I fear that by that criteria the month would have to be classified as a miserable failure.
Apparently in grocery shopping, as in quantum mechanics, the mere act of measuring a given phenomenon alters its outcome.
I found that once I got the idea of tracking prices and hunting for deals, I became incapable of simply keeping up my regular "routine" such a it is.
The other problem I ran into was that while I had a general idea of what was and wasn't a good price, "general" really didn't cut it when you're trying to get the best prices possible. So I kept ending up "stocking up" on something, only to find it much cheaper a few days later.
But instead of just making a note of the price for future reference, I kept feeling compelled to buy more at the cheaper price... you know, dollar cost averaging for groceries or something like that.
Anyhow, I sort of ended up purchasing fairly ridiculous quantities of a number of items... 9.5 dozen eggs, 6 pounds of butter, 20 pounds of cheese, 15 grapefruit, 2 dozen oranges, and WAY more bananas than I could possibly eat before they went brown.
I didn't end up wasting anything though, and I sorta spent the month cooking and freezing my "harvest."
All told, I ended up spending $197, which is $60 over my "goal" of $137. But I wasn't really trying to hit the target this month... so I don't really consider that to be a failure. I didn't include the cost of cat food (which would have really blown the budget!) toiletries & other non-food items.
I also chose not to include the cost of seeds and other garden stuff. I suppose this could have gone either way, but the way I look at it gardening is sort of a "hobby with benefits." If I really started looking at it as a food production project, I'm afraid it would become a lot less fun.
So the month ended up being more of a scouting expedition than anything else. I wound up shopping at eight different stores, and there are three or four more that I didn't even hit! The eight I went to were King Soopers/Kroger, Save-A-Lot, Avanza/Lowe's Market, Albertsons, Sprouts Farmer's Market, Costco, The Little Saigon (Asian Market), and The Friday Store (surplus/salvage store.)
I found that each store has a definite "personality" in terms of pricing. Some have great specials, but horrible prices otherwise. Some have very few sale items, but low prices in general, and some are a mixture of both. some have great produce sections (important to me) while others are better at dry goods/staples.
There's also the distance and PITA (pain in the arse) factors to consider. The store with probably the best and cheapest produce section would have to be Sprouts Farmer's Market... and they also have bulk foods and lots of specialty items for MUCH cheaper than you can find them elsewhere, but unfortunately both of their locations require a drive across town to get to. I think I'll have to do some better planning if I'm gonna go there on a regular basis.
Albertsons was the big loser of the bunch. Besides being in a location that's a bit problematic, both times I went there the prices in the store didn't match their advertised specials - which really weren't that cheap to begin with. I don't think I'll be heading back there unless there's some REALLY good deal.
I still haven't made it to Safeway, Whole Foods, Big Lots or the Dollar Store - so there's more explorations to come. There's also Target and WalMart - but I'm not sure I can make myself shop for groceries at either of those places... but hey, I suppose it's worth a look. I actually was at the Dollar Store today to pick up a few toiletries and found that they did have good prices on frozen fruit and veggies.
Unfortunately I was just heading out on a 3-4 hour shopping/errand run and buying a bunch of frozen food seemed like a bad idea. Perhaps I should get organized and keep an ice chest in the car with me... Hmmm...
Anyhow, I tried three different stabs at a "price book" but still haven't found anything that really works for me. I bought a little notebook that was small enough to fit in my pocket - but you're supposed to have one page for every different item, and you can't add extra pages to a spiral notebook - so I thought about a 3-ring binder, but I can't haul that with me to the store. I even knocked out a little database to track it all, but doing all the data entry... umm... well... I kinda pooped out after entering everything from the first few trips.
So I guess my goals for the upcoming month are to see if I can do a better job of recognizing a good deal and steering clear of those that aren't really so good. I also need to be a tad bit (ahem) more reasonable about the quantities of food I'm buying. Seriously... one head of cabbage per person per month is MORE than enough!
That's all the news I have to report at the moment. We'll see how this little experiment progresses...
Any suggestions on a price book strategy for someone as um... "organizationally challenged" as I am?