Comparing Unit Prices

by Jenn Fowler | February 7, 2012 at 5:34 pm | comments

We all know eating together as a family is a good thing! In today’s economy smart families are working hard to make those family meals as cost effective as possible. Here’s a simple skill to add to your money-saving “toolkit” when you hit the grocery store…comparing unit prices!

Imagine this: you are in a grocery store looking at a shelf of plain tomato sauce from a variety of brands. How do you figure out which is the least expensive? You can’t just look at price because they come in all different sizes…that’s where unit pricing comes in handy! The “unit price” tells you the cost per pound, quart or other unit of weight or volume of a food package. Unit pricing is a simple way to compare the cost of items of different sizes. The great part is that the store has usually done the math for you!

Let’s take a look at the shelf tag for that tomato sauce:

You can see on the right it lists the “retail price” as $0.59—that’s the actual cost that rings up at the register. Under that you see some small print-this tells you what size the item is, in this case 8oz. In the orange box you see the unit price–$1.18 a pound (lb).

Now let’s compare that to the shelf tag for another size of tomato sauce of the same brand:Here you can see they can actually costs more, $0.79, and that the size of the item is 15oz. Now take a look at the unit price–$0.88 a pound. In this case the larger size is the better bargain.

Now remember—foods that cost less per unit are not always the best choice for you. Sure, I could buy a food service size six pound can of peaches for a much lower cost per pound…but if I can’t eat it or store it all before it goes bad then I’ve wasted money.

And don’t always assume that the bigger size is cheaper-check the actual unit price. I’m sometimes surprised to find that the cost is the same (in which case I buy whatever size is most convenient to use) or occasionally the bigger size actual costs more!

How do you use unti pricing to help you get economical family meals on the table? 

Jenn Fowler is a blogger, speaker, social media consultant and ex-Army Officer. She lives in a quaint village in Upstate New York with her husband, Yankee Bill, and their two wild and creative children—Princess (10) and Buddy (8). When she isn’t blogging about living a good life on a budget at Frugal Upstate, she is gardening, reading, acting, crafting, cooking and knitting—although not necessarily in that order.