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Use Unit Pricing to Save on Groceries

By By Brenda Anderson
Sept. 24, 2013 at 4:24 a.m.

Brenda Anderson

Planning meals in advance, making a shopping list, using coupons and looking for sales can all help you manage your grocery budget. Another great way to save money at the grocery store is to use unit pricing to compare the costs of similar products.

A unit price is the cost of an item based on a specific unit or standard amount, such as a pound, ounce or quantity per container. It is usually found on a shelf tag just below the product. If you know the unit price, you can compare the costs of different brands and different sizes of similar foods to help you pick the ones that have the best value for the money. But, be aware - while unit prices can help you identify foods that are the best price, they do not help you identify which ones are nutritious.

Let's take a look at an example.

In the top left corner is the brand of the product, what it is and the amount being sold (Brand A, all-purpose flour, 5 pounds). Under that is the product bar code, which is used by the store for inventory purposes. On the right side of the unit price shelf tag is the total cost of the product ($1.69) and below that is the unit price - 2.11 cents per ounce.

If you were comparing this bag of flour with a different brand or different size bag, you would look at both unit prices and compare them to see which one costs less per ounce. Some shelf tags may have these sections reversed, but the unit price will be smaller than the total price of the product.

What you may want to do is compare unit prices between the different size containers of that brand of product. While it is usually more cost effective to buy a large container of something, sometimes buying several smaller containers that are on sale will end up saving you some money.

Where the comparisons get a little tricky is when you combine sale prices or specials with coupons and discounts. In this case, you may need to use a calculator to figure out the unit prices after coupons and discounts are applied.

Resource: Back to Basics series curricula from Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service Better Living for Texans program.

Brenda Anderson is a Victoria County extension assistant.

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