Shopping hack gains a following as Australians hunt for savings

Australian shoppers are on the lookout for ways to save at the checkout.

Australian shoppers are on the lookout for ways to save at the checkout. Photo: Getty

As grocery prices soar, Australians are paying attention to price tickets while shopping to make sure they’re getting the best deal.

Choice data shows 44 per cent of Australian shoppers surveyed are using unit pricing to reduce their grocery spending as prices for fruit, vegetables and dairy rise.

Unit prices are typically displayed in smaller text under the price of a product, and show how much the product costs using a standard unit of measurement, such as grams or millilitres.

Brought into practice in Australia by Aldi in 2008, unit pricing has been compulsory throughout the country for most supermarkets and large grocery stores in shops, online and in advertising since 2009.

Stores that sell a smaller range of groceries don’t have to display unit pricing, but they can choose to.

Choice editorial director Marg Rafferty said knowing the unit price of an item can make a big difference in savings.

“When we asked shoppers to pick between products without unit pricing, only 60 per cent of shoppers picked the best-value deal,” she said.

“When unit pricing was included, that jumped to 74 per cent, proving just how important unit pricing is when it comes to saving money.”

Unit pricing

Below are three different sized jars of Vegemite, each priced differently on Coles’ website.

Below the price for the jar, and next to the size of the jar, is a ‘price per 100g’ (underlined). By using that price, you can pay the least per 100g of the spread. The $9 jar is the best value using unit pricing.

The unit prices are underlined. Photo: Coles Online

Another example using a per tablet unit price is below:

Significant savings

Gary Mortimer, Queensland University of Technology consumer and retail expert, was involved in a 2016 study that found a family of four could save up to $1700 per year on their weekly grocery shopping by paying attention to unit pricing.

He told The New Daily that while it is pleasing awareness of unit pricing has grown over recent years, there is still a lack of understanding among shoppers on how to use it to their advantage.

“A good way to [use unit pricing is] when you’re making a purchase of say, a brand of coffee or a brand of cereal, have a look at the unit price to determine what is the lowest unit price. What it will help you to do is get the most for the least cost.

“Because products are essentially made in different sizes, different weights, different milligrams, looking at the unit price … makes it clearer to make more informed decisions.”

Although January data on grocery prices is yet to be released, it’s fair to assume prices have increased after the online prices of more than 60,000 different products at Woolworths and Coles rose an average of 9.2 per cent over the three months to December 31.

Coles has responded to consumer concerns by extending its Dropped&Locked price freeze program beyond January 31.

Dr Mortimer’s five tips for grocery savings include:

  1. Sign up to loyalty programs: Major retailers offer loyalty cards and some, such as Woolworths’ Everyday Rewards program, offer discounts on shopping once a certain number of points have been accumulated. Dr Mortimer said shoppers should be proactive about collecting points, and look for special offers that might boost points
  2. Consider home-brand products: There might be some stigma attached to dupes of name brands, but Dr Mortimer said supermarkets are investing millions of dollars every year in improving quality
  3. Bulk buy: With Costco expanding its presence in Australia, and IGA dipping its toes in the sector, Dr Mortimer said buying long-life essentials such as toilet paper and laundry detergent in bulk could be a good way to save long term
  4. Cut out the middle man: Check out local fresh food markets to see if you can find products cheaper, directly from the source
  5. Try shopping apps: Dr Mortimer said apps such as Frugl can be good tools to find the best specials so you can plan where to shop for specific items.
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