Step 4: Know How to Spot a Good Deal

Sale flyers can be deceiving.  One of our local stores stamps a low price guarantee on some of their items in their sale flyer.  This means that on this day in this area of the country, you shouldn’t be able to find a lower price.  But the week before or two weeks after, the price could be significantly lower.  So how do you know if a sale is really a good deal?

Keep a price book.

This is usually a temporary project.  After you write down prices and look them up a few times, you will begin to memorize what a good deal is and no longer need to keep the notebook.  If you feel like inflation is creeping in, you can start a new price book to get your barings on what sale prices are again.

The easiest way to keep a price book is to save your grocery receipts.  Write in a notebook the items you frequently buy and their prices from the receipt.  Then watch the ads to see what the prices do.  When you find a lower price, write it down next to the old price.  You might want to note the store you saw the price in too.

Pretty soon, you’ll be looking through the ads and see a low price guarantee and laugh–or you might find a super great sale (like 10 lbs of potatoes for $1, whole chickens for $.59 a lb, or boneless skinless chicken breasts for $.99 a lb and run out and stock up!) 

Image source: recordinglibrary.org

When reading an ad, the best values are usually on the front and back of the ad.  They’ll sneak some special sales on the inside, but most of them aren’t great deals there.  Knowing what prices are normal and which ones are amazing, will help you shrink your grocery bills. 

It’s my goal to buy enough of the items we use most when they are at their lowest price ever, that I don’t have to buy them again until they are priced that low again.  Imagine a pantry full of healthy low cost foods that you can built a limitless variety of meals from.  I have one, and you can too!

I’ve always been a bargain shopper, but my grocery bill used to be double what it is today.  Tomorrow I’ll tell you how to know which deals to grab and which deals to turn away no matter how great a value they are.

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7 thoughts on “Step 4: Know How to Spot a Good Deal

  1. WashingtonPharmGirl says:

    I worked for Safeway and would get SO annoyed when the milk would go from 1.99 a gallon (Dairy Glen brand) to 2.99 and they would have a tag that said “New Low Price!” Then a week later it would be back to 1.99. Ridiculous.

  2. Heather :) :) :) says:

    Oh, I remember you saying to look at the front AND back of the ads in the 700 Club clip. I told my dad about that when we went grocery shopping. I didn’t find any meat on sale for $2 a pou nd…BUT there was some awesome Jennie O ground turkey…buy one, get one FREE…normally $4.99 for one pound. However, with this sale, it made it about $2.50. So that was the cheapest thing in the store for sure that day!!! Cheaper than hamburger 😉 🙂 Thanks for all of these good tips. I’m really thoroughly enjoying your site here 😉 🙂 I used to keep a price book, and fell out of the habit. I need to start up again. I’d write the price for the same item at the three stores I would shop at. Then I”d pay attention to the ads…because sometimes it would be cheaper on sale at a different store, than where I’d normally buy the product. does that make sense? My dad is coming on board to try and get our grocery shopping down to $50 per person, too 🙂 🙂 Thank you. The 700 Club clip really convinced him easily 🙂 🙂 Love and hugs from Oregon, Heather 🙂

  3. Staci says:

    One of the things I do when reading through the adds to is to put my “special glasses” on. I train my eyes to look only at the items we buy and use. I don’t even bother looking at the prices on lunchables, deli offerings, or desert items, because we don’t use them or need them. I save time and money by not looking, and not being duped into buying something I don’t need because it’s a “great price”. Also, usually I skim over the items that we buy in bulk, just skimming, to see if any prices jump out at me as being huge cuts, they usually aren’t but if they are I don’t miss them this way. It saves time, and time is money in one way or another.

  4. Renee Smith says:

    I’ve been dragging my feet on doing this for a while, and lately have been very diligent about comparing sale flyers for 3 stores in our area (Randall’s, Kroger, and HEB). Before I started this, I had myself convinced that HEB had the best prices, but two weeks in a row now, the advertised prices have been better at Kroger and even Randall’s (the most expensive grocery store, in the minds of everyone I know) for fresh produce… Randall’s would definitely be more expensive if I wandered the aisles, but I read the flyers, found the best deals for fresh healthful produce, and only bought those things that were excellent deals! I saved 36% on both of my recent grocery trips and was able to buy a lot of organic items on sale that were not listed in the weekly ads… it was so exciting to scan my store card and watch the number drop from $100 to $67… and the trip will last us a week and a half to two weeks!! WOO HOO!!

    All that to return to the fact that I need to start a price list to make sure I am keeping up with the best prices and stocking up. How does that work for things like fresh (bagged) spinach? I bought a few bags on sale for $1 each a couple weeks ago, but that isn’t an item that I could really buy more of because it would spoil… then I bought a couple bags for 1.50 each the following week… how do you go about items like that, which are staples, but need to be purchased fresh?

  5. Angela says:

    Renee, You are right—it’s not a great idea to stock up on fresh stuff that will spoil quickly. Of those things, i just buy what we can use before it goes bad. There always seems to be a good deal on fresh stuff somewhere though. So even though I can’t stock up on it, we don’t have to do without. Some fresh things like apples, potatoes, winter squash, sweet potatoes, and onions keep for months if stored properly. So I don’t mind stocking up when I find a good deal on those things.

  6. Melody says:

    I am enjoying the Grocery Shrink newsletters. We are fortunate to have local store that will beat any advertised price for any other store in town, so I most always shop there. When the ads come out on Wednesday, I look through them all and jot down the sale prices on the items I plan to buy on my next shopping trip (I shop twice a month on my husband’s payday) on my grocery list. I have the list attached to the fridge and whenever we take the last item from the pantry to bring into the house, we add it to the list so we don’t run out. I enter my grocery list into a spreadsheet which is organized in the order of travel inside the store, so I don’t have to backtrack. I enter the store name and sale price in the database, use the highlight function for any items I have coupons for and print it out. Then I take the sales ads with me when I shop. Sometimes the store has already marked their items down to below the competitor’s price. For those items that are not marked down, I group them by store in my cart and put the ad with the items. When I get to the register, I notify the clerk ahead of time that I have some price adjustments. On my last trip, I bought $160 worth of groceries for $90, because of in-store sales and $16 of mark downs from the ads I brought in. I never clip coupons for things we don’t usually eat and I never buy stuff just because it’s on sale. Our monthly budget for food is very close to the $50/person you recommend. Thanks for all your encouragement!

  7. Angela says:

    Bravo Melody! You are extremely organized–what a bonus! But you are also more proof that it can be done. I’m not half as organized as you are about it, but still get results. I love that any personality style can make this work!

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