never tried it again.) For this challenge, I will be creating a price book. It might be a lot of work, but hopefully it'll be worth it - and if it's not, I'll quit doing it after Labor Day.
Here's my price book plan of attack:
1. Create a spreadsheet. I love spreadsheets - they are organized, easy to read, portable (when saved to the cloud), and best of all - SEARCHABLE. I used a template that I found here, slightly reorganized it to feature the categories available here, and then I added all the products that I buy on a regular basis. I found those by using a few generic grocery store lists, adding unique items that I buy (quinoa, bulk almonds, and Morningstar Farms sausage links, anyone?), and visualizing my grocery store layout to see what I missed. I'll continue to refine the layout of the spreadsheet throughout the summer, but to start I'm organizing it by section within the grocery store, and alpha by product within that.
2. Update the spreadsheet based on circulars and receipts. I'm not going to check the price of every item on every shopping trip. I would give up this project in about five minutes if I had to do that. But the circulars will give me a pretty good idea of sale prices and schedules, and receipts will give me actual prices.
3. Mark when I buy items. This is so I know how much to stockpile once I figure out the sales schedule for a certain product.
4. Shop differently. I'm going to try some different stores on different occasions to see if what the prices look like. I've already signed up for the circular for a different grocery store chain that's just a little further out than my normal one - I won't be driving twenty miles to save $2!
Do you keep a price book? Are you considering starting a price book if you're doing the coupon challenge?