Don’t be ‘trixed’ in the cereal aisle…

Recently, I wrote about checking on cereal prices at the grocery store (see Cereal Cost Comparison). One of the stores I visited has the unit prices posted on the shelves. The store unit price for cereal was figured per ounce, but I discovered this may not be the best way to figure unit pricing for cereal. Here is an example:

The name brand toasted oat cereal was $3.12 for 18 ounces, so that equals $.173 per ounce. The Nutrition Facts label told me that a serving was 1 cup and that the box had 18 servings. For this cereal, 1 ounce was equal to 1 cup, so the price per ounce and per cup were the same–about 17 cents per cup and ounce.

Raisin bran type cereal was completely different. The name brand was $2.98 for a 20-ounce box, so that equals $.149 per ounce. The Nutrition Facts label told me that a serving was 1 cup, but the 20-ounce box contained only 10 one-cup servings. So the price per cup was $.298–twice as much as the price per ounce. If I just look at the price per ounce listed for these two cereals on the store shelf, it appears that the raisin bran is the less expensive cereal. But because raisin bran is a heavier cereal, you get fewer cups for the weight. It turns out then that a 1 cup bowl of name brand raisin bran was about 30 cents–actually more expensive than a one cup bowl of the toasted oat cereal. 

Some may argue that you would eat less of the heavier type cereals (bran, granola, etc) because they would be more filling.  For myself, I think I eat about the same 1 cup serving for most cereals.

If you figure unit prices as you make cereal choices, I recommend that you look at the Nutrition Facts label to find the number of servings per box. Most cereals have a serving size of about 1 cup. Figure the prices per number of cups/servings rather than the cost per ounce. See unit pricing on the Spend Smart. Eat Smart. site for more information.

 -contributed by Renee Sweers

Cereal Cost Comparison

I usually have ready-to-eat cereal for breakfast. In fact, my family eats a lot of cereal. We not only have it for breakfast but also for between meal snacks, bedtime snacks and when we are really lazy, we eat it for supper. Over the years it has been my most common response to my children’s complaint of “I’m hungry, what’s to eat around here?”

I’ve always considered cereal to be an economical choice, but cereal prices have been going up, so I thought I’d actually check and see what a bowl of cereal costs. I checked prices on whole grain oat cereal. (I usually try to eat whole grain cereal for breakfast—it’s the main way I meet the recommendation to eat some whole grains every day.)

Here’s what I found out:

Name brand toasted

oat cereal (little rings)

$3.12 for 18-ounce box = 18 cups

$.17 per cup

$2.78 for 14-ounce box = 14 cups

$.20 per cup

Generic/store brand toasted oat cereal

$1.58 for 14-ounce box = 14 cups

$.11 per cup

I don’t like spending over $3.00 for a box of cereal, but in this case, the larger 18-ounce box is less expensive per cup, so worth forking out the money. The generic brand is the best deal at 11 cents per cup. Unfortunately, my family only likes the name brand of this particular cereal.  (Yes, I’ve tried putting the off brand in the name brand box—it didn’t work!)

What about oatmeal? It is also a whole grain cereal and a favorite of my 15-year-old son. The larger containers of oatmeal are 42 ounces and they make 31 one-cup servings of cooked oatmeal.

Here’s the cost breakdown:

Name brand oatmeal

$2.98 for 31 servings

$.096 per 1 cup cooked

Generic/store brand oatmeal

$2.24 for 31 servings

$.07 per 1 cup cooked

So, cooked oatmeal is about 7–10 cents per 1 cup bowl, an even better deal than the ready to eat cereal.  (Fortunately my family is fine with the off brand oatmeal!)

Lastly, I decided to look at prices of the instant oatmeal that comes in the individual packets:

Name brand oatmeal packets

$2.86 for 10 packets

$.286 per packet

Generic/store brand oatmeal packets

$2.00 for 10 packets

$.20 per packet

Note that the packets only make ½ cup of cooked oatmeal. (Check out our recipe for Make Your Own Instant Oatmeal Packets…kids love to make them and they will save you money.)

Even though prices have gone up, I still think cereal is a good deal. Oatmeal is the most economical choice, so I’m glad my family likes it.

-contributed by Renee Sweers

[Updated April 17, 2009
See also: Don’t be ‘trixed’ in the cereal aisle…]

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