I am not a couponer. To the people who do it, I salute you. For me, it takes too much time and is complicated organizationally. Although coupons are not my thing, I am one who loves a bargain. What do I do instead of coupons? I created what I call a “Best Known Price List.”
Since we have been married, I used meal planning to save money and many of you have written for tips of other things I do to cut costs while eating well. Now that we live in a house with a bit more storage, this list is my main answer to that question.
The concept of a Best Known Price List is to buy items in bulk when they are available at the lowest price. A main motivation for making this list was to save money while not requiring the frequent preparation time of couponing. A Best Known Price List is some work up front and then only sporadic maintenance afterward.
My spreadsheet where I keep this information has seven columns: item, brand, location, size, price, unit price, and dates seen at price. I include only items that are non-perishable or freezable, such as fruit, meat, cheese, butter, condiments, broth, nuts, pasta, chips, spices, and paper products.
The “size” column is usually measured in ounces or pounds. “Unit price” is perhaps the most important column and is price divided by size. This is where you can see if and how much you actually save by buying the big box of cereal because it shows you the price per ounce.
This system does require visiting multiple stores, but I certainly do not go to all of them on a weekly basis. For example, Wal-Mart has my cheapest known price for laundry detergent, dish soap, napkins, and toilet paper. Maybe once a month or less I go to Wal-Mart and stock up on those products. There is no way I would go to every store represented on my list every week! Part of the helpfulness of this system is buying in bulk so you do not need to make lots of trips.
There are so many interesting finds you will see from collecting data. As shared above, I have found Wal-Mart is great for paper products (even beating Sam’s Club!), but has won no categories in food for best price.
Overtime, I more or less have a working memorization of the list so that I can spot a good deal versus only a tiny markdown. (I also have access to the list on my smart phone.) The “dates seen at this price” is for this purpose. Is the sale I am seeing one which comes only once a year and I should really stock up? Or, is it a price the product routinely comes down to?
Some websites have formats of something like a BKPL for sale. While those can be helpful to consult, I think it is much better to create your own. My data is compiled from the collection of stores and retailers in my city. With various chains in your town, your prices and locations would be very different. If you are crazy like me, getting the list started and then putting in a few updates from receipts now and then is even a little fun.
What else do you do to save money on groceries? It has to be easy!