Unit prices for budget grocery shopping 

Who doesn’t love a bargain?

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I want to share some information on unit prices and how to use them to save money at the grocery store.

There are usually a few items that each individual splurges on, regardless of cost, from toilet paper to cookies. Personally at my house we budget for higher end cheese and free range local meats, I use unit pricing for almost everything else. (Oats, yogurt, milk, spices, etc)

What is a unit price?

The cost of one unit of an item. This is almost always* 100 grams for foods.

How do I use one?

Check and compare the unit price of the same foods/items that are different brands, different prices and different sizes to see what is a better price. (Example: Compare tomato sauces, from the jar and can then a few types of pasta at your next grocery trip to find the best prices for your spaghetti groceries to save money) The lowest unit price is the best buy**

How to calculate a unit price if it isn’t on the price tag?

Cost of item/quantity= unit price***

Quantity generally refers to weight and is often in grams but can also be litres, millilitres, kilograms, sheets etc. Usually the unit price is on the tag at the grocery store, however, some grocery chains do not include these prices and you’ll have to calculate the unit cost yourself (in which case I recommend you read my tips) or find another grocery store that does this for you if possible.

 

*You can choose paper towel, fabric softener and toilet paper based on cost per sheet. You can also purchase beverages based on a cost per 100ml. 

**The best buy is not always the most affordable. If you are on a tight budget sometimes the lowest unit price is from the largest amount of food which can sometimes cost more. (Example: Ten pounds of oats will cost more than two pounds but the unit price is lower so every bowl of oats from the bigger bag will cost less than what comes from the small bag) It is also important to think about home storage for these items. Ask yourself: Can I eat it all? Can I afford it? Can I store what I don’t eat? Will it go bad before I can eat it? Can I freeze it or split the purchase with a friend?

***Unit price calculation examples:

35 crayons in box A for $2.99 = $0.085 (or 8.5 cents per crayon)

150 crayons in box B for $5.25= $0.035 (or 3.5 cents per crayon)

The next example is more complex, A is in grams and B is in kilograms. You have the unit price in the same terms in order to assess the better price. Some people can do it mentally without calculating all the steps but I’ve broken it down a little more for those who are doing this for the first time. 


Oat cereal A 750 grams for $4.77= $0.00636 (that’s confusing! But it makes sense. Think each gram costs less than 1 cent, we can double check this math. Take 477 cents (instead of $4.77) and divide it by 750 grams and you’ll get $0.636 which is the price of 100 grams. Does 63 cents for 100 grams of oats make more sense? Yes! Especially when its $4.77 for 7.5 servings of 100 grams.

Oat cereal B 5 kg for $8.35= 8.35/5=1.67 So it is $1.67 for 1 kilogram of oats and 1 kilogram is 1000 grams, therefore, it costs $1.67 for 1000 grams of Oats and $0.16 (16 cents) for 100 grams. We did this by dividing by 10 to go from 1000 grams to 100 grams.


 Tips: 

1.  If you have the time keep a journal of unit prices of your frequently purchased items and you’ll be able to compare items and assess the best price of items when they go on sale or you visit a new store. (I keep my log in my cell phone, I know I won’t pay more than __ per 100grams of yogurt) 

2.  Start unit pricing with less than five items at the grocery store. This will take less time than your full grocery order. Each grocery trip check a few new items and you’ll be a pro at comparing food costs and saving money in just a few grocery trips! 

3. Always check and compare unit prices of sale items to a similar product. Just because it’s on sale doesn’t mean it’s cheaper. (Example: Name brand cereal is on sale for $4.99 for a 750 gram box, compare the unit price to a no name brand of similar cereal to ensure you buy the best priced item)

4.  You can try a unit price calculator online (bookmark it to your cellphone) or try downloading an app. At is time there are a few app options but I personally haven’t tried any of them so I don’t have one to recommend. If anyone has tried some feel free to share your feedback in a comment for others. 

5. Ensure you have an app for understand basic conversions from grams to kilograms and millilitres to litres etc.

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