I am a math nerd! I sing the quadratic formula to my kids as a lullaby, we watch Donald in Mathmagicland about once per week, and I love creating spreadsheets for everything.
So, perhaps my favorite aspect of couponing is creating a price comparison sheet. Here is my step-by-step process and the results of comparing prices at four stores!
Creating a Price Comparison Sheet
The first step in creating a price comparison sheet is selecting items that you want to compare. I like to pick 20-30 items that you commonly purchase from various categories (household items, dry goods, produce, meat, frozen, and dairy).
Once you have your list of items, go to each store that you usually shop at and write down the quantity and price of each item on your list. If you plan on using this spreadsheet as a guide weekly, try to record the price of the item when it is not on sale. This way, when you find an ad or coupon for $.50 off, you can look at your spreadsheet and calculate the price.
I recorded the sale price because it helps me get an overall picture of the cost at each store since some of the stores I was comparing have “everyday low prices” and others run frequent sales.
Once you get home, it’s time to create a spreadsheet!
It is important that you are comparing similar sizes. And since this is not always possible, I like to calculate price per unit. For example, 96 diapers at store one cost $18.99, 108 at store two cost $19.77, and 168 at store three cost $34.98. The cost per diaper is $.20, $.18, and $.21 at each store respectively.
If you are a math nerd like me, you may want to go a step further and find the “overall value.” To find the overall value, we must multiply the cost per unit by a standard quantity. If we choose a standard quantity of 96 diapers then the “cost” at each store is $18.99, $17.57, and $19.99.
Using a Price Comparison Sheet
Comparing price per unit for each item allows you to see what type of items are best to buy at each store. If one store is best for dry goods, household items, and frozen you can shop there one time per month (or every few months if you are good at planning and have the storage space). Then you can shop at the best store for produce, meat and dairy products weekly.
When I was a super-couponer, I would take my price comparison sheet to the store weekly and make any updates necessary. Now I only update about once per year.
It is also important to note that price is not the only factor to consider. Store convenience, product selection, and product quality are all important to me. Others factors you may consider when choosing a grocery store are customer service, carry out service, payment types accepted, ability to use coupons, membership fees (such as a Sam’s Membership), and online ordering.
Based on a list of twenty five items at four stores (Kroger, Walmart, Sam’s, and Aldi), I discovered that every store is cheaper on at least one item. I discovered that, overall, Aldi is the best to shop at! However, their meat department was higher than every other store.
I purchase dairy and produce on a weekly basis. Aldi and Walmart were within twenty cents of one another in these two areas, so I would probably choose Aldi over Walmart simply due to the fact that they seem to have better quality produce.
I purchase frozen foods, meat, dry goods, and household items as needed on a monthly basis. So, I can make one trip to Sam’s and/or Walmart each month to get the items that are cheapest there.
*This post was not intended to tell you which store will be cheapest for your family. It was merely showing you how to choose the store that will be cheapest for your family. Your family may eat totally different foods than mine, so please compare items that are on your typical grocery list. Also, item prices may vary among locations.