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The cost of cereal has been skyrocketing over the past year, along with everything on your grocery list. When you couple cereal costs with the rising price of milk, a bowl of cereal might not be in the budget at the moment.
Below, I’ll break down how I shop for cereal—the places and ways I buy to make sure I’m always getting the best deal. I’ll compare generics to name brands and show you how you can consistently pay less for the real deal when you shop for groceries more strategically. Spoiler alert: Sam’s Club and Costco beat Walmart’s everyday pricing, generic cereals can save you a LOT, and you should never, ever pay the shelf price on cereal.
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1. Today, the average cost of cereal is between $4 and $8 per box.
Prices will vary based on your location, what stores you shop at, and the brands you select. In general, though, mainstream big-brand cereals start at about $3.99 and go up to $7.99 per box. This accounts for sizes anywhere from 10 oz to 32 oz. Specialty cereal brands and bulk bagged cereals up to 60 oz. can sell for around $10. Woof.
2. Calculate cost per ounce to find the best prices.
Because cereal comes in various sizes—and comes in boxes or bags—you need to calculate cost per ounce to properly compare cereal prices. Don’t worry, it’s easy to do, and you can often find stores spelling out the cost per ounce for you on the shelf tag. But to do this yourself, simply take the total cost of the box divided by the total ounces of cereal.
As with many products, the more you buy, the lower the price per ounce typically goes. Take America’s best-selling cereal brand, Cheerios, for example. And we’ll compare prices across different-sized boxes at Walmart for consistency’s sake.
Let’s say you’re shopping for Cheerios at Walmart. Here’s three ways you can go about this:
- Buy a 10.8 oz box of Honey Nut Cheerios ($3.48, Walmart) and pay $0.32 per ounce. We can get a better deal than this.
- Next, opt for an 18.8 oz box of the same cereal ($4.78, Walmart), and that price per ounce goes down to $0.25. Much better, but not quite there.
- For the best value, consider opting for the 32 oz bag ($6.48, Walmart) or the 29.4 oz box ($5.98, Walmart) since both equal $0.20 per ounce. Why? Because you’re getting more cereal for less cost per ounce.
3. The cheapest everyday cereal is Kellogg’s Raisin Bran ($0.17 per ounce at Walmart).
There are a handful of cereals that are priced under $0.20 per ounce every day at stores like Walmart. Kellogg’s Raisin Bran just happens to be the cheapest at $0.17 per ounce. Frosted Flakes, Frosted Mini-Wheats, Cap’N Crunch and Fruity Pebbles are all sitting close by at $0.18 per ounce. (Prices at wholesale clubs get even cheaper, but those require a membership. Let’s dig into that a little later).
On the other hand, the most expensive cereals, not including specialty diet cereals like gluten-free or keto, are the Kashi Honey Toasted Breakfast Cereal and the Cascadian Farm Organic Fruitful O’s at $0.88 per ounce.
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4. Cereal prices vary greatly (like… stupidly) by store.
If you buy cereal regularly, you’ve probably noticed there are some places you should definitely not pay a shelf price for cereal. Cost variation in the cereal category is and has always been out of control.
Take Cheerios as an example. I compared the cost per ounce at eight stores in my area.
RELATED: Do I Need a Membership for Sam’s Club? And Other Burning Questions
5. Wait for a sale price before you buy cereal, especially at the grocery store. Never pay the shelf price!
Cereal sales are frequent. And again, as a rule of thumb, you should never pay the shelf price, especially at a typical grocery store where regular prices can sometimes double the everyday Walmart price.
In addition to waiting for a sale and using a coupon (more on that below), make sure to always compare cost per ounce with the big three: Costco, Sam’s Club, and Walmart. That’s because cereal prices vary so greatly, it’s easy to be fooled into thinking something’s a good deal when it’s not.
For example, a 12.5 oz box of Chex at a supermarket might cost you $5.29 or $0.42 per ounce. Ouch! If that box goes on sale for $1.97, that seems like a great discount, but is it a good price? Calculating cost per ounce is the only way to know for sure.
In this case, $1.97 for a 12.5 oz box of Chex would be $0.16, compared to the best everyday Chex price of $0.18 at Sam’s Club, so this sale is a good deal.
A common sale type you’ll see with cereal is the mix-and-match multiples sale like a Buy 5, Save $5 sale at Meijer. Basically, you can save $5 on select Meijer items. Mix or match from a selection of frozen foods to snacks and beverages and cereal. For every five qualifying items you buy, you’ll instantly save $5.00. If you want to stock up, you’ll often have to continue to buy in multiples of 5. Just ask the cashier to be sure.
With the sale + coupon strategy, the best place to buy cereal could easily be the supermarket nearest your house. But to be extra certain the deal is worth it, the stores you really need to compare prices with are the wholesale clubs: Sam’s Club and Costco. (Don’t have a Sam’s Club membership? You can sign up for a basic membership here).
6. Costco & Sam’s Club cereal prices are almost unbeatably low.
A 29.4 oz box of Cheerios at Walmart is $5.98 or $0.20 per ounce. When you shop at Costco, you can get 40.7 oz of Cheerios for $6.59, or at $0.16 per ounce. Sure, you’re paying more upfront, but you’re also getting for 10 more ounces of cereal, saving you more money. And that’s the everyday price.
When Sam’s or Costco have a sale or instant savings event, prices get unbeatably low. Recently Sam’s Club ran a $2.00 off Cheerios offer that dropped cost per ounce to $0.11. That’s cheaper than the generic ‘toasted oats’ at almost any grocery store.
Even without a coupon, Sam’s & Costco prices are hard to beat. For example, when not on sale, Cheerios at Sam’s Club usually costs $6.34 for 40.7 ounces, or $0.16 per ounce when not on sale, which is still the best deal. The chart below shows ten popular cereals and the cheapest place to buy them. In a few cases, there was a tie.
Don’t have a Costco membership? (Sign up for one here). Non-members can use gift cards, or Costco Shop Cards to shop at Costco without a membership. So if a friend gifts you a Costco Shop Card, you can use that to get in and make a purchase. Just know that if the value of your purchase exceeds the value of the gift card, then you’ll have to use cash or a card to pay the remaining balance.
As for Sam’s Club, you can try a Sam’s Club membership for free for 90 days. You can also shop online, but you’ll have to pay a 10% markup when you do. So if you found Cheerios on sale at Sam’s Club at just $0.11 per ounce, but had to pay the 10% markup fee, you actually have to end up paying $0.23 per ounce. Not a great deal. If you’re shopping in-store, you also might have to pay a markup fee, but this depends on your location. (We called up customer service and they told us each location has their own policies with varying markup fees). So, stick to the free trial.
7. Generic cereals are 25-42% cheaper than name brands.
Store brand cereals can be as low as half the price of the similar-sized boxes of name-brand competitors. Whether they taste as good is a matter of opinion and review scores.
We compared five store-brand cereals at Walmart to name brands to compare the cost.
Generic brands are cheaper when comparing prices before sales or applying coupons. But, if you’re willing to wait for a sale or use a coupon, you can sometimes pay up to 43% less on name-brand cereals than generic brands.
8. Find manufacturer coupons to save up to $2 per box of cereal.
There are frequent manufacturer coupons available for name-brand cereals, especially for new varieties or flavors from General Mills, Post, Quaker, and Kellogg’s. Standard cereal coupon values range from $0.50 to $2.00 off a single box. You’ll likely find these coupons in store apps as well as online.
At KCL, we gather up all available coupons, hand-check that they’re legit, and publish them on our cereal coupons page. We’ll even show you where to use the coupons this week for the very best deals.
9. The cheapest name-brand cereal is Malt-O-Meal, an average of 30% less than other name brands.
Malt-O-Meal bagged cereals are sold at Walmart, Kroger, Winco, and the like. And cost per ounce of this brand falls in between the big brands and the store brands, making it a great option, especially if you’re not wanting to hassle with coupons…(gulp).
Maybe I’m biased, but bagged Malt-O-Meal cereal is supreme. I actually prefer the taste of the Malt-O-Meal options. Or maybe I can just taste the money saved since on average the price per ounce is less than the bigger brand products. Plus, the bags are huge so you can buy in bulk and buy a cheaper brand at the same time. (Feed two birds with one scone, I guess).
Compare the Malt-O-Meal Honey Nut Scooters ($5.48, Walmart) at $0.17 per ounce to Honey Nut Cheerios ($5.98, Walmart) or $0.23 per ounce. Malt-O-Meal is $0.063 per ounce, or 35% cheaper than the General Mills option. So not only do you pay less per ounce with Malt-O-Meal, but you’re also getting way more cereal.
Malt-O-Meal even runs sales and distributes manufacturer coupons a few times per year.
10. When you find a great price, buy enough boxes to last you for months.
Cereal has a shelf life of 9-12 months, so buying a bigger box or getting multiples likely won’t result in waste. (Also, as long as you keep the box unopened, the cereal can last even longer than the listed expiration date). You can also use the long shelf life to your advantage by stocking up whenever you see a particularly good deal. Just be sure to roll up and clip the bag really securely to keep out pests. Or, for maximum freshness, transfer the cereal into airtight containers.
11. Download the KCL app to always stay on top of cereal deals.
When you download the KCL app, you can find all of our favorite cereal coupons in one place. Plus, you can sign up for deal alerts when and where your cereal of choice goes on sale.
12. Conclusion: Shop at these stores to get the best price on cereal.
Where is the best price overall to buy name-brand cereal?
You’ll find the best price overall on cereal at Sam’s Club or Costco because you can find cost per ounce as low as $0.11 or $0.12 in either store. You also get more cereal for what you pay for.
What’s the best place to buy cereal every day (without sales, coupons, or memberships)?
Walmart is the best place to buy cereal without having to wait for a sale or clip coupons. And while Sam’s Club and lowest everyday cost per ounce of $0.12 beats Walmart’s lowest price of $0.17, you don’t need to pay a yearly membership fee to shop at Walmart. You can just walk right in.
What’s the best place to find screaming deals on cereal?
You’re in the absolute best position if you happen to shop at Costco or Sam’s Club and find cereal on sale. Both wholesale clubs will run $2 instant savings deals on name-brand cereal. For example, in March 2023, I ran into a Honey Bunches of Oats deal at Costco. The box normally costs $7.89 for 50 oz of cereal. That’s already a great deal at $0.16 per ounce. But, the price dropped further to $5.59 with a $2 instant savings sale, dropping the price per ounce to $0.11. That’s when you run, don’t walk, to grab cereal.
Can I save by shopping at the dollar store?
You’ll often find name-brand cereal at the dollar store, but they’re sold in pouches instead of boxes. For example, you can find a 3oz pouch of Lucky Charms ($1.25, Dollar Tree) at the Dollar Tree. When you calculate cost per ounce, that comes out to $0.42. I mean, just yikes. Don’t do it.
How much have cereal prices grown over time?
Cereal prices rose about 11% in just the first few months of 2022. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, that marked the largest year-over-year increase in a 6-month period since 1981. And now in 2023, prices are only going up along with other grocery essentials (experts say about 14%).