Getting value for money at the supermarket can be a real challenge given that most shoppers are time poor and the choice of products, special offers, pack sizes, etc. is often bewildering.
However, it’s worth doing because groceries account for a substantial slice of most households’ expenditure and large savings are possible if you go about it the right way.
The many questions faced when looking for value for money include:
Is the special offer really better value than another offer or the regular price of the same or another brand or pack size?
Will a product in large pack be a better buy than when in a smaller pack?
Will an unpackaged product offer better value than when pre-packaged?
The answer is usually “maybe”, “sometimes”, and “it all depends” which is why the unit price (price per unit of quantity) is a great help to shoppers seeking value for money.
It is helpful because grocery products are sold in three forms: constant measure packages, random measure packages and loose from bulk, and we need to be able to easily and quickly compare the value of each of these forms.
Traditionally we have bought and compared the value of unpacked (loose from bulk) products, such as meat, cheese, nuts, and fruit and vegetables, in terms of unit price. Usually the unit price is per kilogram, however per each is also used for some products, particularly fruit and vegetables.
Also, for many years the unit price per kilogram has been shown on random weight packs of meat and some other products, in addition to the price you actually pay.
Fortunately, since 2009 and as result of a long consumer campaign, large supermarkets and online selling sites have to provide the unit price of grocery products sold in constant measure packages, such as boxes of breakfast cereals, cans of soup, and bottles of soft drink.
The unit price is normally shown on shelf labels and other signs displaying the total price.
This means that shoppers can now easily compare the unit price of almost every item sold in a large supermarket and use unit pricing as common basis to assess value and make choices.
Of course, when making value choices shoppers should also take into account other factors such as taste, quality, nutrition, ingredients, country of origin, pack size, package type, etc.
By using unit pricing shoppers can either substantially reduce the cost of their grocery bills or get much more for the same expenditure. This is because the unit prices of products vary enormously between brands, pack sizes, packaged and unpackaged, etc.
For example, average savings of around 40% are possible on a basket of products by changing brand, and around 20% by switching to larger pack sizes. And, substantial savings are possible from buying some products unpackaged not pre-packaged.
Just using simple rules of thumb such as always buying large packs, special offers or unpackaged products will not deliver the best value because there are always many exceptions to these rules of thumb.
To get the best value for money you need to look at and compare the unit prices. You’ll be very pleasantly surprised how easy and quick it is, and how large the savings can be or how much more you can get for your money.