Buying food

You can buy food in three main ways:

  • Packaged food with a marked weight or volume
  • Loose weighed food
  • Countable items

Packaged food

The majority of food sold in a supermarket is packaged:

Packaged food examples

This category includes:

  • All tinned food
  • Food in cardboard packages such as breakfast cereals, crackers, biscuits
  • Food in plastic containers such as margarine, yogurt, cream, cottage cheese and salt
  • Food in jars such as jams, honey and pickles
  • Food wrapped in paper, plastic or foil such as butter, cheese and cold meat
  • Drink in bottles like milk, soft drinks, water, wine and beer
  • Other bottled items such as cooking oil

Most packages and containers have standardised on sensible metric sizes. Typically these are expressed either as net weight or net volume. Since 1995 it has been compulsory to label these quantities in metric units. Examples are given in the table below.

Food Common or standard sizes
Bread 400 g, 800 g
Breakfast cereal 350 g, 375 g, 500 g, 600 g, 750 g, 1 kg
Butter 250 g, 500 g
Cooking Oil 250 mL, 500 mL, 750 mL, 1 L, 2 L, 3 L
Flour 500 g, 1 kg
Margerine 250 g, 500 g, 1 kg
Pasta 500 g, 1 kg
Rice 500 g, 1 kg, 2 kg, 5 kg, 10 kg
Sugar 250 g, 500 g, 1 kg
Yogurt 150 g, 500 g

In a few cases there are some awkward hangovers from imperial such as the size of some milk containers and jam pots. Standard pack sizes work very well with your modern metric recipes that use quantities in round numbers of grams or millilitres.

Loose weighed food

Loose weighed food is commonplace at the greengrocer, the butcher, the fishmonger or at the delicatessen counter. This is therefore mainly fruit, vegetables, fresh meat, fresh fish, cold meats, cheeses and ready-made salads.

Loose food at meat delicatessen Loose food at meat delicatessen

In market stalls, butchers and fishmongers, the trader will usually pick, weigh and package the goods for you. In supermarkets and self-service greengrocers, you pick the fruit or vegetables required and they will be weighed for you at the checkout. Since 2000 it has been compulsory to use metric weighing equipment and to specify a metric unit price.

Countable items

Some loose fruit, vegetables and other goods such as garlic may be priced on a countable basis. Thus you may find, for example, garlic priced at '45 p each' as opposed to a kilogram unit price.

price each label