How I Saved 30% on Breakfast

by Kevin on June 27, 2008

How much does your breakfast cost you on average? I drink Carnation Instant Breakfast every weekday. I normally get the large cans of powder for $5.99 at Publix. For example of this calculation we’re going to look at the boxes of 10 packets (1 packet = 1 drink = 1 breakfast). They normally run $4.99 at Publix.

Always on the lookout

Recently we were walking through Publix and saw one of those blinking coupon dispensers where you pull one out and another automatically replaces it. In the couponing world these are creatively called “blinkies”. The coupon was for $1.25 off a 10 pack box of instant breakfast and did not expire until August 31.

At a price of $4.99, that’s a 25% discount. Good enough, right? We didn’t need any at the time so we pulled a few of the coupons and held onto them for the future. Sometimes at Publix you will find a coupon and then a week or two weeks later the item will go on sale, further enhancing your savings.

Wait for the additional store discount

Sure enough a few weeks later Publix put the boxes on sale for $3.99, and additional $1.00 off. Figuring it probably wouldn’t get any better any time soon (plus actually needing some at this time), we bought four boxes.

Now let me warn you the stuff below involves a lot of math. Don’t just pass it by. You need to be able to do this type of simple math in the aisles of the grocery store. If you don’t understand it, leave a comment and I’ll be glad to help out.

Let’s run the math:

  • Regular Price: $4.99
  • Coupon: $1.25 (25% off regular price)
  • Publix discounted price: $3.99
  • Total Discounted Price: $4.99 – $1.00 – $1.25 = $2.74.
  • Total Percentage Discount: 45%

Now the title of this post is how I saved 30% on breakfast, but I just showed you I saved 45%. What gives?

Well unless I drink the powder straight (yuck to say the least), I need a cup of milk with each packet of instant breakfast. This is a key point… just because one item is on sale doesn’t necessarily make it a good deal for you. If whatever you are buying has 9 other components to make a meal and all of those items are very expensive, you might want to hold off. So let’s look at what else I need.

A gallon of skim milk at our Publix is currently running $4.19. It seems easier to understand to break it down to unit level pricing.

More math:

  • One gallon of skim milk: $4.19
  • Plus 5% sales tax: $4.40
  • Per cup (divide by 16): $0.275 per cup
  • Original cost of one packet of instant breakfast: ($4.99*1.05)= $5.24 / 10 = $0.524
  • Original total cost: $0.275 + 0.524 = $0.799 or $0.80.
  • Discounted cost of powder: $0.274
  • Total discounted cost of one drink: $0.275 + 0.274 = $0.549 or $0.55.

So we can calculate the total discount for one drink as the difference between 80 cents and 55 cents. 25 cents discount on 80 cent original drink is 31.25% discount. When I ran the calculation in Excel, it calculated the difference as 24 cents, thus the difference in the discount.

I’m pretty happy. The four boxes I bought also equates to 40 days — 8 weeks at 5 days per week — of breakfast. At $0.55 per drink, I will have spent $22 four 8 work weeks worth of breakfast. Not half bad.

How much does breakfast cost you?

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Ashley @ Wide Open Wallet June 27, 2008 at 10:19 am

4.19 for a gallon of milk! Holy cow. I never pay over $2.50, and that is for 2%. What’s up with that?

Kym June 27, 2008 at 3:43 pm

What state are you in? You have to pay tax on food from the market?

@Ashley: I wish we had $2.50 gallons of milk here (Southern Cali)! The skim milk is $3.39, and it goes up the more fat it has. I’m not sure what the prices all are as I buy skim, but it’s $4 and change.

Penny July 1, 2008 at 10:03 am

I divided it out and this week I’m paying about $0.91 per breakfast during the work week. I usually eat cereal with milk and a banana.


Debbie M July 3, 2008 at 3:45 pm

I actually mix about a teaspoon of sugar and a teaspoon of cocoa with my milk and take it with a vitamin pill. (First mix cocoa and sugar, then add a teaspoon of milk or water and mix that about 40 strokes, then add milk. It still doesn’t mix well, but then I like to microwave it like hot chocolate.)

I think this is cheaper than using Instant Breakfast. But I also know my cocoa is grown responsibly and my sugar is slightly less processed than with Instant Breakfast. My milk is organic, too ($5/gallon is the best price I can find, no sales tax), so it’s not exactly super cheap.

Oatmeal made with oats, sugar, spices, salt, and a little milk is super cheap and yummy, too.

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