Saturday, November 13, 2010

How I Determine a Good Deal – Part III: Establishing a Price Book & Stockpiling



(One corner of my pantry)

I started this series to explain this statement that I post in my weekly MARTIN’S coupon match-ups. 

Here are what I consider to be the top deals this week at MARTIN’S.  Remember what I consider to be a good deal and what you consider to be a good deal may differ.

I explained in Part I how I was once a “blind shopper”.  I talked about understanding prices and when items are usually at their lowest price in Part II.  I now want to finally talk about how I have come to decide what is the best price for an item and when to buy extra and build a stockpile.

Figuring out the lowest price and when to buy things in larger quantities takes some time.  It has taken me several years to figure out the best deal and to figure out how much of an item I need to buy to hold us over until the next sale.  This is always going to be something that I am going to have to work at and continue to adjust as our children get older and the needs and eating patterns of our family change. 

There is the possibility that my little ones eat  “x”.  I then find it on a good sale and buy 10 boxes of “x” and they decide they don’t like it anymore.  (That happened with Megan when she was eating rice cereal.  I stocked up on a large quantity and then once she started eating more solids and finger foods she didn’t want rice cereal any longer.  I ended up giving my stockpile to another mom at our church.)

So, how did I start to realize what was a really low price and and a good time to buy additional quantities?  I started looking at other blogs and websites and using their comments on prices as an initial guide.  I had already started to realize the seasonal and holiday trends, but this was when the concept of sales cycles really started to occur to me.  I began to pay closer attention to the unit price versus the sticker price.  (Unit price is the amount per the measurement such as oz, ml, or lb.)  I began to understand that it really can be less expensive to use five $0.50/1 coupon for rice on the 1lb package that was a little over $1 and buy five bags than it was to use one coupon on a 5lb bag that cost more.

Determining your price points is going to be specific for you and your family.  We have allergies and don’t have any pets.  I don’t have any idea what is a good price for pet food.  I choose to buy some organic products.  These items do sometimes cost more, but that is a personal decision that I have made for what is best for our family.  (You may not have the same feeling and that is ok.)  There are condiments or spices that I don’t buy on a regular basis and I don’t know what the best price is.  I had to stop beating myself up about trying to get the absolute lowest price on absolutely everything I buy and realize that I save the most on the things that we use the most.

Having a stockpile of items that you use on a regular basis can not only save you money it can make your life easier.  I have three children under the age of 5 so making a quick trip to the grocery store for one or two things is not an easy task for me right now.  Having a stockpile allows me flexibility in our meals if our day doesn’t go as I had planned. I have been able to share my stockpile with lots of people and not just food drives.  I have shared things with missionaries back in the U.S. on furlough who don’t want to buy things like ketchup, mustard, or mayonnaise.  I had my new sister-in-law and brother come shop out of my pantry to help them get their pantry started.  Having a stockpile means that I have the ingredients on hand to make brownies or cupcakes at the last minute for preschool or for an event at our church.  I have also been able to make meals for new moms with the majority of it coming from my stockpile items.  It is nice to be able to share, and they are getting the same brownies whether I paid $1.50 a box or $0.50 a box for the mix.

Here is just an idea of the target price I try not to exceed on the items I stockpile.  I can sometimes find them for even less, or free, if that is the case I buy as many as I can.

Rice: $0.25/lb

Pasta: $0.50/lb

Canned Fruit (Mandarin Oranges or Pineapple): $0.50 a can

Spaghetti Sauce: ~$1 a jar (depends on the brand)

Canned Tomatoes: $0.35 a can

Tomato Sauce or Paste: $0.25 a can

Canned Soup (Tomato or Chicken Noodle): $0.35

Canned Soup (Cream of Mushroom) : $0.50

Cake Mixes: $0.50

Cake Frosting: $0.50

Brownie Mixes: $0.50

Canned Beans: $0.60

Cereal: ~$1 a box (for the smaller boxes, I will pay ~$1.25 for  a medium sized box)

Crackers: $1.50 a box

Oatmeal (Quick Oats): $0.50 a container

Oatmeal (Instant): $0.75 a box

Peanut Butter: $1

Jelly: $1

Barbecue Sauce: $0.25 a bottle

Salad Dressing: $0.50 a bottle

Ketchup: $0.75 a bottle

Mustard: $0.50 a bottle

Mayonnaise: $1 a jar

Meat Marinades: $0.50 a bottle

Taco Seasoning Packets: $0.25 each

Sour Cream: $0.75 (for 16 oz)

Butter: $1.99/lb (the prices of butter can really fluctuate)

Refrigerated Cookie Dough: $1

Cheese: $0.50 (for 6-8oz)

American Cheese: $1 (24 slices)

Organic Milk: $2.50 (a half-gallon)

Yogurt: $0.25 (for a 6oz cup)

Coffee Creamer: $0.50 (for 1 oz)

Frozen Vegetables: $0.65 a bag

Ground Beef (85/15 or leaner): $1.99/lb

Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast: $1.99/lb

Bone-in Chicken Breast: $0.99/lb

London Broil (Top Round): $1.99/lb

Pork (Tenderloin or Chops): $1.79/lb

Apples: $0.99/lb

Organic Apples: $1.49/lb

Grapes: $0.99/lb

Strawberries: $1.99/lb

Peaches: $0.79/lb

One last thing that I would like to mention is that it is important even when you are building your stockpile that you still stay within your means.  It is easy to get caught up in that shoppers high of finding a great deal and blow your budget when you get to the check-out.  I remember reading somewhere that going over your budget by just $2 a week may not seem like a big deal, but if you consistently go over you budget by $2 each week that means you have spent an additional $104 a year.  Building a stockpile takes time.  It may be that you allow yourself $5 or $10 off your grocery budget to go to stockpile purchases.

I hope that explaining how I determine a good deal has been helpful.  I want to emphasize that we all have different likes, dislikes, and priorities on what or how we feed our families.  I have shared what works for us at this point in our lives.  I would love to hear any feedback on what you thought about this series, what your target price is for items that you stockpile,  or ways that you determine a good deal.


2 comments: said...

This has been a great series! You should "guest post" it on other blogs. I'm headed to Martin's tonight to get my turkey and use a $5 off $50 coupon I got in the mail!

Judi B said...

Thanks for sharing. It's nice to understand others thought processes. I don't always think so clearly about the unit price even though I understand and profess the same concept. I will work on being more diligent in this department.
I'm also in complete agreement about building the stockpile slowly and within the confines of your budget. No deal is a good deal if it means you have to pay interest on your credit card bill when you over spend.