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Grocery Shopping and The iPhone

Grocery Shopping and The iPhone

Photo by 3lo0o

Here’s a question from a reader (and also a former member of my high school basketball team–well, before I quit because the coach threw a ball at my head after I corrected his grammar in front of the team, again. And also because I kind of sucked):

I have been looking for an app on the iPhone that will track the price of different items at different stores, so that if you find something on sale you can look up how much it costs normally and see if it’s a deal (including cost per ounce, etc., so I can compare to Costco sizes). Have you found anything like this on the iPhone? I downloaded this “Shopper” one but I don’t think it’s quite what I’m looking for… more about making shopping lists than comparing prices, as far as I can tell. I figured if anyone would know this, it would be you. thanks! -akd

I do remember reading about a Google App that makes its product search function compatible with the iPhone and the Google phone. This allows you to look up online prices for many items while you’re shopping. You can learn more about it here, but that won’t be useful for groceries. Amazon has a similar product called Amazon for Mobile, but again, this is going to be useful on things like electronics, etc., rather than groceries.

I was not able to find any kind of app that updates grocery prices automatically–like something that knows what things cost at specific stores at certain times. That would be awesome, and they have the technology to do it with GPS, but I don’t believe it exists (yet). So, programmers? Get on that. There are many comparison apps that allow you to input prices for items at different stores; for example, Groceries is an application that seems to be a little bit more functional than the one I have (Shopper). Though you still have to input the prices yourself, you can arrange it according to store or aisle without a bunch of clicking around. It aparently also already knows a lot more groceries (by brand name) than Shopper, which was an issue for me because I kept having to customize the shopping lists. You can make different lists for each supermarket or shopping trip. It does not have a function to figure out prices-per-ounce, but you could always use another app like Compare It to do this. Or the calculator function, I suppose.

Here’s the thing: I did not find shopping with an iPhone to be very convenient, personally. I should add that I have not used the Groceries app, and it does sound faster and more functional than Shopper. This could make a big difference. But the last time I tried to comparison shop with my iPhone, I found myself standing in the aisle, tapping on the screen eighty-five million times, trying to figure out if things were well priced, etc. It felt like I was always in somebody’s way. The iPhone does allow me to always have my list with me, which is a real time saver for me because I’m always forgetting lists at home. But overall, I guess I’m making the (dubious) claim that my brain is the more accessible and user-friendly computer for the purpose of tracking grocery prices, even if it’s not always exactly right to the penny. So until my mind finally goes, I’ll probably not use the iPhone for price comparisons.

Anyone disagree with me or have better tips for using the iPhone for shopping and/or price comparisons?

Comments (4)

  1. Snakey
    May 22, 2009

    I don’ t even have an iPhone but of course that won’t stop me from commenting… Yeah, that would be a fabulous service, if one could create a profile somewhere with a list of products, and the site would grab the data and show you which products to buy where.

    What seems cumbersome is having to key in product info, I wonder if there’s an app that would let you scan a barcode (stores price tags on the shelf usually have one, don’t they?) and automatically store your data. Then you could at least have a baseline for often-purchased products.

    I see someone has pondered this, the reviews suggest we aren’t quite there yet: http://www.ismashphone.com/2009/05/red-laser-the-first-accurate-iphone-barcode-scanner-hits-the-app-store.html

  2. May 24, 2009

    I always know what everything costs. I should go on The Price Is Right.

    I agree there’s gotta be an easier way. Sorry that I don’t know what it is. I’m in the dark ages with a phone that’s just a phone – not even web-enabled (which I learned when I tried to download a cool ringtone – denied.)

    I see folks at the store sometimes with “price books.” Looks SO tedious. I imagine they are saving a lot, though. I am a big couponer but not a price-booker. There are a surprising number of couples doing the price book thing together. It’s hard to imagine more of a romance killer. I like watching cute little 80 yr olds buying cream of mushroom soup at the grocery store together, but something about the couples my own age spending two hours poring over ounces of detergent – not as much.

  3. Angine
    Jul 9, 2009

    I believe the point of a price book is two fold:
    1. Remember which stores have the best price. (people who always do the shopping and are generally good with numbers can usually remember this in their head)
    2. Track sales. Most sales are on a rotating basis at grocery stores, whether it be 4/6 or 8 weeks. If you keep a price book you can track when the items go on sale. After a few months you will realize, ahh cheese is on sale by 75cents every 5 week. I should wait to buy it until two weeks then stock up.

  4. Maureen
    Sep 16, 2010

    I use the iphone app called pricebook to compare store to store and i really like it.
    I make my grocery list with cart buddy ap – it gives me a running total of
    how much I am spending and I never have to put things back at the checkstand.
    and I use Compare Me ap to compare two items for best value.

    If you like to use your iphone to shop you might give these a look. they cost .99-1.99 each.

    Good luck.

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