Even if you make a list before you go to the grocery store, you could still waste a lot of time—not to mention money—if you get distracted by the sale tags that line the shelves in almost every aisle. Of course, you want to save money. But is it worth standing there in the aisle to compare the sale prices for the many sizes and varieties your store has in stock?
Unit pricing—that’s the item’s price per kilo, or however else it’s measured—is usually easy to find on its shelf label. But unit prices can be time-consuming to compare, especially if the units listed are inconsistent from one brand to the next.
That’s why you need a second shopping list: one for your own benchmark pricing.
Reddit user thenewyorkgod explained their method for tracking “benchmark pricing” for the 30-or-so items they purchase on a regular basis. They determined the price per unit for the cheapest version of the each product, so that when a sale pops up, they have a framework for how good (or bad) a sale price really is.
Here’s how it works:
I track the benchmark price of each of those items which I have determined based on shopping at the cheapest places, like Aldi and Costco. Example, Costco Toilet paper is $US.01/sq foot, and Dove Shampoo is $US0.18 an ounce, Aldi aluminium foil is $US.026 per foot. This way when I am shopping and see sale or clearance prices for the similar items, for example, Charmin at Walgreens, Costco bulk foil, I can quickly determine whether that product in its current size is a good deal based on my benchmark prices.
Users chimed in with their frustrations about grocery shopping, from the existence of “87 different pasta sauces” (true) to the “toilet paper maths” that forces you to figure out single rolls, double rolls, and various other features alongside the price. And that’s if you only shop at one store. If you visit a few different stores, as the original poster does, that adds yet another layer of comparison shopping.
Why not just remember the price you paid last time for that item and figure it out when you’re pushing your cart? Because we all fall prey to decision fatigue. We make thousands of small decisions each day, and by the time we get to the grocery store, we are more than likely a bit drained. If you rely on your memory to determine when something on sale is a “good deal,” you’re going to mess up—not all the time, but at least some of the time. The consequences of those errors are small in the long run, but if you’re trying to maximise your savings, why wouldn’t you want to reduce your likelihood of error at the grocery store?
With a list like this, you can go on autopilot for at least a good portion of your time spent at the store. If one of your frequently bought items is on sale, you can consult the list, find the floor for the unit price, and quickly determine whether the size for the sale product means you can a better deal than your benchmark price.