If you are looking to start reducing your household expenses, a great place to start is your grocery budget. There are a lot of different ways to save money at the grocery store, but there is a simple way that many people overlook – unit price. Whether or not you use coupons, shop brand names or store brands, use unit price to help you save even more on groceries!
What is unit pricing?
When you look at an item’s price tag, your eye focuses on the price of the item – and rightly so. You need to know what the cashier expects you to pay so that you can decide on whether to buy the item.
Unit price may not be the first thing you notice on the price tag, but it can be extremely helpful. Simply put, unit price is the amount you pay per unit of the product you are buying. Essentially, the store gives you a standard unit to compare products and packages.
Typically, the unit price is in a smaller font and is to the left of the item price. It can be printed with a different type of ink or the real price might have yellow highlighting.
Why unit price is helpful
Unit price is a very helpful way to compare products, whether you are trying to compare brands or package sizes. The unit price helps you to make those comparisons fairly quickly, since the store has done the work for you.
As a consumer, you are able to make a more informed choice and you are able to compare apples to apples. You can quickly determine the better value when comparing brands.
You can also decide between product sizes. People assume that bigger is always better (it isn’t), but unit price will allow you to make that determination yourself.
Things to look for
While unit pricing allows you to make a direct comparison of products, double-check to make sure that is actually the case. For example, some brands might measure an item in ounces while another might use pounds. When checking the unit price on the tag, make sure you actually are comparing the same unit. If not, you can still compare the items, but you may have to manually calculate unit price for one of the items. At least the tags help you to calculate one of the items, so it’s not a total loss.
As you can see from the picture, one gallon of milk is measured in fluid ounces while the other quarts. In this case, it’s still easy to determine the better deal since you know the item is exactly the same – a gallon of milk. Bottom line, double-check to make sure the items are being compared using the same unit of measure!
Also, certain items are not always easy to compare. Paper goods can be tricky because they might be based on sheets, which can be subjective. Since we know that some paper towels come in the standard sheet size while others are the smaller sheets (like Bounty select-a-size), your unit (“sheet”) is not the same. If you are comparing a roll of standard paper towels with a roll of the smaller sheets, then you aren’t getting a true comparison.
Often, I find it’s just easier to calculate the square feet per package and go from there. When you are in doubt, do the math yourself!
If you are using coupons, you’ll have to calculate unit price manually. It’s still pretty basic – take the price of the item, subtract the coupon, and divide it by the most common sense unit of measure for that item.
Let your budget be your guide
I love using price to help me make more informed decisions. It helps me to determine the best value so that I can decide what I want to purchase. One thing to keep in mind is that it is not always best to buy the better value.
I always try to purchase the better value, but sometimes my grocery budget determines my final decision. Case in point: the peanut butter at Aldi (pictured above). The larger jar is the best value, but it’s also double the price. If it’s the end of the month, then I may have to skip the better value so that I can stay within my grocery budget.
In case you are interested in doing some comparisons between items, brands, and even stores, I’ve created a unit pricing worksheet. It can be helpful to document prices when you are first starting out.
When I first started to reduce my grocery budget, I was very overwhelmed and wasn’t sure where to begin. Feel free to use this unit price worksheet to help you compare items that you regularly purchase. I hope it will help you determine how you can shop more strategically so you can save even more money!
Have you ever heard of unit price?
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