I happen to love my grocery store, so I go often, with or without my wife. One of those things we discuss often enough is how to tell whether you’re getting the best deal out of your purchase or not. If you have your favorite products, I’m someone who believes that it doesn’t matter how much it costs. But if you’re looking to budget your money better, or your favorite product comes in more than one size, how can you decide what the better deal is?

At every grocery store you go to you see posted prices underneath the product. To the left, usually in orange (although I guess some stores might have different colors), you’ll see another price. That’s the price per pound or per ounce or per unit or however the product is sold. The lower that price is, the better the deal is that you’re going to get on something.

For instance, let’s take hamburger. You might have one with 80% fat, one with 90% fat, and another with 95% fat. If you’re paying attention, you’ll see that the best deal is always the meat with the most fat content. So if all the packages are the same weight, the 80% will always win out. However, is it a better deal to get one pound of hamburger as opposed to the 3 pound hamburger, even if the one pound is only $2.50? If the 3 pound hamburger is $6.00, that means you’re paying only $2.00 per pound, a much better deal. Sure, you might say you only needed the one pound, and if that’s the case get it and go on about your business. However, if you know you’re going to need or want more hamburger relatively soon, buy the larger batch and either cook it all up or take a portion of it and freeze it until you’re ready for it. More food for less money? You can’t beat that.

Something else to look out for are your perceptions of what you think should be a better deal. Just because something is larger doesn’t mean you’re always getting the best deal. Let’s take a look at Crystal Light. It comes in two sizes, the 4-pack and the 6-pack. Your general perception might be that you’re going to get a better deal on the 6-pack like you did with the hamburger. However, what you’ll find is that many stores will price items by how they sell and not necessarily by weight. It turns out that more people buy the 4-packs than the 6-packs, and thus the price per ounce is cheaper for the 4-pack; strange indeed. Sometimes the same applies to candy; you can often get a small candy bar at the checkout counter for 50 cents, whereas a larger candy bar in the candy section might cost you more per ounce because the store sells more of the candy at the checkout counter.

Overall, the best thing to do is to compare prices based on the figure on the left rather than the price. Your shopping dollar will go much further if you do.