Updates on My Grocery Shopping Data Optimization Project

I decided at the beginning of the year to put my entire grocery shopping in a database and see if I can improve my experience. It just two weeks and I already learned a lot about not only how I shop, but the whole system of grocery shopping and how to optimize it. I was just doing this out of curiosity and will discuss some of my findings. I wrote a previous article about grocery shopping is one of the biggest opportunity cats are sleep on. I realized my habit is to jot down stuff on list and run aisle by aisle on what I need. Then at times, I’m picking up stuff on my list and when I get to the checkout line, the cost of my grocery bill it just really out there or it can be a lot better. I wanted to improve this process and decided to use a database. In addition and this is why I’m sharing this information with you cats on this from the entrepreneurial angle. I want to study the science of inventory and buying and looking for optimization when it comes to us brothas and sistas launching retail operations in the hood. We cannot afford “clearance sales” on unwanted goods and marking down stuff as a loss in the hood – we need to make sure we are able to sell exactly what we bought wholesale and make profit. I hope you cats are learning from what I’m bringing your way in 2012 – you can do things around your everyday life in an entrepreneurial fashion to get your skills up. I’m buying my grocery just like a cat in a restaurant or bar or retail have to buy stuff and make sure it is used up so they can get value out of it. I know this from running the Liquiditi Beverage stand last year in downtown Atlanta, I was stuck with stuff I spent money on but it did not sell and I had to offset the loss against the profitable sellers. The Database I’m using Microsoft Access however cats can use Open Office Base that is open source if they cannot afford Microsoft Office. Now the first thing I quickly realized is how time consuming and tedious the data entry can be which is something the average cat probably don’t want to do. I’m recording all the food I’m buying and have them in categories and the price and when I purchased it. However, and this is a future article I’m working on, the first data entry is going to be hard because you have to enter everything for the first time and you are entering some serious rows in your database for the first time. I believe it took about an hour to enter the first grocery receipt into my database and I’m an expert. However, the goal is for me to make it easier. So let’s look at the process where I go to the grocery store, put the stuff in my cart, purchase it and get the receipt and go home. Now after I put all of the groceries in their bag on the table, I have to put them up in the refrigerator and stuff like that. Then I have to take the receipt and sit down and enter every line item into the database system. That is where I ran into my first major pain point. For each new item, I had to create a new category and subcategory in the database before putting the item in and that was some tedious work. What I realize is I need a better way and that is just entering the items and then add a “tag” to the item and then at a later time, arrange all of the tags into categories. This was important for me to understand because this is how it would make it easier to enter data for the regular cat out there. So I’m going to update this database. Now, that is another issue, I already enter all this data into the database and when I do my rearrangement or rewrite that is going to take some time. This is why in technology development or in entrepreneurial hustles, you have to write things down and put real thought into them and prototype and simulate. You don’t want to launch your hustle and realize until after the fact you have to redesign or rebuild because that is twice the cost of your original effort and investment. My Data Patterns Now I learned some patterns about me where I created plans to optimize my grocery shopping. At first, I noticed that I would make multiple trips to the store where I “pick up something” and got receipts totaling $27 about twice a week. First of all, I got a lot of ish to do and don’t understand why I’m making multiple trips like that in a week. This probably comes from my big city upbringing where you bring a bag of grocery home after you get off the train every other day. I set it up where I would only make one trip to the grocery store and make sure I get everything for that week. Second thing I did with the database was able to put my own notes and ratings on the products I buy. I bought some store-branded chicken patties and that was the worst ish I ate in a long time. So I was able to put notes in and make sure I don’t ever buy that stuff again. But I also write other notes such as what kind of seasoning to add to a generic store brand like frozen chicken to make it taste better than the more expensive brands like Tyson or Perdue. One more thing I noticed was $2.39 and $2.69 – that’s how much the stuff be costing per item and what I realize is this is probably the price point the grocery store put on things. So with that said, this is my benchmark of assuming everything is $2.60 and I see what cost more than that and the goal is to find things less than that amount and that is my savings. Real talk, have you notice that hot dogs are $2.69 and Doritos are $2.69 and a whole bunch of other stuff is $2.69 on your list? Optimization After I done two shopping trips, I was able to buy exactly what I need. But here is where the most important thing about grocery shopping and what we have to learn as entrepreneurs – can we consume it in the time period we buy it? For example, there are cases when I try to buy a diversity of meats and vegetables but two or three weeks later, I still got frozen cauliflower in the frig and realize I’m not going to eat that ish and why did I buy cauliflower the first place? See, the reason why I bought it because I was buying diversity and selection and not utilization. I was just buying stuff saying this was nice to have instead of having a strategy of knowing what I’m doing to eat each day for the next several days and pad in the snacks and other goods. This is also a major problem in entrepreneurial like retailing where we buy stuff wholesale just to have a diverse selection but some stuff don’t sell. At Liquiditi, I bought sparkling water but realize no one drinks that bubble water ish except New York cats and I’m down here in Atlanta selling it. That was one of the products that killed my profits early on buying that Perrier stuff that I don’t even drink. Summary I also went to the dollar store and bought some play money so I can run some simulations in my household on how money is spent and bought wholesale. The goal is to make sure I get the discipline of buying low and selling high down to a science and use that experience in my software development practices. See, some of you cats want to wish so badly these other cats like Wayne Sutton can outdo this brotha from the West Side of Chicago but I’m just too real life and real world for those cats who ain’t even close to the level I’m at in this tech game. I already realize for inventory that the average cat is going to have a tedious time if they just enter data using strict categories they have to assign under, like how they got it in the store. I think adding tags is going to be a better strategy and I already created this section for the upcoming point of sale for the hood project. The reason why I’m doing tags for the point of sale for the hood so you can quickly identify not only sunglasses as eyewear but also tag it as summer items to be able to quickly identify it when you create your summer product mix section when cats walk in your store during the summer. I’m saving money as a result but my investment time also went up also. However, I’m learning and improving and I’m pretty sure when I give you cats the next update, I will have more improvements and optimization to tell you on my experience.

11 thoughts on “Updates on My Grocery Shopping Data Optimization Project

  1. One thing that might help is using the barcode scanner app that comes on iPhones and Android devices. All the items you buy are already in a database somewhere AND tied to their UPC code. All you need to do is find that database and write a little app that scans UPC and puts in your db.

  2. Dale,

    When I ran my beverage stand, I created a quick Windows application that let me scan UPC with my barcode reader and it pull the SKU from the UPC database web site.

    Here is the previous article:
    http://016f182.netsolhost.com/dhblog/2011/06/01/obsolescing-high-cost-gs1-upc-barcodes-with-low-cost-url-namespace-qr-codes-to-enable-m-commerce-and-mobile-marketing-for-hood-based-micro-retailing-operations/

    While this is fine for business inventory tracking and paying someone to do it, the average home person will have to scan products and if someone buy 75 items, they may have a little problem scanning all those items in every time they come back from a major shopping trip.

    I have been looking at the receipt angle as the data entry point because it usually have the information there but different stores have different abbreviations. But as you indicated, the solution will have to be a mobile based application that probably can work on an iPad or Android tablet.

    1. Ed,

      I was thinking that it would be easier to barcode scan rather than hand enter from a receipt. Maybe I’m misunderstanding something?

      1. Dale,

        I’m wondering how the customer will barcode scan? The optical barcode scanning software such as RedLaser and other applications are pretty mediocre and poorly scan.

        The reason why I focused on receipt is because once I got home, my instinct is to throw it all in the fridge. In addition, we cannot barcode UPC code for fresh fruits and vegetables – they actually use another coding scheme.

        With receipts, I can take it back to the computer or sit down but then again, I find that process tedious. Definitely have to improve this pain point.

        1. Thanks for the conversation Ed. If I’m taking you too off-course, just say the word…

          The ZXing barcode scanning library on Android works really well. Have you ever used Google Shopper? It works off ZXing too and might have some offshoot functionality in this project of yours.

          One thing I’m thinking is: can this be solved another way? In particular, most ‘food’ in a grocery store is only a notional sense of food — most of the real nutritive value has been processed out of it. Considering how really horribly badly most black people eat, this would be a much more important problem to solve. Of course, these solutions can’t be marketed and sold because they’re lifestyle changes. But, they give people back power over what they put in their bodies.

  3. That video was cool but it uses the entire NFC which is a couple of years away. I never even went back and read that other post because I don’t come to dream and hustle to argue honestly. I was actually thinking about this off and on recently though. I work in this industry but I am also a consumer. Here is how I shop, I gather up all of my coupons, look at my circulars and make a list based on what we need for the week. Biggest problem- developing the menu and knowing which store has the best price on everyday items which are not on an advertised price. Some couponing websites must have agreements where they get the sales ads to pair coupons with the ads.

    To do this you as a shopper will have to dedicate some time to a “pricing” feature where you’re just scanning to check prices on occasion, probably while doing your weekly shopping. Are you also trying to have a feature which suggests what you may need while shopping or just one that will tell you when you’re scanning the items you wish to buy, that you already have something? Are you also including expiration dates? Have you looked at other applications that do some of the things that you want to see how they are working? I’m assuming you’re saving the recipe suggestion feature for later but i do wonder if you can just purchase a database for that and not have to do it yourself.

    Have you seen extreme couponing? not suggesting you do what they do, but they may have some techniques that you can utilize as well.

    1. Steve,

      I have expiration dates in the database and thanks for bringing this point up because that is a problem. Although I put an expiration date on the milk and eggs, I have no notification system to tell me when those products expire.

      The problem I’m seeing is similar to the money management software, we are only going to open the software when we get around to it. I need to be alerted that the eggs are going bad and to do this, i will have to create some kind of push notification service. So this is definitely a solution that will be transferred to mobile pretty soon to enable that feature.

      That is also a feature for the commercial sector to use business intelligence to notify us that a product is slow moving and may be approaching it peak date – for example, sweaters in April are past their peak point. So notification will have to be built in to remind that the eggs are going bad.

      Also, I have a “ran out” field that I supposed to enter when I run out of the stuff like a loaf of bread. The goal is to tell me how often I use certain items and if I should buy more or reschedule my shopping trips. But again, when I ran out of bread, I did not bother to open up the database and enter this information.

      So overall, there need to be some kind of better interaction that blend in a person busy schedule and focus on other things to alert them of their shopping needs and food management habits.

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