Crackerjack Greenback Prudent Advice for a Prosperous Future

February 7, 2009

Frugal Tip: Beware When Buying in Bulk!

Filed under: Frugality,Saving Money,Spending — Paul Williams @ Crackerjack Greenback @ 1:33 pm

Fresh tomato sauce by merci on Flickr       I stopped by the grocery store today while I was in town. I needed to pick up some milk and a few other things. I wanted to get some more tomato sauce to keep my supply well-stocked since I just used some in a recipe for Beef Curry a week ago.

       I generally go straight for the generic brand (Shurfine in this area), but there were a couple sales on the bigger cans of tomato sauce. The sale wasn’t on a well-known name brand, but it wasn’t a store or generic brand either. This 29 ounce can of tomato sauce was “on sale” for $1.50. The generic brand (Shurfine) 29 ounce can was $1.19. Not much of a sale if you ask me.

       I was about to grab the big can of generic brand tomato sauce when I saw the smaller cans on the shelf above. These cans were 15 ounces and they cost $0.59 each. Quick math tells you the small cans are a better deal. I can get two small cans (30 ounces) for a total of $1.18, or I can get one big can (29 ounces) for $1.19. So I can choose to pay 3.9¢/ounce or 4.1¢/ounce for the same product. Which size do you think I bought?

       Now, it might not seem like a big deal, and in this case it wasn’t really. But if you watch for this kind of thing over the course of your entire grocery trip, you can save quite a bit of money. Do it every time you shop for groceries and you can significantly reduce your food bill for the year.

       So don’t grab the bigger can, carton, bag, or box because you think it’s a better value. Check the numbers first. It really doesn’t take long if you have a calculator (and most of us do if we carry a cell phone). And don’t automatically grab the smaller size either. It can pay to buy in bulk and store what you don’t need. Just make sure it really is a good deal before you throw it in your cart.

Frugal Tip: Check the price per unit to decide between buying in bulk or buying a smaller size.

       To find the price per unit, divide the total price by the total number of units for the item you’re considering. In the case above, I divided 118¢ by 30 ounces to get 3.9¢/ounce on the smaller cans. Remember: total price / total units = price per unit


  1. Generally I hate walmart, but a couple of years ago their labels started showing the price per unit. While I’m capable of doing my own math, it shows they have the consumers in mind when they print labels with the price per unit.

    More and more people will be taking notice of these labels with the current economy and all.

    Comment by The Weakonomist — February 7, 2009 @ 3:05 pm

  2. @The Weakonomist: I like it when I see the price per unit on the labels, too. Sometimes they’re not updated for sales though, and there are errors sometimes. You’ll also see some price per unit labels where similar products are priced using different units.

    It doesn’t take long to figure it out yourself, and it can be worth it if you’re looking for an easy way to save money.

    Thanks for your comment!

    Comment by Paul Williams @ Crackerjack Greenback — February 7, 2009 @ 4:04 pm

  3. Isn’t it strange when that happens? I’ve come across similar situations when the bulk item costs more per unit and it just boggles my mind.

    I love price per unit labels. Without them, I’d have to bring a calculator to do comparison shopping, which would be tedious.

    Comment by frugalCPA — February 8, 2009 @ 1:01 am

  4. @frugalCPA: Yes, it doesn’t make any sense to me. But nothing surprises me much at the grocery store any more. Food producers have been trying every trick they can think of to mess with our minds – changing product sizes, making openings larger, etc.

    As I said above, be careful about the printed price per unit labels. They can be off, but most of the time they’re OK. My biggest beef is when similar products are priced using different units. Grrrr! 🙂

    Comment by Paul Williams @ Crackerjack Greenback — February 8, 2009 @ 1:05 am

  5. […] Williams went to the store and noted that the smaller item cost less than the bulk item.  I’ve caught this quite a few times […]

    Pingback by Dollar Frugal » Blog Archive » Carnival of Personal Finance - Wizard of Oz Edition — February 9, 2009 @ 6:13 am

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