How Size and Unit Pricing Affect Food Shopping

by Bill on March 28, 2012

I wrote a post about four sales to avoid at the supermarket. Hopefully you can save some money there. But what other ways are there to save money buying food? One way is to watch your wording when buying food. I call it competitive shopping (a.k.a. You against the corporate dudes).

There are Always Two Prices

When you look for the sales, be aware of the unit cost. What’s a “unit cost”? It’s the amount per item the store paid to put the bag/can/box on the shelf; its also called unit pricing. Unit pricing is usually found underneath the sales price. By the way, it has to be listed by law. You’d be amazed at how cheap a product gets when you compare what the store paid for each item.

Something I found out – when you look at a sale tag telling you to buy x amount for x dollars, often the unit price will tell you if the item is actually cheaper buying it in smaller quantities. Another thing I found out is you can quickly determine the markup on each item by comparing the unit cost to the price.

Unit pricing also compares the cost per weight of an item. You can use unit pricing to compare different brands as well as sizes. This is how I found out Meadowbrook milk was cheaper than the store brand. Odd but true.

You can also use unit pricing between stores too! Yep, one market has one unit price and across the street may have another. Yes, its a pain in the butt, but it can be worth it if you pass one store on the way to another. Like there are some things I get at the Dollar General as a pass to head up to a local store called Ted Clark’s. But, again, there are some things such as frozen food to get at Ted Clark’s instead of Dollar General for the exact same reason.

When Larger Isn’t Cheaper

Somewhat of a misguided notion in the belief that larger packaging means a better value. At one time that might have been true, all things being equal. But larger packaging isn’t always a better bargain; no, not because you may not use it all, but for a whole other reason.

Unit pricing and cost comparison come into play again. Many stores will sell larger versions of an item as a sale when in reality two smaller packages of the same item are cheaper. An example would be a 12 ounce bag of rice selling for $1.89 with the 24 ounce bag of the same rice marked as a sale at $3.89. Divide the price of the larger bag in half and you will notice you are paying more for the larger bag than if you bought two of the smaller bags. I actually ran into that exact example and continue to see others as I shop.

So that’s how I use size and pricing to shop for food. If some more experienced people come along, please comment and share your ideas.

William Swan, writer

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Crosby March 28, 2012 at 8:55 am

I actually ran into that exact example and continue to see others as I shop. Thanks posting.
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Bill March 28, 2012 at 11:21 pm

Hi Crosby

They’re not hard to spot once you know what to look for.

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