Simplified Menu Planning: Day 18 – Compare Prices & Create a Price Book

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31 Days to Frugal Real Food in Less Time

31 Days to Simplify Your Menu Planning

It’s easy to collect excess stuff and food in the kitchen and pantry, and it’s easy to lose focus and forget how to set up an efficient kitchen or a useful, healthy menu plan. So, during 31 Days to Simplified Menu Planning, we’ll take the necessary steps to simplify and streamline our food-related efforts.

Now that you’ve examined your options for grocery sources and purchasing strategies, it’s time to do some hard number crunching and comparing.

Price Book: Systematic Price Comparisons Between Stores

The basic premise behind a price book is to make a written reference for the normal price on goods you buy. With such a reference, you can check if a sale is actually a sale (I’ve found stores call a price a sale price when it was actually higher than the usual price) and check if you are buying your groceries at the best price available.

Digitally, it’s easiest to make it up in a spreadsheet. On paper, you’ll want lined notebook paper with some drawn vertical columns. One column will be for listing the products you’re price-checking, then you’ll need a column for each store you’re comparing.

Take this list with you when you go shopping and start filling it out. Or, you can turn it into a project and go simply to fill it out completely. Or, you can fill it out in bits and pieces from store receipts after shopping.

Because you now have a short, simple master pantry list, this project is much simpler and easier. You don’t have to note the price of every item in the store, but only those items you buy regularly.

Make sure you keep the price in an easy-to-compare measurement. Price per ounce or pound is usually best. You will likely come up with some surprising results. It is not always true that a bulk package is cheaper than smaller sizes. Some stores have a few really good deals, but make up for it with some deceptively high prices elsewhere.

Every few years, particularly after an across-the-board price increase as happened when gas prices rose a few years ago, it’s a good idea to remake the price book and check again. Many times I have found my assumptions on where the best deals are were incorrect. With a price book, not only can you check your instincts against the facts, but you can also refer to it when comparing a new store or online resource or even the weekly grocery ads.

On Monday, we’ll talk about putting the information from your price book together with your master pantry list to create master grocery shopping lists.


Mystie Winckler began menu planning at 11 years old when her mom delegated one dinner a week to her. Marrying at 19, she’s had a lot of practice over the years. But between growing and homeschooling her family, meal planning often requires brain power that just isn’t there any more. Simplified Dinners is her solution to take the effort and thought out of healthy, frugal cooking. And now it is available for you, too! During the month of October only, while this series is running, use discount code 31days and receive $4 off!

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