Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Groceries Pt. 5: The Power of the Price Book

All this focus on saving money on groceries through meal planning and couponing has me thinking about one of the most frugal families I know: the Dacyczyn's.

(Before your tongue gets all mangled, it's pronounced "decision".)

In the early 90's Amy Dacyczyn published a newsletter (yes, an honest to goodness paper newsletter!) about frugal living. The issues were eventually compiled into the Complete Tightwad Gazette, a massive handbook that was a huge inspiration for me during the early years of our marriage. If you've read the post on dumpster diving you know I come by some of these frugal tendencies quite naturally. There's just something about what Dacyczyn preaches that really resonates with me (often to Jason's chagrin).

I like her advice about writing down everything you spend and how all the little things add up. Maybe it's the frugality ... maybe it's the structure. The dotting every i, crossing every t, no ifs ands or buts about that style of budgeting. It just appeals to me.

And that's why when I first learned about Price Books more than a decade ago, I embraced the idea.

Don't know what a price book is? Or how it can help you save lots of money at the grocery store? Here's a primer.

There are lots of ways of setting one up, but basically what you do is take a notebook (one that's laying around the house. Amy would shake her head if she saw you buying a new notebook for this!) and label the top of each page with a different grocery product you buy (milk, bread, pasta sauce, diapers, etc...).

Make a couple of columns on each page. Label them "Brand", "Store", "Quantity", "Price". I also like to add a column for Quantity/Price adjustments (i.e. turning $3 for a 16 ounce bottle into 19 cents/ounce)

As you look through grocery store circulars or do your weekly shopping, note the details for each product you buy. As you track these over time you'll notice certain patterns emerge. You can use that knowledge to save money!

For instance, if I saw that peanut butter would hit its low point every 6 weeks, I'd be sure to buy a 6 week supply at the next "low-point" sale. And, I'd use coupons to get it even cheaper.

And that, friends, is how some of those Extreme Couponers really earn their stripes! And you can too. Here's a link to an online Price Book spreadsheet. What have you got to lose? (besides several bucks off your tab?)

Let us know if you try it and what you think!


  1. Not sure if you saw this tonight or if it was just a crazy coincidence... but I'm currently watching Extreme Couponing on TLC... all about these people who buy hundreds of dollars worth of things and only pay like $20 for groceries...craziness!

  2. Crazy coincidence! Though I wish I'd know. My 12 year old has seen the show and is convinced I need to watch it.

    What's your take on them? Whakadoodles ... or just really talented and hard working couponers? I'm curious, do they buy a lot of processed foods?

  3. (clearly I type way too fast for my own good! The editor in me is cringing with those typos)