A grocery price book is a time-tested tool that can empower you to save hundreds of dollars on groceries every year. There are four key ways it can help you save but the basic concept is simple – track a product’s price over a span of time and determine the sale cycle for it. Then only buy it on sale and buy enough to last until the next expected sale.
Traditionally a price book has been a tablet (the old school paper kind) used to record a product’s price, size, unit price, and date of purchase. Every time the price changes you pencil in a new entry to the product’s list. A tablet is fine for doing this job – in fact, thousands of people have had success with this method. But, come on, its a mobile age and an app can do the job better because it is simply more convenient to use. And the more you update a price book, the more powerful this savings tool becomes.
Let’s look at some examples taken from data I’ve collected with my app, ValueTracker for iPhone and iPod touch, that illustrate the four key ways a price book can help you save.
Identify Sale Cycles
A 14 ounce can of lite sliced pears has a regular price of $1.35. It goes on sale for $1.09 or less about once a month. I like pears and buy 5 cans a week. (Yes, this is a money-saving math problem.) If I pay the regular price for three weeks and the sale price for one week that’s $25.70 a month times 12 months equaling $308.40 a year for pears. But if I only buy at $1.09, and buy enough to last until the next sale, I’ll spend $283.40 a year. That’s a savings of $25. Now extend this same strategy to ten products or twenty and the savings can be substantial.
Seasonal Shifts in Pricing
But a price book is good for more than just identifying sale cycles. It can help you identify what produce is in-season, which is sometimes not obvious when stores stock the same fruits and vegetables year-round. I also like cantaloupe and from mid-June through mid-September it goes for $0.69 to $0.89 a pound. It’s in-season and at it’s lowest price range. By October it goes for $1.19 a pound. So October is the time to switch to a different fruit and save on the higher out-of-season cost.
The only way to compare the actual cost of products with varying prices and sizes is to know the unit pricing. A unit price is calculated by dividing a product’s price by its size – net weight, fluid ounces, count, etc. Garbage bags are, by their very nature, already trash when you buy them. I like to pay the least amount possible but with several choices of varying price and count for 13-gallon bags the only way to compare them is by unit price or cost per bag. Yes, more math.
- Brand A $6.97 50 bags $0.139 per bag
- Brand B $11.57 100 bags $0.116 per bag
- Brand C $6.97 85 bags $0.082 per bag
- Brand D $3.97 32 bags $0.124 per bag
- Brand E $7.47 80 bags $0.093 per bag
Unit pricing makes it clear which product has the actual lowest cost. It’s a small savings but there is no reason to pay more.
This fourth savings benefit is not as easily measured as the others. It’s simply this – a price book makes you alert to increases in a product’s price and/or decreases in its size. You won’t be easily fooled when a product’s redesigned packaging tries to distract you from a decrease in size. Recently, a national store brand has been redesigning the packaging for its product line. The $2.98 bag of chips is still $2.98 but its been downsized – it used to have a net weight of 19 ounces but now it’s 18 ounces. Still a good value? Maybe, depending on how the unit price compares to other brands. But I prefer an honest price increase over a deceptive size decrease.
Get An App For That
Now that you know how a grocery price book can help you save, here’s what you should look for in an app:
- 1 – The ability to add a product with its price, size, and purchase date. Yes, this one is kind of obvious but it’s the beginning of every price book and not to be overlooked.
- 2 – The most important feature, however, is a chronological listing of a product’s data. This is the very heart of every price book and the key means of identifying sale cycles and seasonal pricing. Every product needs a tracking list.
- 3 – The ability to backdate entries if you input information from a sales receipt days later. Accurate dates are as important as accurate prices and sizes.
- 4 – The ability to reorder your list of products to match the store’s layout so there’s no excessive scrolling to find the next product. Stores don’t shelve products in alphabetical order so your product list shouldn’t be sorted that way either.
- 5 – An easy interface for updating a product’s price and size.
- 6 – A built-in unit pricing calculator for the time-saving convenience of staying within the app while shopping. Even better if you can do multiple side-by-side calculations for easy comparing.
You may notice this list doesn’t mention scanning bar codes or accessing internet databases for pricing information. That’s because a price book’s usefulness depends on accurate, local data and you – the person standing in the store, looking at the shelf price and sale price – are the most accurate source of information.
Savings are just an app away. Visit the App Store, Google Play, or wherever you download apps and do a “grocery price book” search. Find the app that suits your style and start saving.
About the Author: T.R.Baillargeon from thegrayworks.com is the Independent iOS Developer of ValueTracker, the grocery price book app for iPhone and iPod touch. ValueTracker is available on the App Store: http://itunes.com/apps/valuetracker