Shopping in Australia – The Savvy Savers Guide to the Supermarket Shop

Thousands of Aussies could be out of pocket by hundreds of dollars every week, simply by ignoring supermarket unit prices. As we have referred to in the past, shopping is a big part of our lives, especially food shopping. We are going to show you how to save money when buying groceries, but if your on your way out the door now, check out some of our deals here.

So what is unit price? Introduced in 2009, a new labelling system was applied to all products sold in retail supermarkets to help customers distinguish the difference in price between products. It is not mandatory for all shops and retailers to do this, but only ones over a certain size. A unit price is typically displayed as; per item, kilogram, 100 millilitres, 10 grams or 100 grams.

An example of this would be: Woolworths selling a pack of 6 beers for $6.49, they must also display the unit price per beer of $1.08.

We have a gentleman Ian Jarratt to thank for leading the campaign against supermarkets to change their display policy, to show unit pricing in Australia. Thanks to him, many people now have the ability to save money, but he reportedly told an Australian news channel, consumers largely still remain unaware of the unit price. However this is only due to the supermarkets not educating us.   


How they make money by trying to confuse us

Commonly known within the industry as ‘Confuse-opoly’ large supermarkets use tactics such as reducing the product quantity without reducing the product size. Another is increasing the package size without increasing the contents, or sometimes using un-even quantities. (Three products combined from three different manufacturers, but each is different: 100 grams, 105 grams and 115 grams for example.)

This is all well and good you’re probably thinking, but how does unit price really save me money then? Well the QCA (Queensland Consumers’ Association) conducted a comparison survey into the prices of products such as cheddar cheese, white sugar, paracetamol tablets and cornflakes.

Confusing Supermarket Deal

The QCA found in their most extreme example that fresh chillies can cost up to $125 per kilogram when bought in a 20-gram pack, as opposed to $9 per kilogram when bought loose. This equates to nearly 14 times more expensive.

The QCA then looked at Cheddar Cheese, which was found to be 6 times more expensive in its cube form, equalling $40 per kilogram when bought in a 100 gram pack of cubes compared to $6.70 per kilogram for buying a large block.

Mr. Jarrat said “Consumers probably spend around $80 billion a year in supermarkets. So even small increases in the percentage of consumers who use unit pricing to make better decisions, or in how much they use it, can result in hundreds of millions of dollars in savings each year.”


So what is being done?

The QCA made a formal complaint in May 2014 to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commissions (ACCC) after Aldi, Coles, Woolworths, Costco and IGA stores were found to not be complying with unit pricing regulations. In a very productive way the ACCC turned to the people to try and help them with their education into unit pricing whilst shopping.

Buckscoop is always on the hunt to find ways to save you money, so in line with the educational information on the above link, you can also find some great deals to help you save money at the above mentioned stores here:

- Woolworths deals on Buckscoop
- Coles deals on Buckscoop

Also if you have noticed any of these stores ignoring the unit pricing policy, please let us know in the comments below, so we can warn other readers to beware.


Here are 10 tips from the QCA to help you make the most of unit pricing:


Compare the unit prices against regular prices of the same product or with other brands and sizes on all special

offers. Unit prices are usually hidden more on special offers so try looking on the label. Just because its called a special offer, doesn’t mean it actually is special, be sure to compare with identical or similar products, because there may be a different pack size for less.

Unit Price Tips



Brand differences for the same product are usually very large so be sure to check unit prices. Also be sure to check special offers because they may temporarily be less expensive.



If products are available both pre-packaged or loose, check the unit price of both. Often loose products will have a much lower unit price compared with packaged products, but there can be permanent and temporary exceptions. Types of products usually available loose or pre-packaged include meat, fish, cheese, fruit and vegetables.



Check the unit price in other sizes within the same brand and other brands. The unit price of larger packs is usually much lower than the smaller packs or medium sized packs. But watch out for exceptions and special offers, also try to avoid buying bigger packs if contents will get thrown away. 



Don’t be fooled by the packaging, compare unit prices of products in elaborate packaging to those in more basic packaging. Generally speaking, more basic packaging will have a lower unit price. Products typically available in elaborate or simple packaging include dried fruits, dried herbs, spices, soft drinks, coffee and processed fruit.



Check the unit prices of the same product when it is available in different forms, for example fresh and frozen. Frozen products may have a lower unit price or fresh produce may be freeze-able. Products that are usually available in different forms include chilled/frozen meat and fish, fresh/frozen/canned vegetables, fresh/frozen/canned fruit, and ground coffee or coffee beans.



Products that are available in sub-packs (e.g. individual portions/servings/sachets within a pack) as well as in a one-pack, compare the unit prices of each. The unit price for the product in sub-packs is usually much higher than for the alternative. Products often available in sub-packs or single packs include soft drinks, yoghurt, breakfast oats, juices and dried fruit.



Try to find close substitutes and alternatives that are available for many products. Be sure to check the unit prices for substitutes and alternative products that you buy to replace your other products. Products that often have close substitutes or alternatives include fruit and vegetables, meat, fish, and cheese.



Not only within the same store, but also be sure to check unit prices from other stores. Unit prices can vary largely between different stores so it pays to compare them. The display of unit prices has to be printed on advertisements and on the websites selling those products. So armed with this information the unit price you normally pay for an item, can easily be checked between-store comparisons.



If you find a product sold in more than one part of the supermarket, check the unit prices wherever the product is sold. This may be done to catch customers off guard be because big differences in unit prices can be found between a product sold in different parts of a supermarket. Products commonly sold in several parts of a supermarket include, fish, meat cheese, nuts, and fruit, chocolate vegetables.


  • odysseus
    First off, Vale Franklins. The way the chains have implemented it here I find annoying. I suspect they have discretion as to which units they use, which means they sometimes - whether maliciously or more likely unintentionally but thoughtlessly - give the units in different measurements on the same product. Or in a form that is less useful. E.g. toilet paper may be given per sheet or roll. As manufacturers shrink roll sizes though, one roll of 150 is less than another's 190, or 250 (the old standard) - but if you just compared based on the unit, the difference is not apparent. Which makes that measurement useless in that situation. Similarly, sometimes they measure "per ea" - an incorrect measurement in any case - which doesn't really help compare. It's fine for standalone objects e.g. a vase or plate, but sometimes that is used on things that are divisible.
  • Donkey
    "The QCA found in their most extreme example that fresh chillies can cost up to $125 per kilogram when bought in a 20-gram pack, as opposed to $9 per kilogram when bought loose. This equates to nearly 14 times more expensive" Hows that for disparity! I've not see it as much in Oz as I have elsewhere but two things that bugs me with supermarket pricing - the switching between quoting unit price per KG vs per 100g and the unit price on smaller volume items being lower than those of the same in bulk. The former bugs me as its offensive of supermarkets to play on confusing people by having different pricing units on the assumption that they cant do simple maths and the latter bugs me as its playing on the presumption that buying in bulk is cheaper (not to mention the environmental issue of smaller volume equating to greater packaging)

What do you think?

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