Save Money on Groceries Using Unit Pricing

Know What You Are Really Paying For Groceries

sell-by_label_hiYou know that to save money using coupons grocery shopping is hard work. However, sometimes the savings from using coupons, or buying in bulk, is no guarantee that you are saving money. For example, even if you buy a large box of cereal with a high value coupon do you really know if that box of cereal is less expensive then two or three smaller boxes of the same cereals?

To make things more difficult for you as a shopper, the trend in recent years is for manufacturers to keep their recognized packaging the same size and same price, but reduce the content inside the package. Often, there are several different sizes of the same product to pick from – how do you know which one is the better buy?

Fortunately, there is one piece of information that makes it simple to compare the cost of the same food in different sized containers or different brands.

This information is on a label referred to as the “unit price label” or the “price per unit label.” The “unit price” breaks down the price of the item by pound, quart, or other unit of weight or volume. It is usually listed on the same tag as the product’s price posted on the store shelf below the product.

Most grocery stores and supermarkets will have the unit price shown with the total price posted but this isn’t always the case, so it will be useful to know calculate the unit price of an item yourself. This is when shopping with a calculator will make shopping easier.

Here is the formula to figure unit price:

Cost of Item /Quantity = Unit Price

Couple of example:
a) 16 oz. jar of peanut butter is $4.48
$4.48 divided by 16 oz. = $0.28 per ounce


$4.48 (Cost of Item) / 16 oz. (Quantity) = $0.28 per oz. (Unit Price)

b) three 12 (3×12) can pack of soda is $9.00
$9.00 divided by 36 cans = $0.25 per can


$9.00 (Cost of Item) / 36 cans (Quantity) = $0.25 per can (Unit Price)

Examples of comparing different brands and different qualities using unit prices to determine the best buy:

Example a): 16 oz. jar of peanut butter is $4.48 or 28 oz jar of the same brand at $7.28

We had already determined from the previous example that the unit price for the 16 oz. jar was $ 0.28 per oz.

We use the same formula to determine the unit price for the 28 oz. jar:

$7.28 (Cost of Item) / 28 oz. (Quantity) = $0.26 per oz. (Unit Price)

So the bigger 28 oz. of peanut butter is a bit less expensive that the smaller 16 oz. jar of peanut butter.

Example b): three 12 can pack of soda is $9.00 or five 12 can packs (60 cans) for $16.80

We had already determined from the previous example that the unit price for 36 can of soda was $ 0.25 per can.
We use the same formula to determine the unit price for 60 cans:

$16.80 (Cost of Item) / 60 cans (Quantity) = $0.28 per can (Unit Price)

So the three 12 can pack is a better buy than the five 12 can pack by $0.30 a can.

When packaged food and household products are sold in more than one size, the largest size usually represents the better deal, with a lower cost per ounce, pound, or what have you. But foods that cost less per unit are not always the best way to buy. The economical “giant” or “family” size is not a good buy if you cannot store it properly or if you end up with leftovers that spoil or are thrown out, which means buying the bigger package wouldn’t have save you money.

Knowing how to calculate the unit price will help you to avoid making the wrong assumption. In order to maximize your purchasing power at the grocery store it is important to be aware of “unit pricing.” This is the only way to determine the true price of the item you are buying.

Unit pricing can help you decide what brand to buy and whether or not using a grocery coupon will really save you money. Store brands and little known brands are often cheaper than well-known national brands. The way the lower-priced brands look may be the only difference. Sometimes these foods may vary in size, color, or texture more than the national brands. But do check the nutrition facts panel on the food label to see if the nutrients are the same.

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