We've all been there. You go to the store to buy laundry detergent or paper towels and when you get to the aisle, you're overwhelmed by the number of packages.
Mega rolls, plus size rolls, different bottle sizes — it can be hard to figure out which size to buy. But our NBC4 I-Team found that there's a number on the store shelf — staring us in the face — that is the key to getting the best deal.
Our I-Team went shopping for the essentials to see which one is the best value. The team crunched the numbers to figure out the cost for each sheet of paper and load of detergent.
Toilet Paper: Huge Rolls vs. Mega Rolls
It turns out there's not a big price difference when you break toilet paper down by square. All of the packages we bought cost less than half a penny per piece. Ultimately, the middle sized packages were actually a better deal than the larger sized ones.
Paper Towels: Single Rolls vs. Packs
If you buy the single roll, you're going to pay about 3 cents a sheet. But pick any of the other sizes and the price drops to about 2 cents a sheet.
Laundry Detergent: Small Bottles vs. Larger Bottles
The biggest difference we found is with laundry detergent. You might think going for the biggest bottle is going to save you money, but we found the middle sized bottle is the best deal.
"People have become trained to think that larger quantities, larger packages, are always going to be the best bang for your buck," money-saving expert Andrea Woroch said.
To determine the best value, however, you have to find something called the "price per unit," Woroch said.
"When you go into a store and you're looking at products on the shelf there's the big price that's advertised by the store and that's going to capture your attention. What you don't realize is that there's usually a smaller price per unit that you need to pay attention to."
Most stores have already done the math for you, breaking down the price per ounce, pound, gallon or per 100 count. The state of California doesn't mandate that retailers do this; it's up to each store to decide.
As for why all of these options exist in the first place, Procter & Gamble (the maker of all the products we bought), told NBC4 it wants to "allow consumers to choose the package size that is right for their needs" and P&G points out "price at the store shelf is set by the retailer."
Target told us its "assortment is planned to reflect a variety of guest needs and wants."
Bottom line to save: Look for that unit price. And remember, if you're buying anything in bulk, make sure you're able to freeze it or consume it before it goes bad "so you don't waste food and throw money in the trash," Woroch added.