The key to lowering your grocery bill: unit cost

By glblguy

Too Many Choices
Photo by: lucianvenutian

My 8 year old son is a type 1 diabetic. He was diagnosed in November 2006. I knew about Diabetes before, but never really understood how serious, complex, and life affecting the disease truely is until we had to deal with it first hand. The biggest impact is on his and our food choices. Food must be low in sugar, low in carbs, and high in protein.

Beyond the basic eggs, meats, and cheese there aren’t too many breakfast options, or at least ones he likes. He does like cheese omelets, breakfast sandwiches and oatmeal. Oatmeal is easy, he can make that himself;however, omelets and breakfast sandwiches require us to fix them for him.

As you can imagine, getting six kids up and off to school in the morning is a challenge, let alone needing to prepare omelets and/or breakfast sandwiches. Instead, what we started doing was purchasing prepared omelets and breakfast sandwichess. His favorites are the frozen products made my Jimmy Dean. We’ve been purchasing these for him for about a year, but they are fairly expensive. With my two oldest boys now at the point of eating us out of house and home, we’ve started looking for ways to cut back on our grocery bill, which is now around $1,100 per month.

Pay attention to unit cost

While my wife and I were out grocery shopping one evening, we were over in the frozen foods section picking out some frozen breakfasts for our diabetic son. I made the comment to my wife that the sandwiches were expensive. I don’t recall who suggested the idea first, but one of us suggested that we should make our sandwiches instead. We both agreed it sounded like a great idea. But would in be cheaper? It should be.

We talked for a few minutes and I remembered a guest article that I had read over on Get Rich Slowly that talked about unit price. As a result, I started to look at the price stickers and sure enough unit cost was shown. I pulled out the trusty Blackberry and started the calculator program. We compared the cost per premade sandwiches to the cost of the individual supplies required to make the sandwiches ourselves. We did the same for omelets. As you would expect, the cost to make them ourselves was significantly cheaper. We did the numbers a couple of different times with different products and each combination came out cheaper regardless of the perceived quality of the components such as bread, croissants, and biscuits.

We decided to premake the omelets and sandwiches and freeze them for him so he could quickly microwave them in the morning. Not only would he get something that tasted better (and fresher) but it would reduce our grocery bill. A win-win scenario for both of us.

As my wife and I continued through the grocery store, making product selections, I found myself paying closer and closer attention to unit cost. Of course, thanks to Jim’s article on Blueprint for Financial Prosperity, I made sure the quantity on the tags, matched the quantity on the product.

Turns out, paying attention to unit cost really makes getting the best deal fairly easy. Unit cost is a great way to glance at various products that are measured the same way (say in ounces) and know which product has the better price. Unit cost certainly won’t help you compare quality, but it sure helps on price.

Another way to reduce your grocery bill

If you are already using coupons, shopping when you aren’t hungry, visiting the no-frills grocery stores, buying generic or store brand products and maybe even playing The Grocery Game but still aren’t saving enough. Consider paying attention to unit price. It may just be that extra savings you need. After all, even little savings add up over time. Gather Little by Little right?

If you have a child and aren’t familiar with the symptoms of type 1 diabetes, please take a few minutes to read over the symptoms. We almost caught it too late, don’t make the same mistake we almost made.

Do you pay attention to unit costs? If so, any insights or advice you would like to share? Add a comment!

7 Responses (including trackbacks) to “The key to lowering your grocery bill: unit cost”

  1. Ron@TheWisdomJournal Says:

    Shop with a calculator! That’s my motto. I’m always amazed to see things listed at 2/$5 when last week they were $2.19 each!

    Bulk items are the worst. A 10lb bag of sugar costs more than 2 5lb bags at one local store. I guess they’re counting on people not noticing…or being very bad at math.

  2. Scott Says:

    Some sale items make me think that the unit pricing would be lower than another item in a larger box. I have found that buying 4 small cherios boxes is still more expensive than the larger “Costco” style box. Interesting how marketing makes us look at the cheaper items first. Of course, buying the generic cherios is probably the best option.

  3. Abbi Says:

    Many stores like Walmart have a lot of the unit prices the same place as the regular prices. I agree that it is very good to pay attention to that.

  4. Susan Says:

    You pay for Cheerios? I have 30 boxes of name brand, that is General Mills, Cheerios in my pantry that I got for free using coupons. The folks at taught me how. With 3 children under 5 we go through Cheerios like there is no tomarow.

  5. Justin Says:

    I find that even if the store has unit costs, they use different units on the same products. Coming from a metric world (You know, the rest of the world outside the US) this annoys me quite a bit. On smaller sizes it can be listed as price per ounce, then on larger it’s PP pound, or whatever.