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

April 17, 2009 | Peggy Martin

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

Peggy Martin

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