WRAL SmartShopper

WRAL SmartShopper

Thursday thoughts: price book for new and experienced couponers

Posted February 24, 2011
Updated February 20

One of the questions I am asked frequently is how to determine the best prices for items we use often. Is $2.00 per pound a good price for chicken breast? What is a stock up price for paper towels? How much should I be paying for toothpaste?

I have received a number of questions from readers about whether the buy price changes as you become more proficient at couponing and as your stockpile increases. The answer is definitely YES! When I first started couponing, I was thrilled when I bought name brand toothpaste for .50 a tube. Now that I have been couponing for a while and have a number of tubes in my overstock, I generally wait until it is free. Often, I get paid to take it home with the combination of sales, coupons and drug store reward programs.

Following is an updated Price Book with both the low price I usually wait for as an experienced couponer (with a stockpile) as well as the prices of the upper limits that new couponers should aim to stay at or under if they don’t already have that stockpile going. The upper/high end prices are still good deals, they just aren’t as low as they go when the stars are aligned and the coupons match perfectly with the sales (which we all know doesn’t happen for every product every day).

My suggestion is to stock up for 3-5 weeks worth when the prices hit the Low Prices listed for those items that are non-perishable or can be stored in the freezer. If you are running low on something and need it to complete the meal plan or you are just getting started, it’s fine to buy at the High End prices, but don’t stock up on too much. Save your stocking up for the Low End prices. Most of the prices for items (other than meat and produce) are found when a sale and coupon are combined.

Please keep in mind that if you have allergy issues or special dietary needs (gluten-free, for instance), some of these prices will not apply because those products are generally going to be more expensive.

Produce

Try to stay at $1.50/lb or less for most produce. Ideally, look for produce sales that are $1.00/lb or less. All the area grocery stores have apples, pears and oranges for $1 or less per pound on a regular basis. Don’t buy packaged lettuce and spinach unless you want to spend much more per pound than needed.

Here are some ideal buy prices for fruit and veggies. Keep in mind that when they are in season, you will find these prices more often. Sometimes you will even find them at lower prices. That might be a good time to buy in bulk and freeze the produce. It is often less expensive per pound to buy produce bagged in 3, 5 or 8 lb bags.

When produce is out of season and $50 per pound (ok, not really that high) I often buy frozen produce. When on sale with a coupon, I can often purchase 1 lb. of frozen veggies including broccoli, peas, corn, carrots and more for less than $1.00 (often .50/lb or less with sales and coupons). Keep in mind that organic produce will usually be higher than the cost of the non-organic prices I have listed below.

Apples and pears
Lower buy price: .65/lb. or less
Higher buy price: $1.25/lb.

Strawberries
Lower buy price: $1.00/lb. or less (often at farmer’s markets and roadside stands when in season)
Higher buy price: $2.50/lb.

Citrus
Lower buy price: $.75/lb. or less (often at farmer’s markets and roadside stands when in season)
Higher buy price: $1.25/lb.

Peaches
Lower buy price: $.75/lb. or less (often at farmer’s markets and roadside stands when in season)
Higher buy price: $1.25/lb.

Cucumbers
Lower buy price: $.50 each
Higher buy price: $.75 each

Carrots
Lower buy price: $.65/lb. or less
Higher buy price: $1.00/lb.

Squash, Zucchini squash
Lower buy price: $.50/lb. or less (often at farmer’s markets and roadside stands when in season)
Higher buy price: $1.25/lb.

Green peppers
Lower buy price: $.50 less (often at farmer’s markets and roadside stands)
Higher buy price: $1.00 each

Celery
Lower buy price: $1.00 each or less per bunch
Higher buy price: $1.50 per bunch

Yellow, Orange or Red Peppers (these are usually much more expensive than green peppers so I just don’t but them as much)
Lower buy price: $1.00 each or less
Higher buy price: $1.50 each

Broccoli bunch
Lower buy price: $1.25 each or less
Higher buy price: $1.75 per bunch or less

Tomatoes
Lower buy price: $1.00/lb or less (.50 in season at farmer’s markets and roadside stands)
Higher buy price: $1.50 per lb or less
Roma tomatoes are often less expensive than slicing tomatoes. This is also a very easy fruit to grow, even if you put it on the porch in a container with 6 or more hours of sun per day. And really, what tastes better than a home grown cucumber and tomato sandwich?!

Asparagus
Lower buy price: $1.25/lb or less (when it finally hits $1.25 or so once a year, I stock up, blanch and freeze because we all love it oven-roasted with olive oil and a little bit of salt)
Higher buy price: $1.75 per lb or less (since it rarely gets this low, we generally don’t buy a lot of fresh asparagus)

Spinach, romaine, green leaf, red leaf lettuce
Lower buy price: $1.50 - $1.99 per bunch
Higher buy price: $2.25 per bunch

Meat

Look for buy one get one free deals, family size packages and marked down meat to get the best buys. The prices below are sale and family size prices. Keep in mind that markdown prices can go even lower so check the markdown meat section at your stores when you shop. I recommend you use the meat that day or freeze it.

Chicken legs and wings
Lower buy price: $.39/lb - .49/lb (often sold in 10 lb bags)
Higher buy price: $.79/lb

Split Chicken Breast
Lower buy price: $.75/lb or less or less
Higher buy price: $1.00 per lb or less

Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast or tenderloins
Lower buy price: $1.69/lb or less
Higher buy price: $2.25 per lb or less

London broil, beef stew meat
Lower buy price: $1.99/lb or less
Higher buy price: $2.50 per lb or less

Beef Roast (like boneless eye of round)
Lower buy price: $2.00/lb or less
Higher buy price: $2.75 per lb or less

Turkey, whole
Lower buy price: $.29 - .39/lb or less
Higher buy price: $.50 per lb or less
The best price on turkeys is in November and December. I usually buy 1 or 2 extras to use throughout the year. Often, stores require an additional purchase of $20 - $25 to get the .29 - .39/lb price.

Turkey Breast
Lower buy price: $.75/lb or less
Higher buy price: $1.25 per lb
Again, the best price on turkey breast is in November and December. Stock up for the next 6 months when they hit .75 - $1.00/lb.

Ground Beef (usually 75% - 80% lean)
Lower buy price: $1.00/lb or less
Higher buy price: $2.25 per lb
Ground beef is usually cheaper when sold in bulk (often 3 lb containers). Obviously, you will pay more for 93% lean.

Pork Chops Bone in
Lower buy price: $.69/lb or less
Higher buy price: $1.00 per lb

Pork Roast
Lower buy price: $1.25/lb or less
Higher buy price: $2.50 per lb

Steaks
Lower buy price: $4.00/lb or less
Higher buy price: $5.99 per lb

Fish
Lower buy price: $3.00/lb or less
Higher buy price: $4.50 per lb

Snow Crab Legs
Lower buy price: $2.99/lb or less
Higher buy price: $3.99 per lb

Deli Meat
Lower buy price: $2.50/lb or less for packaged deli meat (like Oscar Mayer, Hillshire Farm with sale and coupon)
Higher buy price: $4.00 per lb at the deli (which doesn’t happen often so I don’t buy it often)

Dairy & Frozen

Eggs
Lower buy price: $.75 per dozen or less (bought them for .25/dozen last fall with sale and coupon!)
Higher buy price: $1.25 per dozen

Yogurt singles, 4-6 oz
Lower buy price: $.25 each or less
Higher buy price: $.40 per lb

Yogurt 4-packs (like Activia, Danimals, etc) $1.00 or less with sale and coupon (often free to .50 with Harris Teeter Super Doubles)

Shredded cheese, 8 oz.
Lower buy price: $.99 or less (if .50 or less it’s time to stock up and freeze – hard cheese like cheddar freeze beautifully right in the original packaging)
Higher buy price: $1.50

American cheese slices, 12 oz
Lower buy price: $.50 or less
Higher buy price: $1.25 per package

Sour cream, 16 oz
Lower buy price: $.50 less (Daisy and Breakstones are the brands that offer the most sour cream coupons)
Higher buy price: $1.25 per lb

Cream cheese bricks, 8 oz
Lower buy price: $.50 - $.75 each or less
Higher buy price: $1.00

Cream cheese spreadable tub, 8 oz
Lower buy price: $.75 each or less
Higher buy price: $1.25 each

Milk
Lower buy price: $2.50 - $2.75 per gallon
Higher buy price: $3.00 per gallon

Orange Juice, 64 oz
Lower buy price: $1.50 or less
Higher buy price: $2.00

Butter, 16 oz
Lower buy price: $1.50 or less
Higher buy price: $2.00 per lb

Margarine sticks, 16 oz.
Lower buy price: $.50 or less
Higher buy price: $1.00 or less

Frozen vegetables (16 oz)
Lower buy price: $.50 or less
Higher buy price: $1.25

Frozen ravioli – look for BOGO sales making them around $2.50 per package

Frozen pierogies - $1.00/box on sale with coupon

Veggie burgers - $2.00 or less with sale and coupon is stock up price

Ice Cream, 48 oz.- 56 oz
Lower buy price: $1.50 or less
Higher buy price: $2.50

Miscellaneous Food

Pasta and rice, 1 lb packages
Lower buy price: $.25/lb or less (often free with sales and coupon)
Higher buy price: $.50 per lb

Pasta sauce (approximately 26 oz)
Lower buy price: $.50 - .75 per jar
Higher buy price: $1.25 per jar

Mustard (12 oz specialty or 20 oz yellow mustard)
Lower buy price: $.25 or less (often free with sales and coupon)
Higher buy price: $.40 each

Ketchup
Lower buy price: $.25 each or less
Higher buy price: $.50

Jelly (10 – 18 oz depending on brand and if fruit only)
Lower buy price: $.50 each or less
Higher buy price: $1.00 or less

Peanut butter (16 – 17 oz)
Lower buy price: $.50 each or less
Higher buy price: $1.00

Salad dressing or marinades (14 - 16 oz)
Lower buy price: $.50 or less
Higher buy price: $1.00

Salsa (16 oz)
Lower buy price: $.50 or less
Higher buy price: $1.00

100% Whole wheat bread
Lower buy price: $1.00 each or less (stock up and freeze when $1 or less per loaf)
Higher buy price: $1.50 per lb or less

White bread
Lower buy price: $.79 each or less
Higher buy price: $1.00 per loaf

Crackers (8-16 oz)
Lower buy price: $.50 or less
Higher buy price: $1.00 - $1.25

Cereal (both high fiber and kids cereals)
Lower buy price: $.50 each or less
Higher buy price: $1.00 per box or less

Chips (potato, tortilla, cheese puffs, etc, 9 to 10 oz)
Lower buy price: $1.00 each or less (often for store brand)
Higher buy price: $1.50

Apple Juice, 64 oz
Lower buy price: $.75 each or less
Higher buy price: $1.25

Sodas - 2 ltr.
Lower buy price: $.50 each or less (store brand goes on sale for .50 - .75 bottle)
Higher buy price: $1.00

Sodas, 12 pack 12 oz cans
Lower buy price: $1.50 or less (often store brand)
Higher buy price: $2.00 - $2.50 (for name brand)

Non-Food

Toothpaste
Lower buy price: FREE to $.25 (often free and a money maker with sales, coupons and drug store rewards)
Higher buy price: $.50 per tube

Toothbrushes
Lower buy price: FREE to $.25 (often free and a money maker with sales, coupons and drug store rewards)
Higher buy price: $.50 per toothbrush

Shampoo/conditioner/hairspray
Lower buy price: $.50 each or less for name brand
Higher buy price: $1.00

Laundry detergent, 50 oz
Lower buy price: $1.50 each or less
Higher buy price: $3.00
Look for BOGO (buy one get one free) sales and couple with coupons. Lately, we have been buying name brand laundry detergent for $1 - $2 with the combination of sales and coupons. Brands that offer good sales and coupons include Gain, All, Era and Arm & Hammer.

Dryer sheets (80 count)
Lower buy price: $.99 or less
Higher buy price: $1.75

Paper towels, 8 regular roll package
Lower buy price: $3.00 each or less
Higher buy price: $4.00

Bath tissue, 12 double roll or 24 regular rolls
Lower buy price: $3.00 or less
Higher buy price: $4.00

Diapers Jumbo Pack
Lower buy price: $5.00 or less
Higher buy price: $6.50

Thanks to “raleighcitizenshipclasses” (who posts here on the blog regularly) who sent me a list of her stock up prices. She has been couponing for a while and most of her prices are on the low end of the prices listed above. She also emphasized that you don’t have to fill up the laundry detergent measuring cup all the way. I concur. For many of us frugal folks, we have found that our clothes are just as clean using only half the amount the laundry detergent folks would like us to think we need. She also pointed out that for some items, like diapers, it is best not to stock up on too many of the same size. Little ones tend to grow out of them and you don’t want to be stuck with a garage full of size 2 diapers when your growing baby is now in a size 3.

Please feel free to post any other prices for items not listed or your thoughts on those that are listed. If you have other categories you want me to address, just let me know. You can print out the list in a printer-friendly version by clicking the printer button at the bottom of the post. As I always say, it’s your money – spend it wisely!

18 Comments

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  • batey3 Feb 24, 10:21 p.m.

    Very much appreciated!

  • sbjones4 Feb 24, 6:52 p.m.

    Thanks Faye, this is very helpful. Has anyone developed an Excel spreadsheet with the regular prices of common items at the various grocery and drug stores that they would be willing to share via email?

  • Faye Prosser - Smart Shopper Feb 24, 2:39 p.m.

    Thanks again for your encouragement to do the more advanced price book and for sharing your buy prices, RCC! Looking forward to meeting you as well - maybe at a coupon swap soon!

  • Oxymoron02 Feb 24, 2:25 p.m.

    Huzzah for a more advanced price book! I keep sending my friends and family to your old price book to get them started, but it's good to have a more advanced list.

    I remember the first time I came home with toothpaste for 50 cents, I was sooooo proud of myself. I now laugh at the idea of paying for it. :)

    So looking forward to meeting you at one of your classes.

  • Faye Prosser - Smart Shopper Feb 24, 2:22 p.m.

    I just realized I forgot pasta sauce so I added it to the post above:

    Pasta sauce (approximately 26 oz)
    Lower buy price: $.50 - .75 per jar
    Higher buy price: $1.25 per jar

  • Faye Prosser - Smart Shopper Feb 24, 1:22 p.m.

    FYI - If you want a printer-friendly version of this list, just click the printer button at the bottom of the post (next to the Twitter, Facebook, Digg and e-mail buttons).

  • Faye Prosser - Smart Shopper Feb 24, 1:18 p.m.

    Lilypony - that's really funny: "he thought the big pretty sign meant it was on sale for a great price!" My husband grabbed the wrong milk at HT today and I thought it just rang up incorrectly. Nope - he got the Hunter Farms, not the HT brand. Luckily it was only 20 cents more. Reminder to self: double check everything husband puts in cart.

    Looking forward to meeting you at upcoming classes Mairim and mommy2caleb!

    Thanks for the info on Piggly Wiggly, phillipsc2. I don't have one close to me but I know other readers who shop there will appreciate the information.

    And I should mention that just because I usually buy things at the low end of the prices listed, that is not always the case for every item every time. Today I needed 100% whole wheat bread so I swung by Walmart and picked it up for $1.48 (the regular price at Walmart for their whole wheat bread). Thank goodness the Crunch and Munch was only 30 cents after sale and .35 coupon at HT to offset the cost of the bread. LOL :-)

  • j3434 Feb 24, 12:48 p.m.

    THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Make sure this is one of your bookmark thingys so that people can refer back at any time...if they lose their print-outs of it, that is. ;)

  • lilypony Feb 24, 11:33 a.m.

    Thanks Faye, this will be helpful for hubby to carry when he makes a quick stop. He doesn't want to bother me to find out if it's a good price and ends up waaay overpaying because he thought the big pretty sign meant it was on sale for a great price!

  • mairimizaguirre Feb 24, 11:30 a.m.

    Thank you Faye so much for this list and everything else you do for all us. Im also very excited as I was able to get a seat on the March 8th class. I cant wait!

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