Want to Save Money on Groceries? Track Unit Pricing

I’ve shared before that I’m a list maker; I keep a running list of groceries (on my Notepad app) that need replenishment in order to avoid spontaneous purchases. The thing is… lots of people keep a grocery list; that’s not anything new. If you want to take saving money on groceries to the next level, try this tip: Track unit prices to save money on groceries.

Save Money on Groceries: Track Unit Pricing

Keep a list of unit prices for products you frequently purchase. Simply looking at unit prices won’t help you save money on groceries unless you know what the usual unit price of a product is. I’ve memorized unit prices for products I buy on a weekly basis, but I don’t always remember the products I buy less frequently. What helps me is to note unit prices of products and categorize them by store so I know where I’ve found the best deals.

save money on groceriesItems I buy on a regular basis like organic greens, canned tuna, yogurt, nuts, and frozen veggies vary in cost depending on the brand or the size of the package. If you don’t already pay attention to unit prices or even know what they are then start here, and you will soon find yourself with a base to easily save money on groceries. The list of unit prices I keep in my phone looks something like this:

Costco
Walnuts $0.39/oz
Almonds $0.31/oz
Organic mixed greens $0.28/oz
Canned tuna $0.36/0z
Greek yogurt $0.13/oz
Almond butter $0.35/oz
Avocados $0.96 each
Hummus $0.18/oz
Natural peanut butter $0.13/oz
Can organic diced tomatoes $0.05/oz

Aldi
Organic mixed greens $0.40/oz
Greek yogurt $0.12/oz
Grass-fed ground beef $5.99/lb
Avocados $0.89 each
Hummus $0.20/oz

The prices at Costco don’t vary much over time so this list would be helpful when shopping at grocery stores that have different items on sale each week. For example, I’ve found hummus is cheaper at Costco than Aldi so I usually buy it from Costco. But, when I see that there is a sale on hummus at Aldi I can check my list and compare the sale unit price to the unit price I usually pay at Costco. Sometimes the hummus at Costco is still cheaper so I pass on the sale at Aldi. If I didn’t have my list of unit prices I would have thought I was getting a deal at Aldi because it was on “sale”. The same applies with coupons; sometimes it’s still cheaper to buy a generic brand rather than name brand even when you apply a coupon.

NOW WAIT. Before you move on. There’s something else you need to consider to save money on groceries:

How much of that product do you really need?

save money on groceriesSave Money on Groceries: Consider the Amount

Often bigger containers have the cheaper unit price. A container of hummus at Costco is huge; a whopping 38 ounces. If you’re feeding a family, then of course you’ll go through it before the expiration date. However, maybe you only use hummus occasionally as a spread on your sandwich or as a veggie dip. Buying a huge container because it has the cheapest unit price isn’t going to save you money in the end, because the money you did save will go into the garbage when your hummus goes bad before you can finish it.

Save Money on Groceries: Check the Quality of Food

Just because the pretzel crisps at Costco are cheaper per ounce than the smaller bag at your traditional grocery store doesn’t mean you should buy the giant bag. First, you want your snacks to be from whole foods, not processed. The concept “out of sight, out of mind” will be pretty difficult to achieve when a giant bag of pretzels stares you in the face every time you open the pantry. So sure, you might save money on groceries, but you might also be slowly killing yourself in the process. Consider the products you are buying and how they will impact your health. Just because the price for a pack of Oreos is the cheapest you’ve seen doesn’t mean you should buy them…

Save Money on Groceries: Lessons on Stocking Up

You can also use unit prices to your benefit when it comes to buying less-perishable items. For example, nuts aren’t cheap so it pays off to wait for a sale and then stock up. However, you might have to watch out for mindless snacking in this area. I buy the 3 pound bag of almonds from Costco but I have to portion it out into smaller bags to avoid grabbing a handful or two when I’m not even hungry. When I need another bag I take it out of my deep freezer and it goes into the pantry.

Paying attention to unit prices takes a little effort at first, but it can pay off in the long run. When you free up $10, $20, or $30 each month from your grocery bill it means more money to put toward your financial goals!

Do you use unit prices to save money on groceries? How do you determine a good deal?

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AUTHOR Derek

My name is Derek, and I have my Bachelors Degree in Finance from Grand Valley State University. After graduation, I was not able to find a job that fully utilized my degree, but I still had a passion for Finance! So, I decided to focus my passion in the stock market. I studied Cash Flows, Balance Sheets, and Income Statements, put some money into the market and saw a good return on my investment. As satisfying as this was, I still felt that something was missing. I have a passion for Finance, but I also have a passion for people. If you have a willingness to learn, I will continue to teach.

10 Comments

  1. Great article! I do something similar. I have a list with my 3 most frequented stores and their prices for everything I buy. I then Highlight the lowest price of the 3 so I have a quick reference.

  2. Good information. I always track unit pricing to save money. It’s important to track the prices over time at stores which have sales so you can tell when the sale is really a good one and when it’s going to be better next week. Also, while it’s generally cheaper to buy the larger product, sometimes it’s not, so always do the math. I was recently buying some snacks that cost $3.69 for a large bag, but the half-size bags were on sale buy one at $2.19, get one free. Two half-size bags were definitely the better deal.

    • You’re right, Gary. Knowing a good unit price can determine if it’s really a good sale or not. I find that’s the case with cheese. It seems there’s always a “sale” but there’s a less frequent sale that occurs and the unit price is the lowest I’ve seen. Waiting for the good sales pays off.

  3. Great tips to save on groceries! Like you, I also memorized unit prices for products I usually buy every week.

    • That’s great, Kate. I’ve noticed that once you look at unit prices a couple of times it becomes second nature to check and doesn’t take any extra effort to save money this way.


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