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Package labels give consumers helpful information.  The amount of the product or the net quantity in the package is marked on the label.  The quantity is shown as a weight, measure, or count, such as ounces, pounds, quarts, liters, or square feet.


When you buy apples in a plastic bag, you should pay only for the weight of the apples.  If you buy potato salad at the deli counter, you should pay only for the salad, not for the weight of the container.

In many stores, the electronic or computerized scales used at the check-out counter are set to automatically deduct the weight of the packaging.  On other scales, the salesclerk must adjust the scale to deduct the packaging materials.

Scales must be placed so you can see the weight.  If you have a question, ask to have the package weighed again before you buy.  Ask if the weight of the packaging has been deducted.

Weights and measures officials often visit stores to inspect and weigh prepackaged products.  They also check the accuracy of the scales being used.


  • Watch the scale and the amount registered.  The scale should be placed so you can see the weight, price, and other information displayed.
  • Make sure the scale shows a zero or minus sign before anything is weighed.  Pay ONLY for the product. NOT for the packaging.
  • If you have any questions about how a store weighs or measures products, ask the manager for information first.  He or she should answer your questions.
  • If the problem is not resolved, contact your local weights and measures office for advice or assistance.


Food is a large part of a family budget.  To make the best choices and to get the most for your money, it is important to compare the price, amount, and quality of similar products.

Unit pricing can help.  The unit price tells you the costs per "unit" (such as per ounce, per pound, per sheet) to buy the product.

It's easy to find the unit price of some items. It may be marked on a sign near the item. For example:

  • If apples sell for $.89 per pound, you know that 5 pounds will cost $4.45 (5 pounds X 89 cents).
  • If potato salad sells at the deli counter for $2.59 per pound, you know that 2 pounds will cost $5.18 (2 X $2.59).

Unit pricing is most helpful when the price per unit isn't so clear. Let's look at an example.

Your favorite brand of corn flakes is sold in three different sizes.

  • The 14-ounce box is $2.52.
  • The 20-ounce box is $3.00.
  • The 2-pound (32-ounce) box is $5.12

Which one is the best buy?  Unit pricing helps.  (In this case, the unit price is the price per ounce).

To figure the unit price, divide the price by the number of units (in this example, it's the number of ounces).

  • The unit price for the 14-ounce box is 18 cents per ounce ($2.52/14).
  • The unit price for the 20-ounce box is 15 cents per ounce ($3.00/20).
  • The unit price for the 2-pound box is 16 cents per ounce (2 pounds = 32 ounces; $5.12/32).

Compare the unit price of each package.  Which costs less per unit?

In this example, the 20-ounce package is the best buy because it costs less per ounce.

Remember, the larger package is not always the best buy. It pays to know the unit price.

Corn flakes are also sold in the bulk food section for $1.44 per pound (one pound - 16 ounces).  Divide $1.44 by 16 and you know the cost per ounce is 9 cents. ($1.44/16 - $.09)

How does the unit price of the boxed corn flakes compare with the unit price of the corn flakes sold in the bulk food section?  In this example, the unit price shows that the corn flakes from the bulk food section are the better buy.

When you know the unit price, you can compare similar products of different sizes.  Many states require supermarkets to mark the unit price on the shelves or the price tags.  Other states may require that the information given be correct and easy to understand.  If you find that a unit price label or tag is missing or is incorrect, report it to the store manager immediately.


  • Look for unit price labels on shelves or signs near the item.
  • Compare the unit prices of similar products to find the best buy.
  • If the unit price is incorrect or missing, report it to the store manager.  Ask the manager to post or correct the unit price information.
  • If the problem is not resolved, contact your local weights and measures office for help.

A. Try another example of using unit pricing:

There are three different packages of lunch bags. The 25-bag package is $1.50.  The 75-bag package is $3.00. The 125-bag package is $3.75.  What is the unit price for each?  Which is the best buy? Click here to view Test Answers.

This information was brought to you by The National Conference on Weights and Measures.

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