News Releases

March 17, 2009

Unit Pricing: Get the Best Bang for Your Buck

A financial “calculator” for your shopping budget

Weights and Measures: protecting consumers and retailers in Vermont. This is the second part of a series this month highlighting the work of the Weights and Measures division at the Agency of Agriculture.

Montpelier, Vt - Want to save money at the grocery store? Check out the unit price before you select items. The unit price of an item can be found on the bright orange sticker usually located on the shelf below an item for sale in the store and in some cases on the item itself.

The Agency of Agriculture’s Weights and Measures Division is responsible for the enforcement of the Unit Pricing law. Vermont is only one of 21 states that have unit pricing regulations to protect and inform consumers when making purchasing decisions at the grocery store.

Vermont state law requires that all chain grocery stores use a standardized price tag format that informs the consumer of a product’s price per unit of measure. Information displayed includes: the selling price, description of the product and, if the item is sold by weight, such as a can of corn, then the unit price tag will give the cost per pound. Liquid products must be unit priced by the quart. Items such as aluminum foil and plastic wrap are priced per 50 square feet and pills and lozenges are computed by 100 count.

Sometimes food packaged in “giant” or “family” sized containers may seem like the best buy, but larger containers do not always end up costing you less than smaller ones. Unit pricing information is an important tool that helps you to compare similar items of different brands that are packaged in different sizes. By checking unit prices, you can see whether or not the larger item is the best buy. Who wants to stand in a store aisle playing with a calculator while the kids are getting antsy? Use the unit price to make sure you are getting the best buy!

Coupons can also save money; however, in many cases the product offered “on sale” is a relatively expensive major brand that is discounted just a few cents. Coupons do not state the unit price, which still may be higher than another brand or size of product that is not covered by the coupon.

You can also use unit pricing as a tool for comparing dissimilar products. If you want to feed dinner to a family of four for $20 would you want to purchase the strip steak at $8 a pound or haddock at $5 a pound? This works for produce as well. Unit pricing allows you to compare similar items in different forms such as canned vegetables and fruits to fresh. Fresh produce is often less expensive and always more tasty and nutritious.

If you have any questions or notice inaccuracies in the price advertised for items and the price rung up at check out, please contact the Consumer Protection Section of the Weights and Measures Division at 802-828-2436.

Source: Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets
Last Updated at: March 17, 2009 08:23:48