No matter how good the deals are at any given grocery store, they do not have the best prices for every product. When you shop around and are smart about comparing prices, you will find that certain supermarkets have better deals on specific products. But, how can you use this to your advantage to save money at the checkout? I know we write a lot about journaling, but lemme introduce you to my friend the grocery journal.

How Grocery Journals Work

We’ve researched it, and so far, there are no apps worth mentioning that reliably track grocery prices. And, unless Americans decide to become incredibly savvy grocery shoppers, there is unlikely to be an app for grocery price comparisons any time soon. But, that’s okay. You can collect your own data using a grocery journal.

If you are a tech nerd, I recommend creating your journal using a spreadsheet in Google Drive so you can easily access it on your smart phone when you are in the trenches of the grocery store. Otherwise, an Avery Mini Durable View Binder or another ring binder will work just fine.

Each page (or sheet) of your journal will have a different grocery item, such as bananas, milk, pigs’ feet, bread, etc. Each row will represent a different grocery store visit, and the column headings will include: “Date,” “Store,” “Price,” “Units,” “Price per Unit,” and “Was It on Sale?” So, if you are using Google Sheets, it should look something like this:

grocery journal

What a grocery journal may look like.

How to Fill out Your Journal

Units will vary based on the grocery item. For instance, with bananas, the best unit is pounds. Milk will be gallons. Bread might be slices or ounces depending on what type of bread you typically buy. And, you can set up the spreadsheet to automatically figure out the price per unit by putting “=C2/D2” in the E2 cell. Then, copy the E2 cell and paste it in the other cells in that column. If you are doing this on paper, have a calculator handy (most smartphones now have them).

The easiest way to fill out your journal is to do it using your receipt when you get home from the store and have put away your groceries. You don’t have to fill out the journal for every item you purchase. I typically only enter data in for items I purchase more frequently than every couple months. For products you purchase less often, the prices will likely change before you can make good use of your journal, and you will drive yourself nuts tracking everything. Stick to the staples in your pantry/bathroom.

You need to include the date and whether it was on sale so you can have a fair comparison. Sales sometimes happen at the same time each year. So, look for them.

How to Use the Grocery Journal

Have your journal with you when you go shopping so you can tell if the prices for the items you want to buy are the best deal. If not, you may want to wait until you can make it to the supermarket with the lower price. I recommend making weekly trips to the grocery store, but make it a different grocery store each time. For example, you might go to WinCo the first Wednesday of the month, Costco on the second Wednesday, Cash&Carry on the third Wednesday, and Grocery Outlet on the fourth Wednesday.

When you are at the store with the best deal on an item, buy it up. However, keep in mind it generally isn’t worth your time and fuel to go to a store to save a couple cents on bananas. Also, grocery items are not all the journal is good for. You can also use it for toilet paper, paper towel, hemorrhoid cream, and more.

Do you have any questions about the grocery journal? What tips do you have? Share your questions and tips below!