Know Your Prices

As we mentioned you need to "know your prices". How, you might be asking, do you know them especially if you're a beginner at the grocery shopping game. One good way is to keep a price book.

A price book is simply a small notebook in which you keep track of the lowest prices of the items you normally use at the stores you normally shop in. The table below shows an example of a way you might set up your book:

Item Big-Y Stop & Shop Super Foodmart
Lays Potato Chips .79 2/1.49 .75
10 lbs. potatoes 1.49 1.69 1.49
Orange Juice (1/2 gallon) .99 .79 1.29
Frozen Pizza $3.98 $4.98 2/$8.00

You don't have to do the whole book at once, just carry it with you when you go to the store and jot down the prices. After a while you'll have a pretty good record of the things you like to buy. You might want to add dates as well since some stores seem to have a pattern of putting certain things on sale at regular intervals. You can add prices to your book from the grocery store flyers as well or from your checkout receipts when you get home. One word of caution; sometimes when the manager spots you writing down the prices he or she will accuse you of being a spy from a rival store!

Jeff Dumas in El Dorado sent this way of finding prices for your price book: I recently started putting a price book together. It is hard to think of everything so I went to go to a grocery store web site. It had a page that helps you create a shopping list. It is a good place to look to help you find the categories and items you would like to include in your own price book.

Another place you have to watch prices is at the meat counter. Heidi Mapp sent us this article about comparing price per pound when you are trying to choose between bone-in and boneless meats and poultry:

How many web sites and thrifty living books have YOU encountered that give vague statements about buying meat in cost-per-serving as opposed to cost-per-pound? I found the answer: This site contains a chart for quick and easy comparisons while in the store. I highly recommend you add the chart to your price books. Why all the fuss? Price per pound does NOT exclude waste-bones and fat.

I e-mailed my Agricultural Extension office here in Corpus Christi, Texas, and got this response: Boneless and ground meat (flank, tenderloin, boneless loin, sirloin butt, sirloin strip, round, liver, heart, kidneys, brains, sweetbreads, tongue, sausages, and wieners) will yield approximately 3-4 servings per pound. If you take the half-way point (3 1/2 servings), just divide the cost of the meat per pound by 3.5.

Meat with a medium amount of bone (rib roasts, rump roasts, chuck, shops, steaks, ham slices, loin roasts, and leg of lamb) will yield 2-3 servings per pound. Again, I would take the price of the meat per pound and divide it by 2.5.

Meat with a large amount of bone (short ribs, neck, breasts, brisket, shank, or shoulder cuts) generally give 1 and 1/2 servings per pound. Divide the cost of the meat per pound by 1.5 It is very possible that although these cuts of meat may appear to be inexpensive when compared to other cuts on a per pound basis, when you calculate the cost per serving, some of these cuts may be quite expensive. Note: A serving size is 3 ounces.

Reference: Foundations of Food Preparation, 6th edition

Trish Groski buys spices in bulk at the health food store only enough to refill whatever container I'm using for that particular spice. For instance, I have a Spike seasoning bottle that I bought years ago that cost me about $2.50. I buy the Spike seasoning in bulk, about an ounce at a time, and it costs me less than $.20 to refill the bottle! This is a huge savings over the supermarket prices of spices.