If you spend anytime round the hardcore American style thrifting sites you will come across pricebooks. The basic premise is that there is often a slight variation in price amongst the big supermarkets and so by buying at the one which works out cheapest for a particular item, rather than say the supermarket that is the most convenient, you can save pounds across the year.
Of course in reality it is not possible to go to visit several supermarkets each time you shop; time, and (especially in the UK) fuel, mean that a little compromise sometimes has to be made. However for those items which store well it is worthwhile knowing which store to stock up in.
In order to do this you need to be a little organised and keep a record of prices and stores for the products you buy together with the unit price; this allows comparisons between different sized packs - and will give you a baseline to see if that special offer on a substitute product is still value for money. Lowtech implementations of this are just a notepad and pencil; or you can go all up market and use a computer spreadsheet or even smartphone. Adding a date as well as a store name and unit price can also allow you to spot any seasonal variation in prices.
So can it save you significant amounts of money?
As an example, I live in a rural area and so have to travel to the supermarket; the ones I have to choose from (in order of distance) are Sainsburys, Morrisons, Tesco and Adsa. I have three children who will (from September) need cartons of fruit juice in their packed lunches.
Since living in Germany Capri Sun fruit juice is the one they would choose - these come in a pack of 5
Sainsburys -£2.81 ; cost per drink = £2.81/5 = 56p each
Asda - £2.48 ; cost per drink =£2.48/5= 50p each
Tescos -£1.50; cost per drink =£1.50/5=30p each
Now across the year I buy 3 (kids) x 5 (school days per week) x40 (school weeks per year) = 600 drinks
By buying the CapriSun at Tescos rather than Sainsburys for one year I could save:
56-30 = 26 pence per drink
600 *0.26= £157.20 per school year!
Even when you factor in the additional cost of travelling to Tescos (8 miles away) rather than Sainsburys (3 miles away) that is a significant saving across the year on just one item without even changing brands; It costs about £2 more (round trip) to go to Tescos rather than Sainsburys, so if I stocked up when I went I could maximise the savings I make, especially as the trip to Tescos is always combined with something else these days anyway to justify the deisel.
However I can go even better than that.
If I substitute the supermarkets own small cartons of juice instead of Capri Sun (which even my children agree tastes just the same, we did our own taste test to be sure)
Sainsburys (pack of 3) 89p - 30p per drink
Morrisons, Asda, Tescos (pack of 3) 45p
(To be fair Sainsburys own is not the basics one.)
Now if we do the comparison for 600 drinks at 15p each instead of 56p each
saving per drink =56-15p per drink=41p
600*41p=£246 a year!
If you are not sure if all this hassle is for you (and lets face it we can all just want an easy life from time to time) the website http://www.mysupermarket.co.uk will do the hard work for you across the stores Asda, Sainsburys, Waitrose, Tescos, and Ocado. You can use it on an item by item basis, or type in a whole shopping list (if you can't be faffed with driving all over the place) and compare the bottom line on the whole basket. I am told it is clever enough to even suggest cheaper substitutions.
Right, I'm off to work out other things I buy on a regular basis......
Savings- refund on Nursery fees (closure due to illness)£9+ £5.00 (small change jar)