My grandmother was a very frugal woman who often told me “if you will mind your pennies your dollars will mind themselves.” I hope to share here some of her wisdom and the wisdom of others I have learned over the years

Friday, March 1, 2013


March 1, 2013

In many recent posts I have mentioned the ap for my telephone called Grocery Tracker.  I cannot sing the praises of this application enough, I am absolutely in love with it.  The fact it was free didn’t hurt at all either.

I need to mention now I have NO affiliation with GroceryTracker or its developers.  I am simply a very pleased user of their product.

A little background here and then I’ll get into the features of GroceryTracker and how handy they are for my use.  Hopefully this post will help you know whether or not it would meet your own personal needs.

As long as I’ve had a household of my own I have been a person who purchases foods and household supplies on sale and in bulk, preferably with a coupon. I shop exclusively from a grocery list.  I also home can, freeze and dehydrate foods from my organic home garden.  I’ve always had a problem of keeping track what I do have on hand.  I have tried various ways to keep an inventory, but always found it difficult to set up and maintain.

As time went on I wanted to also do a “price book” for price comparison at various stores with it all being together in one simple to use form.  For awhile I used the Ishopare ap on my ipod, but as my ipod aged I found that I either didn’t have my ipod with me or the battery was dead when I wanted to do some price comparisons.  I  also found the need to type each item in on my computer at home an inconvenience, especially if I was gathering prices at the grocery store.  That meant writing down all the info, and then taking it home and typing it in.  Tedious and time consuming to say the least.  Who has time for that?  But it was still better than hauling around a 3-ring binder all the time.

When I got my smart phone I mentioned to dh that since it was an android phone that the Ishopare would not work on my phone and I could not find a way to transfer the data.  By this time the battery on my ipod was dead 99% of the time.  It simply would no longer hold a charge. 

My husband is an electronics junkie.  He loves all things electronic and so he set out immediately to find me an ap that would:

1.     Allow me to create a grocery list easily, that I could also send to him or my son easily with a click of a button.

2.     Create my menus.

3.     Input my recipes in and create a grocery list from those.  Checking what might be in inventory first.

4.     Let me easily inventory all our groceries and keep track of where they were stored.

5.     Do price comparisons.

6.     Do all of this with as little typing as possible, and gather the info in one movement or so at the grocery.

After much research my husband found Grocery Tracker and one other viable candidate.  I don’t even remember what the other one was, I do remember it was far more difficult to use than Grocery Tracker and why complicate my life while trying to simplify it.

Now as to why I think this ap is marvelous.  I have already mentioned it was a free download.  It is available for android phones.  This is a big plus for any budget minded family. After all who doesn’t have their phone with them at all times these days?

Now on to all the features this ap has:

SHOPPING LIST: We all make grocery lists and then when we get to the store discover that we have left it at home and have to search our memories to try and remember what was on it.  That is never a good thing.

Typing a shopping list on a phone, tablet or ipod is slow at best.  With this ap you can simply click on a stored list in the phone.  It comes with a basic list already installed in .  You can increase this list to as many items you would like by either typing the item in once, or SCANNING the UPC  then all the information will be added into the list for future reference.  I’ll talk more about the scanning in a minute.

When you need to add an item from your stored list to your shopping list for the next shopping trip you simply click on the amount column the number you need and it adds the items.  The electronic list also has where you can add notes about a specific item.  An example of this would be while we use various generic items in our home there are some we simply do not care for. An example would be generic raisin bran cereal.  None of us, not even our chickens, will eat it.  So I can add a note to the Kellogg’s Raisin Bran, the brand  we prefer, and that I’ve already scanned in that states:  No substitutes or do NOT get a generic and then whoever grabs the list will know not to ever get the generic version.  I can also add notes to do a cost comparison on sizes.  Example: Pinto beans, do cost comparison and get the size that is cheapest per oz/lb. Or other similar things.  You can add any note you want and since there are three of us that do the grocery shopping in our home this is a convenient way to leave notes for shopping items for each other.  More on sharing the grocery lists in a bit. An example of this type note would be yogurt: no  blueberry for S. M will eat blueberry.  So if my husband or I are picking up the yogurt for work lunches for S we know not to get him blueberry.

If you accidentally include something in your list while scrolling down or change your mind about purchasing it this trip you simply hold your finger on the item for a short while and the edit screen will pop up.  On this screen you can change the amounts, add a note and add that you have a coupon for it, or that it is on sale at a certain store.

You can also enter price comparisons for various stores on this screen.  Bye, bye separate price book!!!  Why carry a large notebook when you can do it in the palm of your hand? You can scan at home or in the stores in the same manner I’ll describe in a bit.

Because my phone is on me at all times I find it so simple to add items as I discover we are low on them.  If it is a previously purchased or inventoried item I can go to it immediately on my list to add the number I feel I need to purchase from the master list I’ve already created.

If the item is not on the list I click on the add button and then on the new button in the upper left corner of the screen.  In the next window I choose the category ie: pet products, spices and baking, etc. If a category is not pre-set you can add one and it doesn’t have to be groceries, it can be anything you normally buy and would like to keep track of.

Then I click the upc symbol and a rectangle pops up on my screen.  I hold my phone where the upc symbol on the package is squarely in the rectangle in good light and wait for the camera to take the photo automatically.  Once it does it will do an online search for the product and bring up a window that will fill in all the information of size name, brand, etc for you automatically—how handy is that?  If the product reads right then you click save and then update.  This will take you back to your shopping list and you then can add the quantity you want.

In the hundreds of items I’ve scanned for both shopping and inventory I’ve had a few that were “not found”, generally it is because I’m in the wrong category for the item, or the upc didn’t scan properly.  Repeating the process generally fixes that problem.

If the upc is correct and I’m in right category then I use the keyboard feature of my phone to put in the info for the item and then click save then update.  Quick  and easy.

No additional ap is required to use the scanning feature.

If you are like my family you generally shop at more than one store for certain items.  We purchase our milk at Sam’s Club, our bread at Wal-Mart,  our feed at one of two feed stores etc. You can create separate lists for each of these stores using the same master list to pick your items from. You are not limited on the number of stores you can list.  I have added online stores, such as Honeyville Grains to my stores list.

I use this feature often to create my errand’s day list.  I enter lists for each store or pitstop I need to make  on all the different things I need to do then I have a master list of everywhere I need to go all in one place.   Or I will use my calendar ap to make notes of where I need to go if many of the stops are for not list related items.

Because much of our grocery shopping is done at Sam’s Club and the two men do it on their way home from work I actually create two Sam’s Club lists, side 1 and side 2.  Then I send the lists to them via the “buddy feature” again more on this in a little while.  That way one can do one side of the store, while the other is shopping the second side and they meet at the self check out in half the time.

So that brings us to actually shopping with the lists.  Once you are ready to shop, you click the “shop” button on the upper right hand side of the screen.  A list of just the things you are purchasing that day will come up on the screen.  If you have previously entered the cost per item and that particular store's tax rate it will tell you what the expected cost of the shopping trip will be. If you are using Dave Ramsey’s envelope system and paying cash for your groceries this is a very handy feature in deed.  It will also tell you the coupons you have entered into the file .

If you want to have someone else do your shopping you can send them the list by clicking on the button in the lower left corner and then choosing either “send to buddy” or “share list” on the next screen. 

Send to buddy, means you send it to someone you have preset to receive the list and they have the ap on their phone as well.  By sending the list this way they will receive all your notes and info you have entered.

Share list has several options. Blue tooth, email, gmail, google:, messaging, social hub or Wi-Fi direct.  These options do not include your notes.

Back on the send to list that you choose send list from you can also choose from load list, clear list, save list, import list, reprice list, or move to new list (especially handy if you’ve decided to wait until another day or a different store to purchase an item.

The Buddy or  you will see on the new screen each item will have a small square next to the quantity you are buying and you tick that square off when you have added it to your cart.  If you find the item has changed price you can edit your list as you go along too. The total of what you have actually in your cart will be available as well.  This can help control impulse purchasing big time.

My husband likes to compare our total to the one at the register because it will often help him catch inconsistencies in pricing or remind him to stay true to the list.

Once you are home you aren’t finished with this list, because with a click of the “stock” button in the upper right side you can add the items you just purchased to your inventory!  How great is that?  It will also update your file on costs for you automatically if you have changed any while shopping, if you want it to.

That brings us to INVENTORY:

This is a dream come true feature for me.  Using either the keyboard function of your phone or the scanning as described above you can create an inventory of everything in your home. Even more importantly once you’ve put an item in from either the shopping list feature or the inventory feature it is available for all features on this ap.  No double entry.

Scanning is of course my favorite feature of the items because it fills in most of the boxes for me on this feature and there are a lot of boxes:

UPC, Category, Name, Brand, Primary Equivalent Products (substitutes), Size, unit/pkg, by weight, taxable, reorder below, inventory location, add inventory, inventory date expires, notes, default price, deposit, bulk split, perishable.  In the last purchase it has the store, date, quantity price, a place to list the stores.  There is also a place to list your price comparisons for up to 12 stores
If you are entering home preserved items you will need to enter the items manually using your smart phone keyboard.

Of course it is up to you to update your inventory when you remove something from it.  I handle this in two ways.  1) if it is me removing the item from use I do it as I pull the item out to use in that day’s meals.  2) I keep a clip board the two men can write on in my pantry.  When they simply make note they’ve done so.


Obviously this is for creating your weekly menus. You can plan out for up to six months at a time.  This works well for me because as those of you who follow my blogs know I am working on creating a year’s worth of menus. ( NOTE: sorry it's taking so long, to get the posts up, life has been busy.)  I’ve been developing these menus in Master Cook Deluxe and was hoping I could important those menus and recipes directly into this ap with the click of a button.  So far I’ve not found a way to do that, but give me time.  I will.

Having your recipes already in the Grocery Tracker actually makes the planning easier because while filling out your week’s menu you can click on the recipes to add them to your menu plan automatically.
This is as close as I have found so far as to directly importing my meal plans into this ap.

RECIPES: This feature works just like the features of just about every recipe/cookbook program or ap I’ve seen.  You fill in the various blocks of the recipe just as you do any other program. 

You can import recipes into Grocery Tracker in any number of ways.  I’ve not worked with this feature as yet, but it looks like I can either important my recipes from the Master Cook Deluxe program I use via a USB storage device.  I’ll post more on this feature in the future when I am more familiar with it. 

The thing I like about the menu planning and recipes section is I can use the inventory feature to check and see if I have the required ingredients on hand, if not add it to my grocery list and if I have entered my prices even estimate the cot of the week’s menu. 

COUPONS:  Have you ever been looking at the sales ads and tried to remember if you had a coupon for an item or not?  I know I have. 

In GT you enter your coupons by store, category, item, size, if it is stackable or you can double it, how many you have of each coupon, how many you need, the expiration date The type of coupon (ie bogo, off 1 etc) the amount, the sale price of an item, notes, the items regular price, price after coupon the total savings, the percent of savings, it will calculate the price qu7antity and sale for that quantity. Oh and did I mention it will do most or all of this by scanning the bar code on the coupon?

Then when you do your grocery list it links the coupon to the item you add to the list.  When there is a coupon available for the item you have on your list a push pin will appear on your list to let you know.

Because you can use Cell-fire coupons with GT it will either show a green push pin for a coupon that is available or a red one for a coupon you have manually entered.

So now that I’ve told you all I’ve recently learned about Grocery Tracker on my own I should mention there is a good online user’s guide

As you can see getting this all set-up may take you a bit to do, but it looks like to me that in the long run it pretty well answers all those requests I gave my dh for the ideal Menu planning/grocery shopping/inventory keeping ap. 

Jan who is currently inventorying her entire food storage system  as she cleans it up and organizes it in OK

UPDATE: Since I originally did this post I have found another feature I truly love about this ap.  VOICE COMMAND!

When entering a new item in the grocery list or inventory that you can't or don't want to use the upc option with you can tap the line for the name of the item and when the keyboard comes up there is a microphone button near the space bar.  By touching that it will activate the voice command.  You say the item and it will put it in the name line.
Repeat this action with the brand name line and the same thing will happen.  This is a truly wonderful discovery.  It saves me a lot of time each month.

Jan who says it does as long as you don't have a sore throat then some times you get amusing entries that you can easily delete in OK