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A Spreadsheet-Based Grocery Store Price Comparison that will Have You Saving Money on Groceries

Updated on January 12, 2011

Whether you're hard pressed for cash or trying to justify an extravagant purchase by cutting costs elsewhere, you can benefit from comparing prices at your local grocery stores to discover which store offers the most savings.  You might be surprised to hear that different stores offer better savings to different types of people.  I will show you how to find which local grocery store offers the most savings for you.  I will also give you an example of grocery store prices compared across Safeway, Trader Joe's, and Lucky's, as well as time and location that can give you a general idea of what your own price comparison will look like.

Why do it yourself?

You are probably well aware of the fact that there are many online sites that allow you to hunt for deals on groceries, as well as compare prices across stores.  Why, then, should you bother with your own research? Here are some major benefits of doing your own grocery store price comparisons:

  • Avoidance of data overload:  Many price comparison websites offer so much information, it takes longer to find that which is relevant to you than it would to simply collect your own information
  • Accuracy: Some prices on websites are outdated or not relevant to your particular location, as different grocery stores, even those that are part of the same chain, will run different promotions at different times, and may consistently price products differently, not to mention carry different brands
  • Mindfulness: A large part of getting one's budget under control involves actually thinking about the cost of certain things and being truly aware of one's expenditures.  Carefully looking at the cost of certain grocery purchases over time will help make you more aware of what is really putting a dent in your monthly food budget, and you might even find easy ways to cut extra expenses (e.g. "Wow - I was paying $20 a month on pre-cooked rice? I'll just make my own over the weekend in a big batch and package it into smaller portions for the week on my own")

How to determine which local grocery store offers you the most savings

  1. Start a spreadsheet with the following columns: food name, price, store, date, location (optional) and category. Feel free to add more categories if you like (e.g. Notes - should you want to make a note to never buy something again because it was super gross!)
  2. Do your grocery shopping at different local grocery stores; buy what you normally buy
  3. Record items in each grocery receipt in your spreadsheet until you have a decent collection of prices to compare
  4. Look over the date you've collected - sort through columns by store, food, or category to find which store offers the best price on your major staples
  5. If you find that one store in particular offers better prices for a lot of the things you buy, go with that one!

At the bottom of this page you will find an example of a grocery price comparison spreadsheet I added to on and off over several months. Play around with the sorting, and you'll see how you can easily evaluate and compare prices across stores, locations, dates, and categories.

Why does this work?

A local grocery store that may offer the most savings for one person may be more expensive for another.  Why?  Well, perhaps one person is a vegetarian and purchases a lot of organic produce - this person would save more by shopping mostly at a grocery store that has reasonably priced organic fruits and vegetables.  Another person might be shopping for a large family and likes to buy a lot of pre-made meals - this person would save more money by shopping somewhere where such products are very competitively priced.  Yet another person might be a big wine buff-  this individual could save more by regularly shopping at a grocery store with great bargains on wine.

By only focusing on the expenses that are relevant to you (e.g. only the things you buy), you'll be able to see which store offers the best prices on those things.

An Example of Personal Grocery Price Comparison

(click column header to sort results)
Object  
Price  
Store  
Date  
Location  
Category  
Cocoa, dutched, 8 oz
3.99
Lucky
9.5.10
SF
Baking
Cocoa, dutched, 8 oz
3.65
Safeway
1.24.10
DC
Baking
Eggs, dozen, AA, cage free
2.49
Trader Joe's
10.2.10
SF
Baking
Eggs, dozen, X large, brown, cage free
3.79
Safeway
9.11.10
SF
Baking
Flour, all purpose
2.99
Trader Joe's
11.13.10
SF
Baking
Molasses, Briar Rabbit
3.69
Safeway
10.2.10
SF
Baking
Tahini
6.49
Lucky
9.5.10
SF
Baking
Bread (1 ww loaf)
2
Safeway
1.24.10
DC
Bread
Bread, lovesticks
2.99
Trader Joe's
10.9.10
SF
Bread
Bread, Pita, Whole wheat apocryphal pita
1.29
Trader Joe's
2.14.10
DC
Bread
Bread, whole wheat, soft
2.49
Trader Joe's
2.7.10
DC
Bread
English muffins, whole wheat, 10
1.49
Trader Joe's
2.7.10
DC
Bread
English muffins, whole wheat, 6
2
Safeway
1.17.10
DC
Bread
Mini whole wheat bagels, 12
3.79
Safeway
1.31.10
DC
Bread
Mini ww bagels (Peppridge)
3.79
Safeway
1.10.10
DC
Bread
Oats, quick
3.99
Safeway
2.21.10
DC
Bread
Tortillas, corn, small, 27
2.09
Safeway
1.10.10
DC
Bread
Tortillas, mission, white, 30, 779 grams
1.89
Safeway
11.6.10
SF
Bread
Tortillas, White Corn, Mission
1.99
Lucky
9.5.10
SF
Bread
Hummus, the flat, good kind you mix
2.99
Trader Joe's
10.9.10
SF
Condiments
Sauce, jalapeno, hot
1.99
Trader Joe's
10.2.10
SF
Condiments
Butter, Lucerne, two sticks
1.99
Safeway
10.2.10
SF
Dairy
Cheese, cottage, Lucerne
3.99
Safeway
10.9.10
SF
Dairy
Cheese, cream, soft spreadable light
2.69
Trader Joe's
10.9.10
SF
Dairy
Cheese, mozzarella, Lucerne
4.99
Safeway
10.9.10
SF
Dairy
Cheese, parmesan (Safeway brand)
3.49
Safeway
2.21.10
DC
Dairy
Cottage cheese
3.49
Lucky
9.5.10
SF
Dairy
Cottage Cheese, Lucerne
3.99
Safeway
9.11.10
SF
Dairy
Cream cheese, Lucerne
2.79
Safeway
9.11.10
SF
Dairy
Cream Cheese, Philadelphia Light
1.99
Safeway
2.21.10
DC
Dairy
Goat cheese, herbed, 5 oz
2.49
Trader Joe's
11.6.10
SF
Dairy
Cream Cheese, Philadelphia Light
2.49
Safeway
1.10.10
DC
Dairy
Milk, evaporated, skim, canned
1.09
Safeway
11.13.10
SF
Dairy
Milk, nonfat, quart
1.29
Safeway
10.9.10
SF
Dairy
Milk, nonfat, quart
1.29
Trader Joe's
11.13.10
SF
Dairy
Yogurt, Lucerne
1.99
Safeway
1.10.10
DC
Dairy
Yogurt, Mountain High, LARGE
4.98
Lucky
9.5.10
SF
Dairy
Yogurt, nonfat, lucerne
2.69
Safeway
10.9.10
SF
Dairy
Yogurt, organic (30oz)
2.99
Trader Joe's
2.7.10
DC
Dairy
Eggs, dozen, organic, brown
3.49
Safeway
1.10.10
DC
Eggs
Eggs, dozen, organic, cage free
2.69
Trader Joe's
2.7.10
DC
Eggs
Apples, organic, gala, bag
4.99
Safeway
10.9.10
SF
Fruit
Apples, small, organic, 6
2.49
Trader Joe's
2.14.10
DC
Fruit
Bananas (10)
2.69
Safeway
1.10.10
DC
Fruit
Bananas (10)
1.9
Trader Joe's
2.14.10
DC
Fruit
Bananas, by pound
0.79
Safeway
10.9.10
SF
Fruit
Cantaloupe
3.49
Safeway
1.24.10
DC
Fruit
Cantaloupe
1.88
Safeway
1.10.10
DC
Fruit
Cantaloupe
3
Safeway
2.21.10
DC
Fruit
Cantaloupe, Melon (sale off 2.99)
1.99
Safeway
9.11.10
SF
Fruit
Brita water filter
7.99
Safeway
1.31.10
DC
Other
Chickenless patties, Morning Star (reg. 4.99)
3.99
Safeway
11.13.10
SF
Prepared foods
Chickenless stuffed cutlet
4.99
Trader Joe's
2.7.10
DC
Prepared foods
Madras Lentils
1.99
Trader Joe's
2.7.10
DC
Prepared Foods
Vegetable broth, organic
1.99
Trader Joe's
2.7.10
DC
Prepared foods
Apples, grannysmith, organic, per pound
2.49
Safeway
11.13.10
SF
Produce
Apples, Organic, Granny smith, 1 pound
1.49
Safeway
11.6.10
SF
Produce
Bananas (each)
0.19
Trader Joe's
10.2.10
SF
Produce
Broccoli, crowns, per pound
1.99
Safeway
11.6.10
SF
Produce
Broccoli, crowns, per pound
1.79
Safeway
11.13.10
SF
Produce
Broccoli, small bunch
2.29
Trader Joe's
2.7.10
DC
Produce
Carrots, organic
0.79
Trader Joe's
10.2.10
SF
Produce
Carrots, organic (20oz)
0.89
Trader Joe's
2.7.10
DC
Produce
Carrots, organic, whole, 450 grams
0.79
Trader Joe's
10.9.10
SF
Produce
Cauliflower
2.99
Safeway
1.24.10
DC
Produce
Cauliflower
2.99
Lucky
9.5.10
SF
Produce
Cauliflower
1.79
Trader Joe's
10.2.10
SF
Produce
Frozen Broccoli Florets
1.29
Trader Joe's
2.7.10
DC
Produce
Frozen green beans
1.99
Trader Joe's
2.7.10
DC
Produce
Frozen peas and carrots
2.5
Safeway
2.21.10
DC
Produce
Frozen Peas, 20 oz
1.29
Trader Joe's
2.7.10
DC
Produce
Green beans, 1 pound
1.99
Safeway
11.6.10
SF
Produce
Green beans, tray
2.49
Trader Joe's
10.9.10
SF
Produce
green beans, pre-trimmed
3.49
Trader Joe's
2.7.10
DC
Produce
Green beans, tray
2.49
Trader Joe's
10.2.10
SF
Produce
Onion, yellow sweet
1.27
Safeway
2.21.10
DC
Produce
Potatoes, 1 pound, small
1.99
Trader Joe's
2.7.10
DC
Produce
Pumpkin, sugar
1.99
Trader Joe's
10.2.10
SF
Produce
Curry paste (Thai red)
4.99
Lucky
9.5.10
SF
Sauces
Marinara, Tomato Basil
1.79
Trader Joe's
11.13.10
SF
Sauces
Tomato sauce, Ragu
2
Safeway
1.24.10
DC
Sauces
Tomato sauce, Tomato Basil Pasta Sauce
1.79
Trader Joe's
10.9.10
SF
Sauces
Almond butter, roasted
4.99
Trader Joe's
2.7.10
DC
Spreads
Hummus
4.99
Safeway
1.17.10
DC
Spreads
Hummus (16 oz)
3.49
Trader Joe's
2.7.10
DC
Spreads
Hummus
2.99
Trader Joe's
11.6.10
SF
Spreads
Peanut butter, smucker's, crunchy
3.1
Safeway
1.10.10
DC
Spreads
Pumpkin butter
2.99
Trader Joe's
2.7.10
DC
Spreads
Strawberry Preserves
2.99
Trader Joe's
2.7.10
DC
Spreads
Calcium citrate
3.99
Trader Joe's
2.14.10
DC
Supplements
Chocolate Espresso Beans
3.99
Trader Joe's
2.7.10
DC
Sweets
Cinnamon Graham Cookies
3.49
Trader Joe's
2.7.10
DC
Sweets
Tofu, 19 oz
1.49
Trader Joe's
10.2.10
SF
Tofu
Tofu, Azumaya
1.69
Lucky
9.5.10
SF
Tofu
Tofu, Baked Teriyaki, Two servings
3.99
Lucky
9.5.10
SF
Tofu
Tofu, firm, 14 ounces
1.99
Safeway
1.24.10
DC
Tofu
Tofu, firm, Azumaya
1.99
Safeway
1.31.10
DC
Tofu
Tofu, organic, 19 ounces
1.49
Trader Joe's
10.9.10
SF
Tofu
Tofu, organic, 20 ounces
1.49
Trader Joe's
2.7.10
DC
Tofu
This is a comparison of grocery stores that I put together - as you can see, it's fine to be messy and use shorthand. As you'll also see, I stand to save the most money from stores that have competitively priced grains, produce, and dairy :D

Have any comments? Share them! (And scroll further down to see an example of the spreadsheet)

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    • Millionaire Tips profile image

      Shasta Matova 

      6 years ago from USA

      I've been meaning to create a spreadsheet to help me keep track of sales and compare prices. I'll have to get on it.

    • sunflowerbucky profile image

      sunflowerbucky 

      7 years ago from Small Town, USA

      Great idea! Voted up and useful!

    • Simone Smith profile imageAUTHOR

      Simone Haruko Smith 

      7 years ago from San Francisco

      Thanks chan0512 - and do have a look at TJ's :D Apparently they're a pretty good option!

    • chan0512 profile image

      chan0512 

      7 years ago from Camarillo, CA

      Great tips as always. The below table info is great for quick comparison as well. I guess, I'll need to visit TJ more often. :)

    • Simone Smith profile imageAUTHOR

      Simone Haruko Smith 

      7 years ago from San Francisco

      Yeah, TJ's really rocks, and it came as a surprise to me that they are the better bargain, especially since the quality is so good! Madness. MADNESS!

      And that hummus is SO GOOD, hahaa!

    • livelonger profile image

      Jason Menayan 

      7 years ago from San Francisco

      Wow, TJ's really is MUCH cheaper than Safeway or Lucky. What an analysis! I laughed at your "the good kind" descriptor of that kind of hummus TJ's carries - I know EXACTLY which one you're talking about. :)

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