Conventional wisdom leads us to assume that buying groceries in bulk always means a better unit price and better value for our money. But is that really always the case?
What if supermarkets know how quick we are to assume the bigger package is the better deal? What if they are quietly charging us more for so-called "value packs"?
As it turns out, this happens more than you might think.
For example, look at the prices of these cans of tuna we found at Publix. Individual cans of Chicken of the Sea brand tuna are 99 cents, equating to about 19 cents per ounce. On the bottom shelf are shrink-wrapped packs of 4 cans. If you needed 4 cans, would you assume the “value pack” would a better deal than buying 4 individual cans for 99 cents each?
If you assumed as much and grabbed the 4-pack without checking the unit price, you would have wasted $1.03. The 4-pack costs $4.99, equating to about 24 cents per ounce — 5 cents more per ounce than individual cans. Indeed, the price of the 4-pack is so much higher that you could have actually gotten 5 individual cans for less than the price of the 4-pack.
Publix was not the only supermarket we found to be pricing multipacks more per unit than individual units. In fact, Walmart, the presumed low price leader, does the same thing.We checked the prices of Gatorade at Walmart and noticed the unit price on individual bottles (3.1 cents per ounce) was lower than the unit price for 8-packs (3.4 cents per ounce). You would be better off financially by buying 8 individual bottles of Gatorade, choosing whatever flavors you want, instead of buying an 8-pack of a single flavor.
Likewise, check the prices on these two bags of Great Value potato chips at Walmart. Would you expect the larger "party size" bag to have a cheaper unit price? In fact, the smaller, more convenient-sized bag is actually a bit cheaper per ounce.
So what’s the takeaway? Always check the unit price of every product you buy. Never assume that the multipack is a better deal than individually packaged products. In some scenarios, supermarkets know consumers are quick to grab the multipack without doublechecking the price. Supermarkets are in the business of making money, and if they can make more of it per ounce off of multipacks or larger packages, they will. It is our duty as consumers to make sure we are getting the most for our hard-earned dollars.