Bigger Sizes Aren’t Always Cheaper

Normally Mrs. Beagle handles the grocery shopping, and she always does a great job. Recently, she couldn’t go during her normal day and time due to schedule conflict resulting from Little Boy Beagle’s attending summer ‘bug’ camp (he loved it, of course!). So, we decided to head out as a family after dinner.

I pretty much try to stay out of the way and keep a handle on the kids (both met with varying success).  I can’t help but keep an eye on prices.

I noticed two examples of what I would consider a price discrepancy between sizes.  And not in the way you’d normally expect.

Carrots – We typically buy a bag of carrots that we then peel and slice.  They’re a lot cheaper than the pre-cut carrots, and I think they taste better, too.  I take them every day in my lunch.  They come in either one pound or three pound bags.  My wife forgot them so she sent me back for them mid-way through the trip.  The bags are in different areas of the vegetable area, and so I had to walk back and forth to check prices.  The one pound bags were 67 cents each, and a three pound bag was $2.33.  I quickly realized that you could buy three one pound bags for $2.01, saving 32 cents over the ‘bigger’ bag.

Shampoo – I use Suave shampoo, as it’s actually one of the few left that don’t have parabens (which aggravate a skin eczema problem I have on one hand).  Since this was for me, I went off to get this myself.  Again, I noticed that they had two sizes.  A 15-ounce bottle for 94 cents (I know, I really get the ‘expensive’ stuff) or a 22.5-ounce ‘family size’ bottle for $1.46.  If you buy the smaller bottle, you’d be paying the equivilent of $1.41 to get to the same number of ounces.  Once again, the smaller size was actually cheaper.

So what’s going on here?

I think the advice has been skewed so much into ‘bigger sizes are cheaper‘ that stores are trying to sneak in bigger prices for bigger sizes, hoping that customers won’t notice.

Granted, these two examples add up to a whopping 37 cents.  Nothing we’re ever going to get rich over.  You can’t even buy a stamp with that any more!

But, if they’re doing it on smaller ticket items, you never know what other items they could be applying reverse economies of scale towards.  In other words, you should keep an eye on unit pricing.  Don’t assume that the bigger sizes will yield you the best unit price.

Do you ever keep an eye on unit pricing when shopping?  Have you ever noticed where bigger sizes equal bigger pricing?

30 thoughts on “Bigger Sizes Aren’t Always Cheaper”

    • True, but how many people realistically do this for every item they put in their carts and compare it to every other similar item? Most probably don’t have that time, especially when you have young kids like we do, both of whom get pretty impatient.

  1. This is why I find costco a bit of a waste of money. Any benefit that I would get from going there would be made up by the cost of the membership.

  2. I always, always, always check unit price (I’m kinda ocd that way). Once I was at the store looking at deodorant. There was a new package that clearly stated 25% WIDER. It had the same weight as the original that sat right next to it on the shelf, and yep, they were charging 25% more. Ugh!

    • That’s crazy, though maybe the wider version meant you wouldn’t have overlap and thus would use less?

  3. The tricks of the trade. I once saw a sign that said SALE. .99 each or buy 4 for $3.96. It made me think longer than normal.

  4. I’ve seen some strange pricing on eggs before where a dozen cost more than 2 dozen when calculated in unit pricing with no difference in packaging whatsoever (labels, size etc…) I try to keep an eye out for unit pricing, especially when buying eggs 🙂

    • If you buy more, you can expect to pay slightly less, so I think this sort of makes sense. Similar to a half-gallon of milk is usually a lot more than 50% the cost of a full gallon.

  5. I try to look at prices and weights. Especially now that I’m having to watch my grocery budget like a hawk. I’ve found it’s cheaper for me to buy indiviudal romaine lettuce rather than their 3 pack. I only save about 50 cents but it adds up! Plus I can use one and buy the next one when I need it instead of having it go to waste.

  6. My parents biggest joy is when they get to go to Sam’s Club. I don’t enjoy shopping in bulk because it just creates things around the house. I’d rather pay a bit more and not have to look at the clutter in our storage closet. Great post though! And P.S. is that beagle actually yours?

    • No, that’s not our beagle. I don’t even have one, just have always loved them (had one when I was a kid). It is a great beagle pic 🙂

  7. Most of the time when we buy larger sizes of grocery items (aside from pantry stuff), they end up going to waste. Sometimes you can score an awesome deal, but sometimes you could also just be throwing money away.

    • Very true, buying bigger sizes, even at cheaper prices, is not a good strategy if you aren’t going to use everything.

  8. I haven’t noticed bigger sizes = higher prices, but I have noticed where there is no savings whatsoever in going with the larger quantity. It’s important to look at $/ounce to make sure you are getting a good deal…though it does sometimes make me rationalize buying bigger and bigger quantities!

  9. It’s definitely better to check the unit price before buying. Sometimes I have found that when you are able to use a high value coupon on a smaller size, it works out to a much better unit price than using the same coupon on a larger size.

    • Yes, using coupons on smaller sizes can definitely be a good play, espeically if you have stores that double coupons, which we have.

  10. When shopping for school supplies, the list said get an 8 box of crayons, which was 78 cents. The 24 box was 50cents! Do I save money and be the mom with the wrong supplies or follow the list? I followed the list but it still irks me two weeks later!

    • Each crayon in the 8-count box was five times as expensive as the ones in the 24-count box. That’s crazy. At least it was a very small price item.

  11. It’s all about the unit price. People get sucked in with place like Costco—and if you get there on a Saturday be prepared for the ridiculous long lines!

    • There’s a location that we go to where the lines are never that bad even on the weekends. They’re in very business centric area so I think they actually get a lot of their business during the week and aren’t as reliant on night and weekend sales.

  12. Good point! I always check the unit prices. My mobile phone comes in handy at those times. Usually my sister or mother would be embarassed when I am fumbling with my phone trying to use the calculator but, I do not care. After all the money does not grow on trees and I am not going to spend a dime more than I need to:)

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