• Grocery Shopping 101: Unit Price

    January 26, 2011

    If you missed the first two blog posts in my Grocery Shopping 101 series, here they are:

    So, I am devoting an entire post to unit price because I think it is one of the most important shopping tools that I use at the grocery store to save money.

    A long time ago, my mom taught me how to maximize my purchasing power by looking at the unit price of items. I couldn’t have been more than 10-years-old, but I quickly learned that the unit price was the best way to determine the true value of what we were buying.

    What is the Unit Price?

    The unit price is listed on the shelf sticker next to the price of the product. It tells you what an item’s cost is per pound, gallon, ounce, etc.

    In the photo below, the unit price is listed in orange on the left side of the label. In this case, it’s how much you pay per gallon of olive oil. The cost per gallon is $50.67, but you’re only buying 16.9 ounces of olive oil, so you pay $6.69. It might seem like a deal because you’re only paying $6.69, but the cost per gallon is high.

    unit price

    This same idea holds true for pretty much all grocery (and non-grocery) items: the lower the unit price, the better deal you are getting. So, just because a box or bag is bigger, doesn’t mean that you’re getting a better deal. Comparing the unit price of similar products (example: name brand versus store brand) will ensure that you get the best deal possible without having to do any math.

    Here’s an example:

    IMG_0620

    Check out how the retail price and unit price changes as the size of the olive oil container increases.

    IMG_0619

    IMG_0622

    IMG_0624

    IMG_0626

    At $31.04 per gallon, you’re getting the best bang for your buck. You’re buying more olive oil (101.4 ounces), but you pay less per gallon.

    Especially for grocery staples (grains, nuts, beans, pasta, etc.), buying a product with a lower unit price, even though you are paying more for it upfront, will save you money in the long run. Just make sure you know you will use it and it won’t go to waste. Otherwise, you are wasting your money!

    Bottom line: Look for the lowest cost per unit to get the best deal.

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    { 79 comments… read them below or add one }

    Ashley (The Vegetable Life) January 26, 2011 at 2:50 pm

    Awesome Tip! I Never knew that but I will def. use this tip going forward!

    Reply

    Melissa (MelissaLikesToEat) January 26, 2011 at 2:55 pm

    Love this post….so helpful!!! I will now be shopping completely differently!

    Reply

    Jenni January 26, 2011 at 2:59 pm

    This a great post, especially now that so many companies are downsizing their product packages while charging the same price (or more). Also while you are paying attention to prices – check your receipts too – overcharging at the price scanner is more common than most people realize. A lot of stores will give you a full refund on the item if this happens, but you have to catch it!

    Reply

    Justeen @ Blissful Baking January 26, 2011 at 3:02 pm

    I really like this post! Evaluating the unit price of items is definitely important!

    Reply

    Alaina January 26, 2011 at 3:20 pm

    I admit to not knowing much about unit price until I met my husband. I always look at the unit price now and it really helps! :-)

    Reply

    Stacey - The Habit of Healthy January 26, 2011 at 3:21 pm

    My husband is an absolute stickler for comparing the unit price of items.

    Reply

    Danica January 26, 2011 at 3:47 pm

    I’ve never heard of this before either but it’s definitely something I’ll pay attention to now. Thank you!!

    Reply

    Sarah@naturaldiabetic January 26, 2011 at 3:56 pm

    Oh my gosh – my mom taught me the same thing! Such a great tool. I hate how not all stores have it though – or sometimes if something is on sale, they don’t have unit amount for the sale price. Still very helpful!

    Reply

    Brittney January 26, 2011 at 4:12 pm

    My husband just taught me about this too! It’s how he always justifies buying the super cushy Kleenex Cottonelle with aloe TP- because the unit price is usually the same or lower than the other brands. I’m always like, “whatever dude!”

    Reply

    Katy (The Singing Runner) January 26, 2011 at 4:49 pm

    Love that you brought this up. This was one of the big things my parents told me to look for when I first started grocery shopping for myself.

    Reply

    meemsnyc January 26, 2011 at 5:11 pm

    I always use Unit Price. It’s a great way to get more for the buck.

    Reply

    lauren @ spiced plate January 26, 2011 at 5:17 pm

    YES. So important. I always go with the least unit price on the organic product of my choice.
    I also love that I can tell you’re in a Stop and Shop, from my southern New England days!

    Reply

    Karen January 26, 2011 at 5:39 pm

    I generally think I am smart person, but I never knew about the unit price! Awesome hint!

    Reply

    Jess January 26, 2011 at 5:42 pm

    My mom’s been trying to teach me how to grocery shop, and the smartest ways to. I think she’s coming down with parent-college-sydrome a little too early, but hey! I know how to get bread for the best price AND oil now. I’m on a roll this week.

    Reply

    Erica January 26, 2011 at 6:54 pm

    Whoaaa! That is super interesting. I will definitely be looking out for this next time I go to the grocery store. :)

    Reply

    Chelsea @ One Healthy Munchkin January 26, 2011 at 7:22 pm

    My parents taught me to do this from a young age too. It has been so helpful now that I’m on my own!

    Reply

    Hannah January 26, 2011 at 8:41 pm

    I only just discovered the Unit Price thing last year when I moved out – it’s a godsend for budgeting!

    Reply

    Kelly January 26, 2011 at 9:33 pm

    I have to weigh unit price + not a lot of storage space so I usually think of the size that my cabinets can accommodate, then I choose the best unit price between my options. Unless there’s a crazy cheap price for a larger size, I have to purchase regular sized items.

    Reply

    Daisy January 26, 2011 at 11:42 pm

    COOL. If my north end apt wasnt the size of a walk in closet, i’d totally purchase more gallons of olive oil at once!

    Reply

    'laina January 27, 2011 at 10:46 am

    My problem, in barely living paycheck to paycheck, is that I usually can only afford the cheaper total price product at that moment. :\

    Reply

    Amber K January 27, 2011 at 12:21 pm

    What I hate is stores that don’t list the unit price! Makes my job sooo much harder!

    Reply

    Emma January 27, 2011 at 5:21 pm

    I always do this, too! My boyfriend and I always take a while when doing our shopping because we’re so busy analysing the labels for the best offers!

    Reply

    Amy January 29, 2011 at 11:07 am

    My boyfriend is ALWAYS preaching this to me and it has definitely come in handy =) I won’t show him your post though cause then he’ll say “I told ya so!”

    Reply

    Emily January 30, 2011 at 11:14 am

    I always use this tool when I shop…in stores where they don’t calculate unit prices on sale items (or don’t display them at all), I am constantly pulling out my phone to use the calculator.

    Reply

    KK March 18, 2011 at 5:12 pm

    Dad showed me this trick when I was growing up, and I’ve never forgotten it. I tend to forget the “whole price” and shop by unit price (though we usually go by ounces).

    Reply

    Sue May 26, 2011 at 10:33 pm

    I have done this for years…BUT what is frustrating is for the stores to do the units pricing in different sizes for one product. For example for one brand of olive oil it may be for a gallon and for another brand they may price it per ounce…so you better know your equivalents and your math or you are out of luck! However, I carry my iphone and use the calculator in the store in front of the display if I need too!!

    Reply

    Dennis Kimmel February 8, 2012 at 11:46 pm

    This is something i learned years ago and applied during penny-pinching times. However as the years passed and speed with which i began shopping increased i somehow stopped paying attetion! Thanks for being so passionate about what you do and planting this back in my shopping thought process! :)

    Reply

    Mordecai Christi February 11, 2012 at 3:47 pm

    Important point to look out for. The same can be done for gas in a way, instead of looking at miles per gallon, you can look at gallon per mile and see just how much fuel is being used at any given time over a particular distance. Thanks for posting this idea on wholesale prices!

    Reply

    KitKit MF February 3, 2013 at 12:45 pm

    I had always noticed the unit price on the tag, but I never paid attention to it until my boyfriend actually pointed it out.

    Reply

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