Unit Pricing 101

Unit pricing
Do you know what unit pricing is? If not, this will change the way you grocery shop and hopefully shave quite a bit off of your grocery bill.

What is unit pricing?
Here’s the actual definition of unit pricing: identification of and labeling of items for sale with the retail price per unit, permitting easier price comparisons among similar products in different sized containers.

What does that mean? 
Being able to compare unit prices will allow you to select the best deal. Those brightly-colored SALE stickers may be misleading and, in fact, not be the best deal.

6oz yogurt container 32ozExample: 
You’ll often see a 10 for $10 sale price for the 6-ounce containers of Greek yogurt.
$1 / 6 ounces = $0.17 per ounce

What you want to do is compare it to an EQUAL item of a different size. Let’s say a 32-ounce container isn’t on ‘sale’ but costs $3.99
$3.99/32 = $0.12 per ounce

Even though there was a sale on the individual 6-ounce containers, you still get more for you money paying regular price for a 32-ounce container.

Things to note
Compare equal items
Traditional yogurt generally costs less than Greek yogurt. I’ll add an extra sneak loophole- brands like Greek Gods are not actually Greek yogurt; it’s Greek STYLE meaning it’s traditional yogurt that has been thickened to have a texture similar to Greek yogurt. You’ll notice that the unit price of this option is closer to traditional yogurt so it seems like a steal if you compare to other Greek yogurt brands.

You can compare unit prices for equal items AND across similar categories. For example, walnuts have been the cheapest at Costco ($0.20/ounce versus $0.40/ounce at local supermarkets). I buy the big 3-pound bag, roast them, and keep them in the freezer in a Ziploc bag. Walnuts also happen to be the cheapest TYPE of nut at Costco. Almonds come in second at around $0.37/ounce followed by cashews & pecans which run around $0.40/ounce. I opt to use walnuts for our salads and yogurt; cashews and pecans are a more special occasion since they cost twice as much. FYI- peanuts are actually a legume, not a nut, so they run much cheaper than walnuts.

Waste not
Everything comes in bulk at Costco where I shop. I buy a 2-pound bag of organic greens because we will eat all of it. If you buy the big bag because it’s cheaper according to unit price but half of it will go bad before you have a chance to use it then you aren’t really saving much money. Yes, ketchup is cheaper at Costco BUT do you really need three 32-ounce containers of it? We rarely use ketchup so I’ll pay a little more just to have a small bottle on hand.

Consider ‘value added’
Value added is when something is done to a product that makes for less work on your part. This is why pre-cooked chicken is much more expensive than raw or baby carrots cost more than whole, un-peeled carrots. You don’t have to be a superhero and make everything from scratch. Some items I’ve found to be way cheaper and easy to make from scratch are seasonings (here are some of my favorite recipes), salad dressing (my favorite), and whole chicken or roasts in the crockpot.

Don’t sacrifice quality
Set your own standards of quality. I don’t buy deli meat too often but when I do I tend to go somewhere in the middle so I’m not buying deli meat that is one step up from SPAM but also not paying $10/pound for it. Check your ingredient lists and look for unnecessary fillers. Sometimes that’s what makes a product cheaper but it’s not worth it.

Non-food items
Diapers are a doozy when it comes to your budget. Aldi recently came out with their own line of diapers and they are INSANELY cheap. I asked around to hear if other moms had tried the brand and they seemed to be comparable to other brands so now that’s my go-to. I mainly use cloth diapers but buy disposables for when we are gone for more than a day. I had previously been following a coupon blog that told me what coupons to use and pair with deals at CVS to get a good unit price but now Aldi’s diapers are the best deal I’ve seen even without any coupons.

Tips to save
This will take a little extra time but only for your next trip or two: Make a list in your phone notes of the unit prices for products you often get and what store you got it from. This is how I found out walnuts were the cheapest at Costco versus a supermarket. I learned that Greek yogurt and salad greens are often similar or even less at my local supermarket. I suggest limiting your grocery trips to 1 or 2 places; there’s no need to waste gas money or time driving to 5 stores.

Do you pay attention to unit pricing? What items do you pay particular attention to?

Homemade protein pancakes

protein pancakesWe have breakfast for dinner at least twice each week. We just love it so much! I don’t think you’ll ever see a “What we ate” series without breakfast showing up multiple times. We always have eggs (we go through around 20 dozen each month!) and then change it up between homemade hash browns or homemade protein pancakes. It’s one of our favorite meals and I think Nora’s #1 favorite meal.

blueberry pancakes

I initially found this recipe from La Creme de la Crumb an have since tweaked it to result in our favorite protein pancake recipe. Here it is!

Homemade protein pancakes

Yield: 12

Serving Size: 3-4" pancakes

110

Ingredients

  • 1.5 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 scoops Naked Whey protein powder
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1.5 cups water or almond milk
  • Blueberries or preferred topping

Instructions

  1. Preheat griddle to just above medium heat
  2. Mix dry ingredients
  3. Mix wet ingredients
  4. Add dry ingredients to wet and whisk until all ingredients are combined; don't overmix
  5. Pour a 3" circle of batter and let it spread out. This is when you add blueberries (or chocolate chips)
  6. Flip pancakes after 2-3 minutes or when edges start to look dry and bubbles start to form
  7. Top with REAL peanut butter and a wee bit of REAL maple syrup

Notes

4g fat, 12g carbs, 6g protein

http://www.budgetforhealth.com/homemade-protein-pancakes/

This is how we enjoy our pancakes. Feel free to swap things out. For example, sometimes I put walnuts in the pancakes instead of peanut butter on top. I like using almond milk because it add an extra calcium boost but I don’t always have it on hand. I also use a gluten free flour I found at Costco, Namaste, and you would never know (Dave is probably learning these pancakes are gluten free as he reads this article). The batch makes twelve 3-4″ pancakes and we always put chocolate chips on 2 of them (one for me, one for Dave) while the rest get blueberries and cinnamon. Two pancakes would bring you to a max for the amount of carbs you typically want at a meal so be careful with the syrup. There’s only 4g of fat and 6g of protein per pancake so this is where the peanut butter topping and eggs on the side come in for the win and provide a balanced meal.

What are you favorite breakfast foods? What toppings do you put on your pancakes?

How Much Protein Do You Need?

This is a guest post from my co-worker (another Registered Dietitian!) He’s pretty savvy when it comes to nutrition and fitness, so listen up!

So, you’re tired of being a girly man? (Sorry ladies, I promise there will be plenty of good information in here for you too. I just had to make sure I had the guy’s attention.) You picked up this month’s latest copy of your favorite muscle magazine. Your pantry looks more like a mini billboard for every hot new supplement on the market rather than a place where actual, real, nutritious food might reside. You even joined your local gym and started pumping some serious iron.  At this point, you’re ready to start watching those muscles grow faster than the national debt!

Now I’m not here to bash on supplements. In fact scientific research has even proven some supplements to be beneficial for muscle growth and recovery. I personally use protein to help assist in my recovery from weight training. I think that protein is one of the most beneficial nutrients for exercise success and it’s what I’d like to focus on today.

First, I want to break down some myths about how much protein we actually need each day. I’ve overheard many muscleheads in the gym trying to give advice to beginners, telling them they need at least 2 to 3 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight to build the muscles they want. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Your body will just not need that much protein. The excess protein that it doesn’t use will either get converted for energy or stored as fat.

So how much protein do you need? The average active adult will only need about 0.8-1 grams of protein per kg of body weight per day. For endurance and weight training athletes about 1.2-1.7 grams/kg of body weight. The highest level being about 2grams/kg of body weight. Or, to make it simple, a maximum of about 1gram per pound of body weight per day.

Timing of protein consumption is also very important when resistance training. Research has shown benefits of consuming a carbohydrate and protein combination just before and after exercise. About 10-20 grams of high quality protein before and after exercise should be sufficient for most individuals. Quantity will vary depending on body weight, sex and personal goals. Here are some sample ideas for pre and post-workout snacks.


Eggs
They pack about 7 g of protein, about half of that if you consume just the white. Put an egg prepared low fat on a whole-wheat English muffin with a slice of cheese and enjoy a great pre or post-workout snack.

Greek Yogurt
Averages about 16-18 g of protein per 6oz serving. Combine with fruit of your choice.

Peanut Butter and Jelly or fresh sliced fruit
Provides the carbohydrate and protein needed after a hard workout.

Protein Shake
Probably the most convenient pre or post-workout snack. Find a good quality protein powder that averages anywhere from 10-20 g per serving and mix it with a low sugar beverage of your choice.

Although adequate protein is crucial for exercise success, it’s important not to forget to consume a diet well balanced in carbohydrate, fat and protein. Adequate fluid intake is also highly important throughout the day, before, during and after exercise. For further information you can consult a registered dietitian to calculate your specific nutrient needs.

What are your favorite pre- and post-workout foods?

Inulin fiber, the “new” fiber

It is a well-known fact that fiber helps lower cholesterol, stabilize blood sugar, keeps you feeling full longer, and promotes regular bowel functioning. But have you heard of the “new” fiber, inulin?

Inulin fiber seems to be the up and coming ingredient craze. You may have noticed it in your Fiber One bars listed under the ingredients as one of its many surnames, chicory root. Inulin is now being flaunted in all kinds of foods, particularly foods that usually contain very little to no fiber, like dairy products. I first noticed it when I bought the Greek Gods brand of yogurt because it was the cheapest non-fat plain Greek yogurt I found at the store that day. I later learned it really isn’t Greek yogurt as you’ll read further down. I’ve never purchased this brand before so I took a look at the nutrition label. There I found under the ingredients: Pasteurized Grade A Nonfat milk, inulin, pectin, and active cultures (yada yada a bunch of probiotics).

Inulin is a starchy substance found in small amounts in foods like wheat, bananas, garlic, artichokes, asparagus, and leeks. It can be extracted from food or created synthetically. It works like a fiber in that it is not digested or absorbed in the stomach because our bodies don’t contain the enzymes to break it down. However, inulin is different from the fiber we normally think of because it doesn’t function as a fill-you-upper nor does it help to control blood sugar. Inulin serves as a prebiotic, meaning it’s good food for the bacteria in our intestines.

To clarify, PRObiotics are found in foods like yogurt and contain live cultures of beneficial microorganisms that we ingest. They recolonize the digestive tract with good bacteria. PREbiotics are components of food that feed the pre-existing beneficial bacteria in our gut. Normally we think of bacteria having a bad connotation, but these particular bacteria are associated with improved nutrient absorption and enhanced immune function in the colon. Inulin carries many different names you’re likely to find on the nutrition label like chicory root, Beta (2-1) fructans, or oligosaccharides.

If you are not accustomed to a high-fiber diet, adding inulin may cause uncomfortable gastrointestinal side effects like bloating, cramping, or gas. If you decide to try products that contain inulin, I recommend you do so slowly so that you don’t wind up with the above side effects.

Like any other product that flaunts a special ingredient, be careful you don’t get sucked in to junk food just because it claims “FIBER!” on the front. Food producers have been using inulin to replace fats, flours, and sugars, resulting in less calories.

On a slightly relevant note– after trying out the Greek Gods brand, I have to say I’m not that big of a fan. Not because it’s bad, but because I thought I was buying REAL Greek yogurt. I shortly realized that I didn’t read the fine print where it says Greek yogurt style. Tricky folks. I’ve still enjoyed it with my frozen diced mangoes this week but it is a little runnier and protein content is also quite lower than real Greek yogurt:

Fage 0% plain Greek yogurt: 15 grams per 6 ounces
Greek Gods non-fat Greek yogurt style: 9 grams per 6 ounces

The Greek Gods brand simply adds pectin to thicken up regular yogurt to be like Greek yogurt. I’m not really sure about the calories in Greek Gods yogurt because on the “Poseidon” container in my fridge says 60 calories per 4 ounces (113g) but the website’s label (pictured above) says 60 calories per 6 ounces (170g)…somebody’s lying and confusing me! Since protein and carbs both have 4 calories per gram, it looks like 60 calories per 6 ounces might be right. If you’re looking for a higher protein alternative to regular plain yogurt and could use a little fiber boost, maybe you should try Greek Gods out. I like the thick, creamy texture of REAL Greek yogurt and the higher protein content when I’m eating it for a snack, so no more Greek Gods for me.

In what other products have you seen inulin listed as an ingredient?
What is your favorite brand of Greek yogurt?

Frozen mangoes in a muffin pan

On the 4th of July, I raided a wholesale market and got a ton of produce for $31. I shared my homemade recipe for strawberry jam and now you get to hear about the mangoes! It’s not that spectacular but I still a great idea. I saw a bag of mangoes in my mom’s freezer that were frozen in individual 1/2 cup portions. She laughed when the first thing that came out of my mouth was “Did you get this idea off of Pinterest?” I decided to buy a bunch of mangoes for $0.39 each and freeze my own mini portions.

[In case you were wondering, which I know you were, that other delicious dish in the background is homemade peach cobbler.] I have a few ideas in mind for these juicy chunks of mango heaven. I’ll let a portion defrost overnight and throw a little in my oatmeal or I’ll mash some up and throw it in my plain Greek yogurt to give it a good flavor (because the plain flavor is nasty by itself). Mangoes are delicious in smoothies as well! If you decide to try this muffin pan method, it would be helpful to know how to cut a mango. Here’s a how to video- you’re welcome for saving you an hour of awkwardly trying to cut this fruit:

What produce do you freeze and store?
Feel free to share any ideas you have for my mangoes!

4 layer Bean Dip Recipe

I’m sure half of you will think we’re old farts and the other half will think this is a genius idea when I share this tidbit– Dave and I are frequent flyers at the local grocery store down the street… one of our favorite free entertainment activities involves walking to the store, doing a loop around to try all the samples, and then stop by the magazine aisle for 20 minutes or so before we walk back home. I’m sure the employees know our routine by now, but whatevs. They have awesome daily deals, so it’s not like we leave empty handed every time. Dave and I love Mexican food and were pretty pumped when one of the samples was a layered bean dip with chips. The sample was great, but it was $4 to buy the tiny 8 ounce container of it. Psh…I’ll make up my own bean dip recipe. We already had re-fried beans at home, so we just picked up some fresh tomatoes, avocados, Xochitl (pronounce so-cheel) chips made with no salt or hydrogenated oils, and plain Greek yogurt.

Yeah I said plain Greek yogurt! It tastes like sour cream but it’s packed with protein and contains no added sugar. It cost about $7 for everything we got, but it made triple the amount of the store’s container. It was such a delicious and easy dinner! We just spread the beans on the bottom of our dish, then yogurt, mashed avocado, diced tomatoes, and some scallions I had in the freezer. There’s a good amount of healthy fat from the creamy avocado but you can add cheese if you want. We each ate about a third of the dish and finished it off after work the next day. Now go make some bean dip!

Have you tried a recipe using Greek yogurt instead of sour cream?