Frugal Grocery Shopping Tip of the Week

December 29, 2007 at 7:38 am | Posted in Cookbooks, cost-cutting, Grocery Shopping | Leave a comment

Here’s a new feature I’m adding to the blog. We go grocery shopping every week (or so). Each time I shop I find a new way to save money, so I will highlight my “discoveries” for you when that happens.

This week’s idea: use the Price Per Unit (PPU) cost on the shelf tag to your advantage.

Many people go to the grocery store and try to save a few bucks by buying bigger sizes or generic products. Often, this is a good idea, but not always. The easiest way to save money is by calculating the PPU of each item in the category.

For example, we bought tuna this week (for those of you who’ve been with me since the beginning, this is the first time I’ve even WANTED to eat tuna in a couple of months.) The selection of tuna available in our local HEB is mind boggling. Honestly, I didn’t realize a person needed so many different flavors and varieties of something so simple! But I digress. Between store brands and bigger sizes, you’d think I’d need to buy another 5-lb can, right? Not exactly. When I figured out the PPU of the tuna, the cheapest option turned out to be: Chicken of the Sea. In the small can. No, really. Name brand tuna in a smaller size was cheaper than the giant can of off-brand.

How does one calculate all this? Well, you simply divide the cost in dollars (or your currency of choice) by the (in this case) number of ounces in the can. Or number of eggs in the box, or whatever your “unit” happens to be. However, unless you’re my husband, mental math (particularly division) isn’t always easy, especially when you’re in the middle of the grocery store, blocking the aisle with your cart while you think. No one likes a cart blocker, so what do you do? It’s not really practical to carry a calculator through the supermarket (although I bet there are at least a couple of people out there who do.) So …

Behold the shelf tag!!

This simple little tag shows you how much an item costs, right? Well, see that smaller number on the upper left (your tag’s placement may vary)? It’s the PPU, calculated out FOR YOU by the grocery store! Now, not all grocery stores do this – but most (including Wal-Mart) generally include this information somewhere on the shelf tag. No mental cartwheels required!

In the tuna example above, the cheapest large can of tuna was PPUed at $0.11 per ounce. Not bad, right? Except the Chicken of the Sea cans I purchased were PPUed at $0.08 per ounce. I not only have smaller packaging – a plus when you’re only cooking for two – but I pay less, as well.

So next time you’re at the grocery store, remember that a little bit of math (or reading, depending on your grocer) can save you a lot of money!


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