Do You Know the “Best” Grocery Prices When You See Them?

Find out why you need to know the best grocery prices—then take the quiz to see where you stand

No matter how many times I write about saving money at the supermarket, I am always quite amazed at how little the average shopper really knows about prices and what they should be looking for to find the very best deals when they shop.

To be a savvy supermarket shopper, you need to know the "best" grocery prices so you know when to stock up. In this post, I'll explain why and then test you on some common grocery prices to determine if you know the best price when you see it.

Most of us are very familiar with coupons, loyalty cards, weekly specials, and all the gimmicks and tricks the typical supermarket uses to get you to stock up and buy! You know what I am talking about here: the high traffic end cap displays with the huge saving signs, the BOGO promotions, and the “must buy 10” to save, etc. But, the biggest savings you can get is buying items at their very lowest and best price, and having a coupon is really icing on the cake. But how do you know when what you see is the very best price when you see them?

The Minefield of the Supermarket

When you see a box of cereal that is regularly $4.49 a box and it’s on sale for $2.99, you can more than likely save 50% (making it $2.24) just by waiting for the best sale to cycle around. Notice that I didn’t say “a sale” to cycle around but the best sale price to cycle around. Grocery stores always have things on “sale”, but they also lie. Your goal is to learn what the lowest price is for any item you need and use and only to buy it at that very best price.

We’ll call this lowest price a stock up price. Prices for each item will vary week by week at the grocery store, but they tend to run in 4-6 week cycles all the time. To know when it’s the best price to buy, you need to track prices for those weeks and make notes so you can determine when and what the best deals are when they are offered. It helps to have a lowest price list, at first on paper and eventually in your head. When an item is in the price zone, that’s when you stock up! Since these prices run on cycles, you won’t see this low price again for weeks. That’s why you should buy enough to get you through until the next time you see this price again.

Determining the Best Sale

Most of us feel like we know the price of some of the basics we buy almost every week. If I were to ask you, “what’s a great price for a pound of butter?” you would probably guess that it was somewhere around $2.49 per package. Sometimes when it’s on a super special deal, perhaps with a store special coupon or loyalty card, it might be as low as $1.99 or at other times it can be as high as $4.99. With a manufacturer’s coupon, it can even be lower.

When you track the prices for the 4-6 weeks, you will begin to see the pattern and you will find out how good your best price radar really is. I know that prices often can vary from one section of the country to another. I am using prices here in the Northeast U.S. as my gauge, but the truth is that unless you are in Hawaii or Puerto Rico, or live in a farm area where buying from your local farmer beats the supermarket, these prices should represent a pretty good indicator of what you might find to be a very good deal.

Before you go out and start tracking prices with your pen and paper, let’s test your knowledge a bit with some “best prices”. See if you can pick out a really good price on these 12 basic items. Keep in mind that these prices are “really good” even though you may find it on some kind of extra special, super-duper promotion somewhere at a rare lower price. Those would be exceptions to the rule. Good luck!

Best Prices Quiz

1. 2 liter bottle of Coca-Cola

a) 2/$3.00          b) $0.88          c) $0.99          d) $1.49

2. A dozen large white eggs

a) $2.99          b) $3.49          c) $0.99          d) $1.99

3.  24-pack of 16.9 oz. Poland Spring Water

a) $4.99          b) $3.99          c) $2.99          d) $1.99

4. Hellmann’s mayonnaise 30 oz. jar

a) $2.99          b) $4.29          c) $3.99          d) $2.50

5. 1 pound of 80% lean Ground Beef

a) $4.99          b) $3.99          c) $2.69          d) $2.99

6. Store brand 20 oz. loaf of sandwich bread

a) $2.19          b) $0.99          c) $1.49          d) $1.99

7. Boneless chicken breasts (3 lb. or more package) per pound

a) $1.99          b)$2.49          c) $3.49          d) $2.99

8. 1 lb. package of Oscar Mayer Bacon

a) $5.99          b) $4.99          c) $3.99          d) $2.99

9. 8 oz. package of Kraft Philadelphia cream cheese

a) $0.99          b) 2/$5.00          c) 3/$5.00          d) $1.99

10. 5 lb. bag of russet potatoes

a) $2.99          b) $1.99          c) $1.49          d) $0.99

11. Stove Top  stuffing 6 oz. box

a) $2.19          b) $1.49          c) $1.98          d) $1.79

12. 5 oz. can of Bumble Bee Chunk Light Tuna

a) $1.39          b) $1.29          c) $1.09          d) $0.88

If and when you create your own best price list, make sure to set prices at reasonable levels. You don’t want to record a box of cereal selling for just 25¢ or less because you got an amazing deal one time on it with triple coupons and your loyalty card! You want to go with a general good price that we see often during the shopping cycle. If you only look for the most amazing prices, you’ll quickly starve and wind up regretting all of your hard work.

Now that you have an idea of what you want to pay for certain items, you can begin the process of stocking up on the best deals and no longer just shopping based on needs, but only shopping based on sales. You will see your savings mount up and your budget will make you smile!

Have you shopped and recorded the great prices in your supermarket that come and go with the shopping cycle? Do you stock up and buy enough to last from cycle to cycle? Can you say that you know good prices when you see them?

Now click on page 2 for the quiz answers and scoring!

About Gary Weiner @ Super Saving Tips

Over the last 45 years I've worked in retail (department stores and supermarkets) and financial planning. In addition, I am a shopper, born and bred, who enjoys the challenges of finding the best items for the best prices. When I'm not busy saving money or writing here at Super Saving Tips, I enjoy baseball, music, and classic movies. I am retired and live in New Jersey with my wife.
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6 Comments

  1. Haha. Nice quizz idea Gary! I got a pretty bad score :S I tried to transform prices from my country to the states, but it didn’t work well.

    I couldn’t agree more that one need to be careful when trying to find the best prices. As you say, they often lie and the sale is often related to a previous higher price. Moreover, 50% sale over something really expensive may still be expensive!

    • There’s an old saying that you’ll hear in this country and that is “the more you spend, the more you save”. LOL. I’m always saying the opposite, “the more you spend, the more you spend”. What I really mean is that it’s not the percentage of what you’re saving off the “price”. It’s how much you’re actually spending that matters. You obviously understand that.

  2. Great quiz! I scored 50%. Ouch! To be fair I purchase a number of these items at Costco, which over different packaging.

    I have witnessed the so-called sale prices of items at the supermarket. I try and keep a mental note of the best sale price. For example, ice cream is one of our favorite desserts. I have seen klondike bars on sale at the store we regularly shop at for $2.99, $2.50, and $1.99 for the same package of six. I only buy them when I see the $1.99 price.

    • First of all, Brian, thanks for commenting on the warehouse club stores like Costco. You are absolutely right that it may be hard to compare because of the size and quantity differences. But keep in mind, supermarket sale prices can often be better than the everyday club store prices. Secondly, great catch on an item like Klondike bars (yum!). You will find that price goes up and down just like the temperature outside and once you zero in on the best deal, that’s when you make your buy. Even with your 50% score, I think you understand that very well. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Thanks, Gary. Got send this post to Mrs. G. She does the shopping in our household. But oddly enough, because I track our household expenses, I didn’t do too badly on the quiz. Anyway, great advice. Who knew there was a science to supermarket shopping? And you are so right prices being generally same in other regions of the country except Hawaii and Puerto Rico. That’s one of the things that surprised us when we moved down to North Carolina. The supermarket prices weren’t really cheaper than Long Island supermarket prices. Cheers, my friend.

    • It really pays to become familiar with the price cycle and the more you have the chance to get into the market and shop, the easier it becomes. I know that in particular many men delegate those responsibilities to their wives or significant others, but when you can recognize a bargain, you can save some money. Thanks for your comments, Mr. G.

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