Friday, April 4, 2008

Grocery Guide

Over the past few weeks, I've started a Grocery Price Guide. It's an idea I've seen on several blogs now, so I thought I'd share my experience with it.

Put simply, I made a list of as many items that I buy regularly that I could think of. At this stage of the game, I made no judgments about if the items were dumb or not, just made a list of what I typically buy. Keep in mind, I've ALWAYS been a pretty good comparison shopper - I never buy anything without comparing it to other items of the same type. If this isn't a strength for you, then you may wish to make a "first pass" with your list and see if you're just spending some "dumb money" anywhere on your list.

Next, I made columns for each of the stores in my area that I have access to:

BJ's Wholesale

We also have Sam's, Costco, and Winn dixie in this area, but I currently have a BJ's card, so I'm not going to buy a membership anywhere else until that expires. Winn Dixie is too far no matter how good a deal they may have - and with gas prices going up, that will just get worse.

Yesterday, I was in Publix, and I took my list with me. It turned a 3 minute "just grabbing 3 items" trip into about 40 minutes as I wrote down prices.

Yesterday, I had to go to WalMart to get 1 item. BJ's is right next to the closest WalMart, so I took my list and went to both places. Albertsons is having a sale on boneless, skinless chicken breasts (1.69/lb) so I'll go there with my list over the weekend. At some point I'll have to get to Sweetbay.

I think shock is the right word. Prices are all over the place. BJ's and Walmart split things pretty much down the middle, with a few (large) exceptions. Ground Turkey? Worst price: Walmart $3.75 a pound. Best? Publix - by over a dollar! $2.69 a pound. Keep in mind this is ground turkey breast. Walmart does have "15% fat" ground turkey for $1.89 a pound. Since I brown the meat first, that may actually be better for turkey chili.

Fortunately, Publix is on the corner, so gas isn't an issue, really. Walmart and BJ's are next door to each other, and I hit BJ's for gas (usually within $0.02 of the lowest price in the area, if not the lowest, so I accept that for the consistency). I can be fairly confident of being able to get the lowest price available and still only make two trips (fuel wise).

I highly recommend putting a list like this together. I've already found out that several sale items I was going to go get are more expensive at the sale than they are regularly priced at other places. It's also nice to be able to make an informed decision on whether or not to get something one place or the other, or if this week it's worth paying a little more for a single item (or 2) to avoid having to make 2 trips.

I haven't tracked it, but my guess is that I'm saving between $5 and $10 a week just by knowing where to buy what. That doesn't sound like much, but it stacks up and I only shop for me. If I'm only saving $5 a week, in a year that's still $260. Imagine how much the savings would be for someone that shops for 2 (or 4) people.

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