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Healthy on a Budget

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Saving Money with Unit Prices

Posted by Whitney Ajie -


Have you ever used unit pricing to help you shop? If not, this post is going to help you understand how to use unit pricing to save money while food shopping.

The "unit price" of any food item is the price per amount of food product. The amount of food product could be in ounces (oz), pounds (lb), quarts (qt), or another common unit of measure. You can find an item's "unit price" on the price tag. It is usually the smaller number on the price tag, and it might have the words "per oz" or "per lb" next to the number or underneath the number.

Some of us buy the cheapest items in the grocery store no matter what. Well, just like an item with the cheapest price will have the lowest number, the cheapest unit price will also be the lowest number. For example, something with a unit price of 0.263 ($0.26) per ounce is cheaper than something that has a unit price of 0.285 ($0.29) per ounce.

You can use the unit price to compare similar foods in different sized packages, to compare foods from different brands, and to compare foods in different forms (like canned, fresh, and frozen foods). By buying the food with the lowest (cheapest) unit price, your money will spread farther at the store and can save you money each week.

BEWARE! There is something that you must remember when buying items using the unit price method. Many times, items with a low unit price are sold in bigger packages. So, think about this: If you or your family will not eat all of the food in the bigger package before it goes bad, then maybe it's not a good idea to buy the bigger package, even though it has the cheaper unit price. This is because you might end up throwing away the extra food, and therefore you end up wasting money. On the other hand, if you know how to store the extra food before it goes bad, then you can buy the bigger package and store the extra food until you need to use it (in the freezer, for example).

Here are some extra explanations on how to understand and use unit pricing at the store:

  1. Using unit pricing – by
  2. Choosing the best deal – by "Spend Smart, Eat Smart" at Iowa State University Extension

Recipe of the week: Rice Tabbouleh as featured on the University of Illinois Extension YouTube channel

You can find the written recipe here.

Wishing you the best of health,

Whitney Ajie
Extension Educator for Illinois Nutrition Education Programs

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