Monday, January 2, 2012

A Price Book - a great tool for saving money

    We have a large number of teenagers and young adults that stay with us for periods of time. Teenagers eat a lot. Like hollow legs and empty pits they are always looking for something to fill them up. So having a large pantry means that I know I can handle kids and company without having to wonder if I can afford to feed them or whether all I have to give them is my last can of lima beans - which they are more than welcome to - lima-beans-aren't-my-favourite! That's the polite way of expressing your dislike of any food in this house - you're not allowed to say I hate it!

    A common statistic tells us that the average person has three days of food in the house. I can't quite imagine it. I don't like shopping so much that I would want to go every three days and I KNOW me - without a list and a plan I would spend waaaaay too much money...and yet the reason I hear the most often why people don't have food storage is that they can't afford it. Money can be an issue when you're trying to stock up but like any issue in life it all comes down to priorities and choices. We decided this was a priority. Like health insurance or life insurance - food insurance makes sense to me.

    I've written before about my belief in a large pantry and why I have one - teenagers and company being only one of the reasons (how about temporary job loss, the ability to bring a family in need a meal on the spot, or the security of knowing that as prices rise you have grocery insurance) but now I want to share the method I use to build my food storage pantry that's really simple and saves me money.

    I figured out that we are creatures of habit and I suspect most of us are the same. We eat the same meals over and over with a few exceptions. This is GREAT news for food storage because it makes it less complicated to figure out what you need to stock up on.

    I'll use Spaghetti and meatballs in this example. First I break down the whole meal into ingredients.

    So for one meal I would need:
    2 cans of pasta sauce
    1 package of pasta
    1 tsp. of Italian spices
    1/4 cup of parmesan cheese
    1 box meatballs (frozen or home canned for this example)

    So to make this meal 6 times I would need a case of 12 pasta sauce, 6 packages of pasta, a few Tbsp of Italian seasoning and maybe a whole container of parmesan if someone gets a little shake-happy with the container.

    Average regular prices for
    pasta sauce - $1.99 for the canned stuff
    pasta - over $2.00 a package
    Italian spices - negligable
    1 container of parmesan $8.00
    6 boxes or other of frozen meatballs - anywhere from $6-10 depending on brand which is why it's a great idea to make your own but that's another post.

    If you chose 6 more meals like the one above you would soon have more than a months' worth of dinners in your pantry!

    So we know the regular prices but what we need to know is what the best sales prices are. This is where the PRICE BOOK comes in. It is simply a way of tracking the lowest price on a specific item and also keeping track of when it went on sale and which store had it on sale.

    All stores have seasonal sales - canned pumpkin is more often on sale in the fall when pumpkins are plentiful and Thanksgiving and Christmas create a demand. Stores also have rotating sales - for example cheese goes on sale every 6 weeks around here. The regular price could be anywhere from $7-9 dollars for a 500gr. brick of Black Diamond cheddar however it regularly goes on sale for $4.44 and sometimes there's a really great deal at $3.97. I buy enough for my family to last till the next sale and I always eat "on sale" cheese. The price book tells me what is a good price, what is a great price and approx. how long I will have to wait till the next sale.
    So let's say we eat a brick of cheese a week and the sale cycle is 6 weeks long. I would need 6 bricks of cheese. At the regular price of $7.00 a brick I would pay a total of $42.00. At the sale price of $4.44 I would pay $26.64. When it's on a sale for $3.97 - only $23.82. That would save me at least $20.00 on cheese alone. Of course not eating so much cheese would help too!!

    The same idea works for canned or boxed or frozen food we used in the spaghetti and meatballs example above. I know I can save at least 40% on the spaghetti and meatballs meal by using my price book, buying when items are on sale and not paying full price.

    Getting started requires a little extra thought and rearranging of your grocery spending. I suggest you add another $20.00 to your food budget if you can and then use the savings to build up a larger amount that will be on hand to make purchases by the case. It will take some time but eventually you will be eating most food items that have been bought on sale! The Price Book will also help you to not be easily deceived by advertised specials. Just because the item is on the end-cap with a big red sticker doesn't mean it's a great deal.

    Here's what to do:
    • Start by saving all of grocery store receipts. Keep them all in one place and after several weeks you'll be able to see what you buy regularly.
    • Purchase a small three-ring notebook or binder. Something that fits in your purse or your pocket is the right size or perhaps a section of a daytimer if you carry one.
    • Use you most repeated meals to make your initial list for your price book. No sense knowing the price of canned pumpkin if you never eat it or the cost of a box of salt that you buy once every two years..
    • Start a page for each major category. Keep it simple at the beginning - you can add more pages later. Canned Food, Boxed Food, Fresh Fruits, Vegetables, Meat, Dairy Products, and Snacks.
    • Create columns for listing your comparison information. You not only want to compare price but also keep track of which store offers that price. It should look like this.
    Store Name

    Unit Price
    of Sale
    No Frills
    Black Diamond
    October 6-12
    Black Diamond
    Nov. 18-24
      • Most grocery stores have the unit price displayed on the scanner code below the item on the shelf - save your brain and make use of them!
      • Bring your Price Book with you when you go shopping.
      • When you see something on sale that you eat regularly buy extra. A few cans or a few cases depending on your budget and how much you want to store.
      • Continue to save your grocery receipts and use them to update your Price Book.I've noticed the cost of food rising more because of what I've written in my price book than anything else!
      • All stores have loss leaders and special sales so there really isn't one store that can be the cheapest all the time.Don't let their marketing convince you that you need to stay loyal to that particular store - I am loyal to the particular price.
      Combine the Price Book idea with some Menu planning and you have a winning combination..

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