This is a guest post from Jessica. She is a Registered Dietitian and shares practical, useful tips on food, fitness, and finance. Be sure to subscribe to her blog, Budget For Health.
I do the grocery shopping in our home so over time I’ve learned what a good price is for the items we regularly purchase. If you’re not much of a coupon clipper (ahem, me!) I’ve got an alternate option for you that will help shave a little off your grocery bill.
When you buy a food item, what factors do you consider when deciding if it’s a good deal or not? If you aren’t loyal to a specific brand then your best option is to check the unit price. You’ll find it below the actual price; not on the product itself but on the sticker/tag on the shelf the product sits on. After learning the average unit price of an item you’ll then be able to spot a good deal when it comes.
Take cheese for example. Where I live, cheese is typically $0.25-30/ounce for a traditional block of cheddar, mozzarella, Colby, etc. When a sale rolls around cheese will drop to $0.20/ounce. This is when I stock up on a few blocks since it stays fresh for months if unopened. I get roughly enough to last me until the next cheese sale comes around. I typically see an item on sale show up on sale again after 4-6 weeks.
Bigger isn’t always better
Sometimes, but not always, you can get good deals by buying the larger item or buying in bulk. However, there have been many occurrences where I’ve seen the 16-ounce blocks of cheese on sale but the 24-ounce blocks stay at their regular price. In this case I’d be better off buying a few small blocks of cheese for $0.20/ounce rather than a big block for $0.25/ounce. You’d pay more upfront but are saving when it comes to the price per ounce. To clarify: I would rather pay $6.40 for two 16-ounce blocks of cheese on sale than $6 for a 24-ounce block not on sale. Sure you could save $0.40 by only buying the 24-ounce block but you pay more per ounce that way ($0.25/ounce versus $0.20). Make sense?
All peanut butters are not created equally
I’d share what I think are good unit prices for common food items but it may not help you too much since prices vary depending where you live or how you shop. I could get a giant jar of Meijer (generic) brand peanut butter for super cheap but I want to avoid all the added processed oils, sugar, and fillers so I’m willing to pay a little more for natural peanut butter (Teddie’s is my favorite!) and keep my eye out for a good unit price so I can stock up. If you are loyal to a specific brand then knowing the average unit price of that brand’s item can help you spot a good deal when it comes.
Doing the math
Sometimes the unit prices vary on non-food items. For example, if you went to Costco you might find batteries packaged like this: 30 batteries in the total package but they are bundled into smaller packs of 5. The unit price of one brand may tell you the price per battery and another brand packaged the same way might consider a “unit” to be one of the small 5-packs. With a little simple math on your phone’s calculator, you can determine the price per battery of both to see which brand is the better deal. The same goes for laundry. Depending if you get an ultra-concentrated liquid detergent or a powdered detergent, price per ounce won’t really tell you much. In this case you’d be better off determining the unit price per load. If both detergents state that the container size holds enough to do 100 loads, then divide the price by load, not by the weight of the product.
A little effort goes a long way
If you have never checked the unit prices on items you regularly purchase, your next grocery trip will take a little longer. However, after you learn some of the typical unit prices you will be able to breeze through your trips. It may help to initially jot down the unit prices for your regular items either on a notepad or the notepad app on your smart phone until you memorize the numbers. It takes a little effort in the beginning, but this simple practice can wind up saving you quite a bit of change over time.
Do you use unit pricing to determine how you purchase products? Are you loyal to some brands regardless if they are the cheapest option or not?
AUTHOR Derek Sall
Derek has a Bachelor's degree in Finance and a Master's in Business. As a finance manager in the corporate world, he regularly identified and solved problems at the C-suite level. Today, Derek isn't interested in helping big companies. Instead, he's helping individuals win financially--one email, one article, one person at a time.