Finally, a price book!

I'm not one to hop from store to store looking for the greatest deal, and I'm not interested in spending my free time pouring over coupons or ads to save a few quarters. Between work and chores, grocery shopping is something that needs to be done as efficiently as possible. My solution until now has been to shop at Aldi for pretty much all our groceries, with an occasional jaunt elsewhere for the few things we can't get at Aldi.

That said, I, like everyone else, get the mailings from Kroger, Meijer, Marsh, etc with their weekly deals. I look over what they're advertising and think, "Wow! That looks like a great deal!" But, then, I slow down, and think, "Do I KNOW that's a great deal? I mean, I haven't the slightest idea what that costs at Aldi. It could be that price or less all the time! Is it worth stopping at the second store?" I've fallen for the flyers a few times, but I mostly resist.

After enough of these conversations with myself, I broke down and did it: This weekend, I started a price book. I had been reading all over about the importance of having one of these, and I never bothered to make one. Every now & then, I'd reference Amy's Aldi price book, but I figured those prices were approximate, since grocery prices change over time & location. I wanted my very own! Well, this weekend, Sunday evening, I did it. I only wrote down things we buy regularly (where shopping a sale somewhere else & stocking up would make sense). Saving money on pie crusts or ice cream isn't worth a trip anywhere, since I wouldn't buy them otherwise, and only buy them very occasionally, with a specific purpose in mind. Of course, if they were in the house, I'd eat them, but that just means I'm eating more, not that I'm saving money.

I'd also read some lately about shopping & buying in bulk. Thanks to my mother, we have a Costco membership, and, except for a few things, have really not found a way to use it very well. I hope, when we have a bit more storage space (and a chest freezer) we'll be able to use it more efficiently. Costco wasn't far from Aldi, so I wrote down a few items there, just to compare- because it's always less expensive to buy in bulk, right?

Here's the results.

What did I learn?
- It's not always cheaper to buy in bulk. This surprised me. Aldi's business model allows them to price items below even the "economy of scale" prices at Costco. Without my price book, I would never have known this.

- Quality matters. Even though, for example, dishwasher soap at Aldi is cheaper, I bought some at Costco a while back and discovered it works better, so I use less of it. Yes, it costs twice as much per ounce, but I'm seriously probably using half as much, and coming out with cleaner dishes, so the price evens out.

- I cannot buy things in bulk that I will not use in bulk. A huge container of salsa from Costco may or may not be cheaper, but it would take us forever to get through (and would go bad in the meantime). This is true of many items. Non-perishable and frozen items, this isn't (as much) an issue, except for storage space. Also, there is the consideration of using-it-just-because-its-there. If I buy Oreos, we'll eat them, sure, but we won't miss them if I don't. If I buy soda in bulk, we'll get through them, but we'll drink more soda, just because they're in the house.

- I can now confidently decide if the deals on the mailers are worth my time. This is what I'm most excited about. Some people just know what things cost, in their heads. I haven't been doing this long enough, so I've written them down. Now I'll know whether a "sale" is really a sale, or if a coupon is really going to be worth holding on to. I am vehement about not buying things "just because they're on sale", but actually considering if its something I need, and whether the sale is worth it.

I'm always learning, right? Lately over at Sunflowers in my Kitchen, I've posted a couple recipes with cost breakdowns, so I can see the price of these meals per-person. Doing this is kind of a fun exercise- and a great motivation to keep eating at home!


ashley @ twentysixcats said...

This is great advice. I need to do the same. We have a BJ's nearby and I am considering if a membership there is worth our money (they also have a gas station). Aldi's has great prices, but it's a drive for me and I need to really look to see if it's worth it for me to drive all the way there - if the prices will make it worth it.

One thing you can also consider is buying in bulk, and splitting with someone who can use the stuff. For example, if we lived closeby we could pay for half of the salsa and split the container in half. I don't know if it would still end up cheaper, but it's an idea.

Joanna said...

Ashley- Splitting purchases with someone else is not something I had considered before. This wouldn't save any money on the per-unit price, but would help with storage issues if space was my limiting factor. You should really look into making a price book, when things settle down. I was surprised at how much cheaper Aldi was. For example: I was at Meijer picking up a couple things, and they had milk on sale for $2 a gallon! Excellent! I picked up TWO gallons! And then, a day or two later, went to Aldi and saw they had it for the same price. I could have just bought what I immediately needed on my normal shopping trip, but I fell for a "sale" elsewhere.

Jes said...

What a great idea!! I've never thought of a price book. I always look at the flyers and write down the sales. We go to Aldi's first (i know the prices of the things I normally get there) then we hit Bi-LO and Food Lion to check out the deals. if they are actually more money than what I normally spend on them I don't get them. They are both right on the way to walmart so it's not out of the way. but I'd much rather have a price book. Thanks for the idea!

Matt said...

"Of course, if they were in the house, I'd eat them, but that just means I'm eating more, not that I'm saving money."

My dad has always had a problem getting this idea. If we go out to dinner, say to Olive Garden, and he orders his favorite pasta, about 2/3 of the way through the dish he'll make some comment about how he's full, but he doesn't want to waste money, so he forces himself to eat the rest. Then he complains that he feels awful for overeating. So now he's spent exactly the same amount as if he'd eaten a healthy portion, and he also feels sick. So how exactly did that help?

I guess that has absolutely nothing to do with frugality, but it does have to do with this idea that you aren't saving money by eating more. Even if you consume food at a lower cost per ounce.

Meredith said...

Good for you. It won't take long before you internalize those target price points. Then you'll only need the list for occasional checks and seasonal adjustments.

Looking over the weekly sales flyers takes me less than 10 mins each week.

Suzy said...

I found your blog while looking for photography blogs! I love Aldi's too and do most of my grocery shopping there.
I recently thought about making a price book and now you have just confirmed it. (Just for the things not available at Aldi's)

I'm adding your blog to my favorites so that I can stop back!

Lisa said...

I confess, I've never kept a price book.. I do tend to keep numbers in my head, though. And "Aldi's always cheaper" has not ever failed me. Granted, I don't buy a lot of boxed or frozen food, so that might be why.

For the things I can't get at Aldi, Meijer is my next-favorite local grocery store. Kroger is a good one for sales, though, if they have something on sale that you want. Most of the stuff they have on sale tends to be stuff I don't really eat.

Once you move, the closest grocery store will be Kroger, so I guess it would behoove you to pay attention to their ads (even though I never do...)

Anonymous said...

The only thing I ever wrote down prices on was diapers. That was a must! Unless you want a big mess, I do recommend collecting coupons for that. Just like cheap tissues, cheap diapers just don't cut it.

Stephanie said...

Ah Joanna, My project is very similar to yours. Great minds think alike! :)
It will be interesting to compare notes when it is all done. One questions though. . .how do you link your spread sheet. I knew it could be done and was going to research how to do it, but it sure would be easier if you just told me! ;)

MommySecrets said...

Thanks for sharing your research with us!!!

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