CHOICE membership

UNIT PRICE OR SELLING PRICE? Which do you use most when buying pre-packaged grocery items?



I’m interested in whether you use mainly the unit price (price per unit of measure) or mainly the selling price (regular or special offer) to compare the value for money of grocery products in constant measure pre-packages, for example breakfast cereals and milk.

I almost always use the unit price, and the quantity information, when I want to compare the value of pre-packages of different brands, sizes and products.

And, usually I only do that when there is a special offer to be considered, or I notice (usually by a change in the unit price) that a regular price or the quantity in a pack has changed, or if I am buying something for the first time. Most of the time I already know the best buy for me and so am on automatic pilot.

What do you do and why?


Unit price (when available) as we’re cash strapped and want to buy the most product for the least.

In rare occasions we don’t buy the cheapest - Eg Mr Z has always had Weetbix for breakfast and won’t accept Black & Gold Wheat Biscuits. Tenets we used to rely on - Big is cheaper, Own Brand is poorer quality etc are gone. Some products are in confusing quantities - 95g, 425g, 1.3kg, 10, 26 units etc. Black & Gold type products are much better quality (Choice reported on canned vegetables). So Unit Price is my go to, even for my normal shop.


We first focus on the product we need, then consider size (eg. is small enough, is large too much and will spoil before used?) and then go to unit price along with brand (including house labels). If we have good or bad experiences with a particular brand that one is discounted up front.

It is common that a special sale price of a smaller size costs more per unit than the regular price of a larger one so the headline prices might attract our attention, but don’t affect our buying decisions. We also are aware of the normal shelf prices as well as the common better sale prices and are fortunate to be able to stock up on particular products (with long lives) when they are at their cheapest (unit) prices.

It is also common to find a ‘too large’ size on sale for less than a smaller size displayed adjacent to it, and we admit to buying the cheaper per unit large one as it is also fewer total dollars, and throw out the excess if it goes off before consumption.


ijarratt, I, like you, nearly always check out the unit price when buying from the major supermarkets. The selling price helps me to spot the specials but then the unit price will confirm that. Obviously product quality and brand consideration comes into the buying decision as well.

Thank you for your part in getting the concept implemented.


Unit price.

For non-perishable goods this is a no-brainer as they say.

For perishable goods, then there is a bit more thinking involved. How well can we store it, how often/much do we intend to use, etc - to consider the size or sizes that suit our needs; and what are the unit prices of these size or sizes.


Apologies, but this is completely beside the point of the original post:

Buy Black and Gold and put it into a Weetbix box when Mr. Z is not there. We have fooled the fussy ones in the family like this with cereal, mayo and other things.

Even further off topic, my father used to fill a very expensive top shelf whiskey bottle with much cheaper whiskey, and none of the snobbish supposed ‘connoisseurs’ who visited ever noticed the difference.


Always check the unit price, for the following reasons:

  • larger is not always cheaper,
  • ‘sale’ & ‘special’ items are not always cheaper,
  • price reductions may involve a size reduction so end up no cheaper

In other words, I have become sceptical of anything but the objective test of unit pricing.


A former neighbour at our former residence used to refill premium red wine bottles with chateau cardboard when they had guests for dinner or went to friends’ homes for dinner.

He said that no one never noticed it (or at least they did not comment).


Yes, these buying “rules of thumb” (what economists call heuristics), that are supposed to make choice decisions easier and quicker, do not always result in the best value for money. And, as Choice found in a study, neither does another - buying loose from bulk not prepackaged products.

That’s why i mostly use the unit price rather than the selling price to asses value for money. But, of course, that does not mean i always buy the item with the lowest unit price.


Yes, for perishable products how much is in the pack relative to needs can be an important consideration and is one reason why, if available, it is sometimes better to buy loose from bulk.

However, I am great user of the freezer to store perishable products surplus to immediate requirements


After I have selected the product I want, I check the unit price of the various sizes as sometimes bigger quantities are cheaper.


I always use the unit price, so glad this is compulsory to show as there is often a meaningful (to me) difference between sizes and price, even on special I find it cheaper to buy 2 smaller than 1 large item. I find the tricky ones are often cereals and coffee beans.


Unit, always, without exception.
I almost don’t even see the rest of the ticket. Even the big flashy ‘on sale’ colours only trigger me to compare the unit cost for that particular item in case it’s less than I usually pay.


unit price unit price unit price


Me too. Do you also remember the unit prices of some prepackaged items you buy all the time?

I do, and wonder how many others do that for prepackaged items?

It is very common to do it for products sold loose from bulk, eg apples normally $3.99/kg, bananas $2.99/kg, cucumbers $1.99 each. I expect fewer people do it for prepackaged products but I don’t think this has been researched much, so I may be wrong. I hope I am.


I check the unit price on various quantities - find that sometimes 1kg is dearer unit price than say 750 g and so on. They are either tricky or dumb - because most would go for 1kg thinking cheaper to buy bulk etc.


I use the unit price first then buy the one that suits my budget but keeping to the lowest unit price which matches my needs. That means sometimes buying large for a cheaper unit price does not mean economy of purchase if 3 litres of milk means I will only use 600 ml before I dispose of the rest. But it does mean I will buy the cheapest of 600 ml or 1 litre based on unit pricing.


Thanks. That’s one of the many reasons why the unit price needs to be much more prominent and legible, and to be very close to the selling price.

At the moment, far too often the unit price is lost among all the very prominent and legible other information on shelf labels and signs, especially those for special offers.


Oh the sizing/legibility of the unit pricing needs vast improvement, no disagreement but my comment was solely on which pricing I based purchases on and that was a bit more complex than just unit or selling price.

But as to the unit pricing placement, size, and even font and colour they all need to be improved. Yes put the unit price closer to the selling price increase the font to nearly the same if not the same size as the selling price…make it bold if possible. Don’t “hide it” under a bar code or way off to the bottom and one side in small and lighter font.

My real preference would be to display unit price first and then below that the selling price…the entire 2nd top reasonably sized line should be a centred unit price then followed on the next line by the selling price. Top line would be set aside for product description.


I completely agree. But the fact that some people do look at the unit price first greatly strengthens the case for improved display along the lines you so eloquently suggest.