Price Points – Reader Question

by Erin, The $5 Dinner Mom on January 14, 2011

Emily writes,

I have a question… As someone that has just recently started cooking I often find myself at the store wondering if I am getting a good price on something.  I know that you and other frugal shoppers often know in your head what a good price is and stock up when you see food that is under that price point.  Would you be willing to share those price points with us?  It would be really helpful for me to know when I’m getting a good deal and when I should pass.

Thanks for your question Emily!

For fresh produce, I have found that the prices vary greatly from region to region, and from season to season.  Some years winter squash is priced at less than $.50/lb, and other years it doesn’t get below $.89/lb.  The supply and demand of fresh produce causes a great deal of fluctuation in the prices from month to month and year to year.  We eat seasonally and take advantage of as many of the sales and offers as possible.

For fresh meats, you can find my list of prices outlined in my “How to Spot a Great Price on Meat” post.

Also, I would say that it depends on what part of the country you live in...but I don’t think it really does. The only really exorbitantly priced foods I have come across are in NYC, but even there if you are looking closely and in the right places, you can score great deals on food!  There may be other higher cost of living areas in the country, but for the most part the major chains compete with each other to drive costs down.  (If you don’t believe me, you can read about the prices I found in a Safeway and farmer’s market when traveling to a wedding this past summer in Marin County, CA, just north of San Francisco.) (And Jessica from Life As Mom shared her observations about grocery prices in Southern California!)

My best advice would be to keep a close eye on the grocery store circulars…either get the newspaper or you can view them online for free! If you are really motivated to spend less, keep a price book for the ingredients that you buy on a regular basis. Update it as you see prices trending up or down throughout the year.  After tracking prices for 3-6 months, you’ll start to see the sale cycles and you’ll get a better sense of when to stock up and when to wait to purchase.

What other advice do you have for Emily?!  What has worked for you in keeping track of grocery prices?!

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Angelina Triplett January 14, 2011 at 1:41 pm

Be sure to weight your produce if it is priced per item/bag. I have gotten 12 lb bags of potatoes for the price of 10lbs. Also most stores put in fine print on the tag unit prices large is not always the better value as well as store brand isn’t always cheapest even without coupons.

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Mel January 14, 2011 at 1:52 pm

Also, keep in mind that a lot of store compete with one another. For example, weeks before Thanksgiving watch the sales at all the stores for veggies and turkey. One store might have deal if you buy $25 worth of food you get a Turkey at a cheaper rate. Also keep in mind if it’s “on sale” on week at one store, the next week another store might have it even cheaper.

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L2L January 14, 2011 at 7:55 pm

This year I have decided to do my shopping at three different stores in my area. So what I began to do is save my grocery receipts to record the prices I paid in a notebook. Then I compare them with prices at the other grocery store as I shop. This is best done without kids or just pick a few items to compare each time you grocery shop. For me I knew there was a bit of a difference with tilapia fish, milk, bread, canned tomato products, and frozen chicken breasts. So now I can just refer to my notebook when a sale hits and really know if it is a good deal or not. It’s alot of work at first but after the first 2 months its worth it if you have to drive, like I do, to go grocery shopping!!!!

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AllieZirkle January 16, 2011 at 4:53 pm

Which area of the country is this reader coming from?

I grew up in S California and recently moved to Phoenix. My price points in Phx are different than those in CA. Meat ~ $2/lb, fruit & veggies not more than $1/lb with some specific pricing on berries & tomatoes & carrots & some seasonal items, berries not more than $1/6-8oz pack, strawberries $1/lb (not more than $1.50/lb), $.50/lb carrots, $.33/lb Roma tomato, etc.

Price match at walmart and only buy in season! Only buy meat at rock bottom prices & Price match at walmart too.

:) Allie

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Nicole January 16, 2011 at 11:04 pm

Roma tomatoes are $1.77 at my Walmart today =( (in Canada)

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