Author Topic: Grocery Cost Tracking Worksheet Idea (for these forums)  (Read 1842 times)

Rubyvroom

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Grocery Cost Tracking Worksheet Idea (for these forums)
« on: October 10, 2016, 10:48:00 AM »
I'm thinking about building a worksheet for these forums to track grocery costs. The idea would be that people could elect to enter their grocery costs into a shared worksheet and then compare to an overall average cost of all users of the worksheet, using a few different categories to splice the data.

I'm hoping this exercise would give people (including myself) information that might help them lower their grocery costs. I have not created a price journal as Amy D. suggests in the Tightwad Gazette, and I'm hoping this worksheet could serve as an even better guide than my own limited personal shopping experience could provide.

I have a few questions though...

  • Would this worksheet even be something you'd be interested in using? Or do you already have a rock-star system and/or have your food costs under control and this wouldn't interest you?
  • I would limit the food items on the worksheet to keep it somewhat simple/easy to input data. In your opinion, what common grocery items would be most useful to compare?
  • Would people be most interested in food and less interested in other household items (ex. paper towels, cleaners, etc.)?
  • Do enough people shop for groceries online that it would be worth breaking out online shopping separately for comparison?
  • As a new user to these forums I should ask... this isn't already being done somewhere here is it, via some other post or worksheet that I simply haven't stumbled upon?
  • Lastly, are there any other spreadsheet nerds that would be willing to have ideas bounced off them or give this worksheet a second set of eyes before I finish it? Maybe a person who wouldn't mind beta testing with some fake data? Feel free to indicate interest in this thread or send me a PM.

My greedy goal is to fairly quickly build a familiarity with price per qty. for a number of items that I simply haven't taken the time to track before. Our grocery costs are still running fairly high in comparison to MMMers (though they are improving), so getting these costs down is my current pet project. That and I like making spreadsheets...

Let me know your thoughts. Thanks!

Btag84

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Re: Grocery Cost Tracking Worksheet Idea (for these forums)
« Reply #1 on: October 22, 2016, 08:38:11 AM »
I think this would be interesting, it would have to be regional I assume. I imagine my costs in Ohio are less than those in New York.

Bracken_Joy

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Re: Grocery Cost Tracking Worksheet Idea (for these forums)
« Reply #2 on: October 22, 2016, 08:46:04 AM »
I think it would be *really* hard to get good data out of that. Because as pointed out above, where you live is hugely important. I just moved from a big city to a smaller city within the same state and my groceries are easily 10% less per item.

But the second one, which is the biggie in my opinion, is that the main price differences come in WHAT people buy, not so much price per unit of that item. Waste and type of food play much bigger roles than deal hunting.

Finally, you have to consider the bulk effect. A family of 9 with chest freezers and a giant pantry will be able to get MUCH cheaper per item prices, but their total budget will still be astronomically higher than a couple living in a high rise studio with a mini-kitchen.

All this to say, I think you'll have the best luck just assembling your personal price book and looking critically at what you eat and what you waste, vs comparing to other people on the forums. There are just too many variables to account for otherwise.

Rubyvroom

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Re: Grocery Cost Tracking Worksheet Idea (for these forums)
« Reply #3 on: October 22, 2016, 11:40:11 AM »
I think it would be *really* hard to get good data out of that. Because as pointed out above, where you live is hugely important. I just moved from a big city to a smaller city within the same state and my groceries are easily 10% less per item.

All this to say, I think you'll have the best luck just assembling your personal price book and looking critically at what you eat and what you waste, vs comparing to other people on the forums. There are just too many variables to account for otherwise.

Good points. I had created it with the intention of breaking things up regionally, but as you stated, metro versus rural is probably a more important price differentiator. I'm tracking my own spending and once I get a good amount of data I may look to make something for the forums, if anything just for fun. I had a pretty nice template started but wanted some real data to test in it to see what might drop out as making sense or not making sense in terms of the way it was built. That was hard to do with a blank template and equally hard to do (and kind of a waste of time) with fake data.

More to come hopfully after I get things situated :)

kite

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Re: Grocery Cost Tracking Worksheet Idea (for these forums)
« Reply #4 on: October 25, 2016, 11:54:22 AM »
Amy Daczyzyn reader from way back here.
Don't overthink it, just sit down with your most recent grocery receipt and a pocket sized notebook and make a pricebook.
Top of page 1 write Eggs.  Create columns for stores in your vicinity.
Rows will be dates you shopped.  In the cell/square, fill in price you paid.  Circle it.  Then take the notebook with you on the next trip to the store.  In the store, plop in prices as you see things.  Circle if you actually bought it.....this is how I know Aldi has best prices on eggs, all the time.  It's how I know Shoprite will have a sale on butter at specific intervals. It's how I know how old my olive oil is and what I'm wasting if the big jug gets rancid and wipes out any hope of savings by getting the lowest shelf price per ounce.   
I make my living in technology, but prefer a low tech approach here.  The big data version of what you describe is already done by the USDA to help set SNAP and farm subsidy rates.  It is also globally tracked here:  https://www.numbeo.com/food-prices/country_result.jsp?country=United+States.  But big data metrics don't tell you when your farmer's market has patty pan squash by the truckload and hence almost free or the difference between bread worth eating and bread that is an abomination.
My little notebook is a grocery list to share between the two of us, and it's customized to the things we actually eat & use and the stores where we can shop. 
What my pricebook proved to me is what we saved replacing most of the meat in our diets.  It shows that we actually don't save by buying in bulk. Since the sales come around regularly, I don't have to buy next month's chicken today and risk spoilage or waste in my own home.  I keep the money and let Shoprite or Aldi supply the refrigeration until the week I'll be eating it. 
Amy's method involved research trips to scout out best prices, and only you can determine if that is a step you'll deem worth taking. I just dove in with a receipt. 

Rubyvroom

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Re: Grocery Cost Tracking Worksheet Idea (for these forums)
« Reply #5 on: October 25, 2016, 12:18:03 PM »
@kite - Great advice, thanks. I do tend to overthink things. I have started tracking only just recently so I appreciate the tips.

Our food bill isn't astronomical, but it's not in great shape either, so there's plenty of room to improve here. I have a copy of the Tightwad Gazette at home so I may have to crack that sucker open again to re-read her articles on groceries.

And it will probably be a good exercise to move out of Excel and into this "notebook" that you speak of... ;) Excel is definitely how I tend to over-complicate things. You should see the spreadsheet my sister is creating for Thanksgiving planning... I think it runs in the family!