I bought one of these little note books last week. One of the stores had them on sale for 25 cents because it's school time. It's pocket sized so it will be easy to carry with me on shopping trips.
The first thing I did was write in the stuff that needs to be permanent. Then went back and started writing in the stuff that should be in pencil. I chose my 3 favorite places to shop then added 3 more stores just to check now and then. No, I won't be going to all the stores to check prices, I'll explain that in a moment.
I decided, for me, it's best to keep the prices based on "units of measure" instead of container prices. Why? Well because often the container sizes are different for different stores. When the price is in equal amounts (like pounds) it's easy to compare prices. But, when it comes to knowing if a 100 oz bottle of dish detergent is a better bargain than three 35 oz bottles at a different store, it becomes more difficult to check for the lowest price.
Once my price book is made, it will be easy to maintain it. An occasional erasing and a new price penciled in will be all it takes to keep prices current. My price book contains one sheet for every item I found in my cabinets. These are items I know I will purchase again when I run out. I can add new items by making a new sheet. Right now, my price book is not in alphabetical order. When I'm satisfied I have a sheet for most items I buy, I plan to remove the wire spine, put the sheets in order, then put the wire back.
My price book does not have all the prices in it yet. I will not be going on a price finding mission at several stores. I will simply add unit prices as I find them. For me, the easiest way is to use the sale ads I get in the Sunday paper each week. (My thoughts about sale ads at the end of this post, please read it.)
I look through the sale ads and write the unit prices of the loss leaders into my price book along with the date. Later, when loss leaders of the same items appear in the ad again, I can write down how long the cycle is for that item. For example, the chicken thighs for 99 cents a pound. In my price book the date is August 15. The chicken thighs may remain on sale for a couple of weeks then a different loss leader takes it's place. Next time the chicken thighs go on sale as a loss leader I can figure out an approximate length of time between. I'll write the cycle length on the bottom of the sheet.
Why would I need to know the length of time between an item being a loss leader? Hmm... suppose for some reason I ran out of chicken thighs. I really don't want to buy thighs when the cost is at it's highest. I can look in my price book to see when I may expect to see thighs as loss leaders again. I can make plans to buy enough thighs to last until the next cycle.
Suppose I'm running low on toilet tissue. I can start watching sales for a loss leader of toilet tissue. Knowing the unit price (one roll) and the length of time before it will become a loss leader, I can plan my purchase. One store might have the brand I prefer at .50 cents a roll but a different store might have it for .40 cents a roll. Different packages, different roll count, but the unit cost is what I look at.
The other way I use my price book is to write down the "normal" shelf price of items that rarely make it to the status of loss leaders. For example, Mrs Dash. I use Mrs Dash in a lot of my cooking. Yes, it will be on sale once in awhile but rarely as a loss leader. I do want to know if one store consistently prices Mrs Dash a few cents lower than other stores I shop.
Suppose I'm in Kroger and see the price of Mrs Dash. I believe it's a good price, but I wonder to myself if it's cheaper at Meijer which will be my next stop. I don't want to loose out on a bargain and I'm not returning to this store until the next shopping trip. I don't want to pay what I believe is a good price only to find out Meijer has is for a better price. Do I buy Mrs Dash at Kroger or Meijer? I simply look in my price book to find out which store has the best price based on the last time I checked the normal price of Mrs Dash.
Another thing I haven't written into my price book yet is my current inventory and how many I want to keep in the stockpile. I wanted to get started writing in the prices. I can add the have/need part later.
I do hope I've made this post about creating a price book understandable. It really is a valuable tool for saving money.... if you use it. It wouldn't make much sense to go to all the trouble of creating a price comparison chart or book then not take full advantage of the information. I prefer my price book to be portable while other people might prefer to keep the information on a computer. The idea is to save money so create your price book in whatever way you are most likely to update consistently and compare prices before making purchases.
About those grocery ads..... let me give you one more thought before I leave this post. Any store can put a "sale" sign on anything and have you believing you are getting a real bargain. Sale does not always mean "bargain price", sale can also mean the item is merely "for sale". If you have nothing to compare prices you may be happily over paying for an item week after week because you see it in a sale ad. Sale ads are the equivalent of a "sale" sign in a store. A price book will let you know when a sale really is a good deal and not simply for sale.