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?

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Author: budgetforhealth

Jessica is a Registered Dietitian and shares practical, useful tips on food, fitness and finance. Be sure to subscribe to her blog, Budget for Health!

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