There are two questions that even the most seasoned of couponers find themselves asking. What is considered a GREAT price on items I buy, and how many should I buy at a time? Fortunately there’s a simple tool that can answer both of these questions and it’s called a price book.
You may be shopping and come across an unadvertised manager’s special on 80% lean ground beef for 2.49/lb. Your eyes glaze over, wondering if that is a great deal and you should grab 3, or did you get that ground beef before at $1.99/lb? It can be tricky to decide on the spot whether to grab it or not. If you have a price book you would know that occasionally the store sells 80% lean ground beef for $1.99/lb when you buy 3 packages. It makes the decision much easier.
Did you know that often sales on particular items run in predictable patterns? Sometimes you’ll see a particular item on sale and think, “I remember this same sale a few months ago!” You sure do, and if it’s an item you use very frequently you may remember the same sale over and over again. If you kept track (in a price book) you may figure out that sale comes around every 9 weeks. I happen to LOVE Diet Pepsi. I got a great deal on 12 packs of cans (5 for $10) on 3/24, 4/20, 5/29, and again on 7/29. Based on this I make 2 conclusions, (1) that I never want to pay more than $2 for a six pack of Pepsi, and (2) I need to buy enough at that price to last at least 8 weeks (the longest gap between this sale was 5/29-7/29.)
I know what you’re thinking…you don’t even have enough time to prepare and shop each week, let alone keep track of everything in a price book. If you start slow and just add to it especially for your staple items, it can quickly become part of your prep routine. A price book can be as simple as a spiral notebook. You could have a page each for meat, produce, pet food, frozen food, health and beauty and on each line write an item, price, store, and dates of the sale. I recommend pencil or erasable pen in case you decide that your “best price” wasn’t really the best price. Or you can keep an easy spreadsheet in excel.
This link is to a basic excel spreadsheet from earlier in 2016 that you can use to add to. The arrows in row 1 will let you filter your spreadsheet by store, by category or by item. Just click on the down arrow and make sure only what you want to see is checked off. When you see a blue arrow, there is a filter applied and that means there are rows hidden because of the filter. To see the entire sheet, click the arrow again and then check off “select all” to open the sheet back up again.
Before long, you’ll see deals posted that sounds FABULOUS and be able to relatively safely decide to wait a week or two and the same item will be even less. Or on the other hand you’ll see a deal and know it’s not likely to come around again for 6 months and be prepared to really stockpile that item.