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Grocery Shopping 101: Unit Price

Posted Jan 26 2011 12:21pm

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.

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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:

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

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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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