Paying for convenience at the grocery store

Our society loves convenience, especially when it comes to food. Convenience items are already prepared and packaged, so that we have little work to do before consuming the product. Convenience items are everywhere, but most commonly found at the grocery. They also tend to be more expensive than regularly packaged items.

You can purchase different types of convenience items including scratch, semi-convenience, convenient and ready-to-eat. A general rule of thumb is the more time a food takes you to prepare, the cheaper it is, with ready-to-eat options exhibiting the greatest costs.

For example, bagged lettuce can cost three to four times more than if you purchase a head of lettuce and shred it yourself. In the center aisles where you find boxed packaged foods, 100-calorie pack snacks generally cost 20 percent to 100 percent more than the same item in a regular sized package. In this case, the additional packaging leads to more costs.

You can make smarter monetary choices at the grocery store by choosing wisely when it comes to convenience items. First, invest time instead of money. For example, purchase the whole head of lettuce and take the time to prepare it on your own. Purchase a regularly packaged snack and use the serving size on the nutrition facts label to make your own small snack size.

Use the unit price to compare similar items. The unit price is listed on the price tag directly below the item on the shelf. The unit price gives us an idea of how much the items costs divided by weight. Using this number, we can compare foods that are the same but in different sized containers or compare brands. Your best value will generally be the item with the lowest unit price.

Remember that purchasing convenience items at the grocery store is not always a bad thing. It is important that you recognize the best balance of time, quality and cost that fits your and your family’s lifestyle. Make sure that spending a bit more on convenience items truly adds value and not a perceived value caused by good marketing.

For more information about financial stability and accessing healthy foods, visit your Harlan County Extension office.

Lora Davidson is the Harlan County Extension agent for family & consumer sciences. Educational programs of the Kentucky Cooperative Extension serve all people regardless of race, color, age, sex, religion, disability or national origin.