Unit Pricing – Canned Versus Frozen

I am going to focus today on canned and frozen fruits and vegetables.  I buy these at every trip to the grocery store because:

  1. They are quick and easy to prepare.  I can open a can, drain, heat (for vegetables), and serve.  Or, I can thaw and serve frozen fruits and vegetables.
  2. My family loves them.  I am lucky because my family will eat up canned and frozen fruits and vegetables every time I serve them.
  3. They are nutritious.  They have vitamins, minerals, and fiber.  I try to buy canned fruits packed in juice and unsweetened frozen fruit to reduce added sugars.  I also rinse canned vegetables and buy frozen vegetables without sauces to reduce added sodium.

So, how do I use unit pricing to get the best buy on these fruits and vegetables?  I divide the price by the ounce weight of the package. Here are some recent prices I found at a local grocery store.

Canned Frozen
Peaches Price

Package Size

Unit Price

$1.12

15 ounces

$0.07 per ounce

$2.36

16 ounces

$0.15 per ounce

Pineapple Price

Package Size

Unit Price

$1.48

20 ounces

$0.07 per ounce

$2.36

16 ounces

$0.15 per ounce

Carrots Price

Package Size

Unit Price

$0.82

14.5 ounces

$0.06 per ounce

$0.84

12 ounces

$0.07 per ounce

Corn Price

Package Size

Unit Price

$0.72

15 ounces

$0.05 per ounce

$1.94

32 ounces

$0.06 per ounce

All of these items are inexpensive per ounce, but canned costs a little less than frozen.  Prices will vary from week to week and sometimes I need canned or frozen for a particular recipe, so my grocery cart looks different each week.  We have had fun with unit pricing and we hope you have too. Let us know about your adventures with unit pricing!

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover is a Registered Dietitian and mom who loves to cook for her family.

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How Much is Convenience Costing You?

Thank you for all of your comments and ‘shares’ of our new Unit Price Calculator video. We are thrilled that you are enjoying it and we hope that the calculator proves to be a handy tool for you. Last week Jody shared how unit pricing can help you decide which form of a food is the best value. The example she used was cheese – shredded, sliced and string cheese.

Product Large Package Unit Price  Individually Packaged Unit Price Convenience cost and Other Factors
Peanut Butter 40 ounces for $6.69

$0.17 per ounce              

12 ounces (8 1.5-ounce cups) for $2.99

$0.25 per ounce                           

The small cups cost nearly 50% more. The individual cups also contain more than a standard serving, which may lead to waste or more calories than I expected.
Carrots 16 ounces for $0.99

$.06 per ounce

12 ounces (4 3-ounce bags) for $1.69

$0.14 per ounce

The small bags of baby carrots are more than twice the price of big carrots. I like the flavor of big carrots better and cutting a big bag down into carrot sticks takes me about 10 minutes. Most weeks, I am willing to take the time to do that.
Cheese Crackers 6.6 ounces for $2.38

$0.36                                                                               

9 ounces (9 1-ounce bags) for $5.49

$0.61 per ounce                                                                              

This price difference is big at $0.25 per ounce more for the individually packaged crackers. I might buy one package of the little bags to keep around for snack emergencies, but buy the larger package routinely.

This week, I am sharing how unit pricing can help you know the cost of convenience packaging. From carrots to nuts to crackers, many of the things I buy at the grocery store come in large packages or in individual packages. When I am planning my meals for the week and putting together my grocery list, I often think about how much I am going to be home and how much time I will have to prepare food. Sometimes, when time is really tight, I am OK with paying a bit more for convenience if it will help me eat healthy during a busy week. However, I like to know how much I am actually paying for that convenience and unit pricing is how I do that. Here are some examples:

Convenience is rarely free and unit pricing allows me to know exactly how much more I am paying to have something individually packaged for me. If you are looking to cut back on your grocery costs, think about where you may be paying for convenience and whether it is worth the price.

Happy Saving!
Christine

Christine Hradek

Christine Hradek

Christine Hradek is a State Nutrition Specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. She coordinates ISU’s programs which help families with low income make healthy choices with limited food budgets. Christine loves helping families learn to prepare healthy foods, have fun in the kitchen and save money. In her spare time, Christine enjoys cooking, entertaining and cheering on her favorite college football teams with her family and friends.

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Shredded, sliced, or string cheese: Which one is a better buy?

Last week I wrote about our new video on unit pricing and how the unit price calculator on our app can help save you money. This week I want to share how I use the unit price calculator to help me determine the best buy on different forms of cheese.

My family loves cheese. Shredded cheese, sliced cheese, string cheese. We like it all. Cheese can be one of the higher priced items on my grocery list so I always try to buy it when it’s on sale. This week I decided to use the Spend Smart. Eat Smart. unit price calculator on my phone to determine the unit price for each of the different forms of cheese I usually buy. This is what I found.

 

Form Total Price Size Unit Price (price per ounce)
Shredded 1.99 (on sale) 8 ounces 25 cents
Slices 2.89 8 ounces 36 cents
String 3.79 10 ounces 38 cents

Shredded cheese is what we use the most, so I was glad to see that it had the best unit price. Since shredded cheese freezes well and it was a good price, I bought a few extra bags for later use. Often, the whole block of cheese has a lower unit price, but for my needs, I prefer the convenience of the pre-shredded cheese and I am willing to pay a bit more for it. We use sliced cheese for sandwiches and snacks. I planned ham and cheese sandwiches for a quick supper on one of our busy nights this week, so I did buy a packet of the sliced cheese as well. We use string cheese for snacks, but this week I decided to not buy any since we had the sliced cheese that could be used for a snack as well.

Next week Christine will share with you how she uses unit pricing to help her determine the best buy based on package size.

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood is a Registered Dietitian who enjoys spending time in the kitchen baking and preparing meals for her family. She does lots of meal planning to stay organized and feed her family nutritious meals.

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Save Money with Unit Pricing

Unit pricing is a great way to save money. It helps you determine which brand, which size, or which form is the best deal. It can even save you from being tricked by flashy ‘Sale’ signs. But who wants to stand in the grocery aisle doing math to figure out the unit price? Now you don’t have to! Watch our new video on unit pricing to learn how to use the unit price calculator on our app to help you get the best deal without all the hassle.

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood is a Registered Dietitian who enjoys spending time in the kitchen baking and preparing meals for her family. She does lots of meal planning to stay organized and feed her family nutritious meals.

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Which Yogurt Should I Buy?

For me, one of the most confusing parts of the grocery store is the yogurt area.  There are so many options! There are different types and flavors, different nutrition, and different prices.  To play it safe, I usually stick with what my family likes – citrus flavored yogurts for me, peach yogurt for my husband, drinkable yogurt for my oldest son, Greek yogurt for my daughter, and small containers of yogurt for my youngest son.  

 

But, I have wondered, what if I am sacrificing nutrition or paying too much by playing it safe?  Down below, I have created a table to help make decisions when buying yogurt. I used the information for yogurt that is available at a local grocery store where I shop.

 

Enjoy!

Yogurt Type

Container Size (oz) Cost Sugar (g) Calcium (%DV) Vitamin D (%DV)

Fruit flavored (original)

6

$0.46 19 20

20

Fruit flavored (light)

6 $0.46 10 15

20

Plain

5.3 $0.78 6 15

15

Greek fruit flavored (light)

5.3 $1.00 6 15

15

Tubes

1 tube

$0.28

(per tube)

8 10

10

Drinkable                 3.1

$0.39

(per bottle)

9

10

20

*Percent Daily Value or %DV is the amount of that nutrient for a 2000 calorie diet.

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover is a Registered Dietitian and mom who loves to cook for her family.

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Fast Food Restaurant vs Homemade Breakfast

Written by Kathryn Standing

Student Assistant, ISU Dietetics

It can be difficult to keep to a budget, keep yourself healthy and keep to your schedule. I have been trying to change my breakfast routine with the goal of reducing my stress and spending, all while being healthier. Easy right? If I pick up breakfast on the way to work from a drive-through, would it save me time and money? How healthy would it be? I tried a couple of fast food breakfasts near my home to see what I find and I’m sharing the low down with you.

Drive through breakfast

Sandwich

Time: 10 min — The fast food restaurant is about 6 min out of my way and the time through the drive-through was 4 min for a total of 10 min invested in my breakfast.

Cost: $ 2.59

Calories: 340

Fat: 15 g

Saturated fat: 5 g

Cholesterol: 175 mg

Sodium: 640 mg

Fiber: 1g

→ Comments: The sandwich was pretty good! I got crumbs all over my car, though. Plus, I couldn’t resist getting some breakfast potatoes, which I regretted later. If I had chosen this sandwich on a croissant instead it would have doubled my fat and added 160 calories!

Parfait

Time: 12 min — The fast food restaurant is about 5 min out of my way and was very busy! The time through the drive-through was 7 min for a total of 12 min invested in my breakfast.

Cost: $ 4.19

Calories: 240                                   

Fiber: 3g

Fat: 2.5 g                                          

Sugar: 26 g, Added 18.95g

Cholesterol: 5 mg

Sodium: 125 mg

→ Comments: It was a good parfait, very sweet! It was also in a handy container. The fast-food restaurant I went to was very busy. I managed to get the last parfait, but I worry they would be out if I wanted to get one again.

At home breakfast

Sandwich

1 whole wheat English muffin – 1 egg – 1 slice reduced fat white American singles

Time: 7 min — It took me about 4 min to cook the egg and toast the bread, plus another 3 min for clean-up.

Cost: $ .56

Calories: 245

Fat: 8.5 g

Saturated fat: 3 g

Cholesterol: 196 mg

Sodium: 530 mg

Fiber: 3g

→ Comments: This sandwich was very similar to the one I had gotten at the drive-thru, except I used the whole wheat version of an English muffin. The sandwich I made at home had better nutrition for me with almost half the fat and triple the fiber. Though the cholesterol was higher, I assume that is only because of a difference in the type and size of eggs used. The sodium was a little lower in mine, but this experiment does show that sodium is hard to limit sometimes.

Parfait

½ cup plain non-fat yogurt sweetened with 1 tsp honey – ½ cup berries (frozen, thawed) – 2 T granola

Time: 5 min — It took me about 3 min to make, plus another 2 min to clean up.

Cost: $1.16

Calories: 150

Fat: 2 g

Cholesterol: 5 mg

Sodium: 80 mg

Fiber: 6.9g

Sugar: 19.2 g,

Added sugars 6g

→ Comments: This was so easy to make. It has significantly less sugar and sodium, as well as more than double the fiber!

Verdict: Overall it was significantly cheaper to make the food at home. I saved $2.00+ on the sandwich and $3.00+ on the parfait, that’s over $5.00! $5.00+ per workday is equivalent to savings of over $100 per month! Both of my homemade items were a lot healthier for me too. The food from the fast food places was convenient, though I had to clean the crumbs out of my car later and it didn’t end up saving me any time. The largest downside for me was the temptation of all the other options available. Fried potatoes, whip cream coffee mocha-whatever-latte, and icing covered anything calling my name make it hard to stick to healthy eating. Overall the answer seems clear: skip the fast food breakfast and take the 5-7 min to make yourself something at home. Your wallet, your health, and your schedule will thank you.

On-line Grocery Shopping Part 3 – Cons

Welcome to the third part of our blog series about on-line grocery shopping. If you did not see the first two parts of this series, here are the links to the overview and the pros of on-line grocery shopping. Today we are going to look at, what I think, are the cons to on-line grocery shopping.

The first challenge that I have with on-line grocery shopping is the PRODUCE.

  • I like to look around the produce section to see what looks best and is the best value. I cannot do this when looking at the pictures of the produce on-line.
  • Someone else chooses your produce for you, so you may not get what you would usually choose for yourself. However, I have received good quality produce in my experiences so far.

The second challenge that I have with on-line grocery shopping is LEAVING AN ITEM OFF.

  • It usually happens that I forget to buy something or that an item is unavailable. This leaves me in a bind when I am trying to make a meal later in the week. I either have to make a special trip to the store or use what I have on hand to make a substitution.
  • When this happens, I cannot do on-line shopping for the single item because they have a minimum order cost ($30 at one store and $100 at the other). However, at one of the stores you can pay a fee if your order is under the minimum cost.

The third challenge that I have with on-line grocery shopping is PERSONAL.

  • I am a food person, so I like to look around at all the different foods in the store. I do not get this chance with on-line shopping.
  • I like to take my children to the store so they can learn about shopping and choosing foods.
  • I cannot use re-usable bags with on-line grocery shopping.

I feel like I have balanced these challenges well with alternating on-line and in-store grocery shopping. I think the pros of on-line grocery shopping outweigh the cons and I plan to continue with on-line grocery shopping.

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover is a Registered Dietitian and mom who loves to cook for her family.

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On-line Grocery Shopping Part 2 – Pros

Welcome to the second part of our blog series about on-line grocery shopping. I hope you enjoyed our overview last week. This week I would like to tell you about all of the things I think are great about on-line grocery shopping.

 

The first thing that I like about on-line grocery shopping is the TIME SAVINGS.

  • It only takes me about 30 minutes to select the foods I want and set up my pickup/delivery time.
  • I do not need to fight the crowd in the store or in the parking lot.
  • I do not have to take my children into the store.
  • The grocery store staff load up my car or help me carry my groceries into my house.

 

The second thing I like about on-line grocery shopping is the MONEY SAVINGS.

  • It is easy to stick to my budget because I can see the total price increasing as I add foods to my cart.
  • I can easily add or take away food items as needed to fit my budget and my needs.
  • There is no temptation to buy the extra things displayed around the store, so I avoid impulse buys.
  • I have all of the information on the website to determine unit prices and compare products easily.

 

The third thing I like about on-line grocery shopping is the KINDNESS of the staff.

  • I have had great experiences with the grocery store staff being very kind and helpful.
  • The staff do a great job of explaining any substitutions that were made.
  • The staff make a point of keeping fragile foods (bread, eggs) safe.

 

Overall, I think that on-line grocery shopping is a great experience and it is very helpful, especially when I do not have a lot of time. I would recommend on-line grocery shopping to anyone who wants to try it.

 

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover is a Registered Dietitian and mom who loves to cook for her family.

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Sometimes Less is More

This month I challenged myself to investigate the pros and cons of individually packaged products. I see everything from pet food to cut veggies to medicine in individually-sized packages these days. Here is what I found as I looked at price, convenience, waste and some other factors related to individually-packaged foods.

  1. Price: My hunch was that the individual packages would cost more than buying larger containers. Interestingly, this is not always true. For example, I found animal crackers and graham crackers that had the same unit price whether I bought one large box or individual snack packs. Other items like salad dressing and baby carrots were up to 50% more expensive in the individual packages. If you would like to compare prices easily, try out the Unit Price Calculator in our Spend Smart. Eat Smart. App
  2. Convenience: The little packages are certainly handy. You can grab them for your lunch or a snack on the run with no trouble at all. It is also nice that individually packaged foods stay sealed in their package until you are ready to eat them, which reduces the likelihood of the food losing quality or going stale. Additionally, if you need to bring snacks to a children’s event, you can’t beat them for easy serving to many little hands.
  3. Waste: Individual packages often mean extra packaging and increased waste. I found this to be true and much of the additional packaging was not the type of plastic that my city will accept for recycling. This bothers me since one of my new year’s resolutions was to reduce the amount of single-use plastic I throw out.
  4. Some additional considerations: Small packages can help with portion control, which is a nice advantage. However, it is worth noting that some individual packages are larger than a single serving from the larger package. For example, the salad dressing I mentioned above came in little cups that were equivalent to 1 ½ servings from the full-size bottle. In that case, they may contribute to you eating more than you would have otherwise.

Overall, I think I will stick with buying most products in full-size packages. I will try to steal some of the convenience and portion control of the little packages by putting items for snacks and lunches in small reusable containers to start the week. Do you have any foods that you prefer in single-serve packages? Share with us on Facebook or Twitter!

Christine Hradek

Christine Hradek

Christine Hradek is a State Nutrition Specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. She coordinates ISU’s programs which help families with low income make healthy choices with limited food budgets. Christine loves helping families learn to prepare healthy foods, have fun in the kitchen and save money. In her spare time, Christine enjoys cooking, entertaining and cheering on her favorite college football teams with her family and friends.

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Time to Make a Grocery Shopping Change

My oldest son recently turned 8 years old. Along with that birthday has come a growth spurt. Clothes that fit him a month ago are now too short and too tight. He is hungry all the time! Our pantry and refrigerator are emptying out more quickly than before.  

 

This has made me realize that I need to re-think my typical grocery shopping trip. I shop for groceries weekly and, depending on the store, the foods I purchase are pretty much the same from week to week.  This helps me stay on track with my budget. Unfortunately, an increase in appetite does not mean an increase in food budget. I need to look more closely at the foods I plan to make in the coming weeks to make sure my son (and the rest of my family) get the nutrition they need while staying within our food budget.

 

As I plan my next grocery shopping trip, here are three things I am going to look at more closely:

  1. Protein. I need to spend more time looking at the grocery ads before I go shopping to make sure I am choosing protein foods that fit my meal plan and my budget. For many recipes, I can substitute a less expensive protein choice.
    • Stir-Fry is a great recipe for this – I can use beef, pork, chicken, fish, or tofu.
  2. Vegetables. I need to add more vegetables to my recipes. My whole family likes canned beans and frozen vegetables. These are choices that can add nutrition to a recipe without putting me outside of my budget.
  3. Snacks. I have gotten into a habit of buying pre-packaged snacks. Yes, they are easier, but they are more expensive. I think I can save myself money by reducing the number of pre-packaged snacks I buy and packaging snacks into reusable containers myself.
    • Trail Mix is an easy snack to make and to package into small containers that will travel easily with us to the park or the pool this summer.

       

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stick with me on this one! When it is my turn to blog this summer, I will give you updates about how I am doing with my grocery shopping changes.

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover is a Registered Dietitian and mom who loves to cook for her family.

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