Do Not Be Fooled By Safeway's 2 for $7 Milk Trick

Reader Michelle says she witnessed someone fall for this clever milk trick performed by Safeway. Luckily, she knows that $7 is more than $6.59.

While shopping at Safeway today I noticed something odd about the “O” Organics Milk. After I listened to a mom tell her daughter she buys “whatever is on sale” I went to purchase my own milk and realized that’s not such a good plan. A half gallon was on sale for 2 for $7. Or if your a savvy shopper you could buy a gallon for $6.59. The Safeway website confirms it.

In other news, damn, organic milk costs $6.59 a gallon now? No wonder everyone has been so grouchy lately.

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  1. forgottenpassword says:

    Isnt half-gal milk more expensive because its more of a “convenience size”?

  2. henwy says:

    I’m not sure why this is so surprising. You often save buying in bulk or larger sizes compared with multiples of smaller containers of product. If you were willing to order a hogshead of organic milk, I’m sure it’d be cheaper than 63 1-gallon containers of milk, even at the sale price. This sort of savings in bulk is why those warehouse clubs are often so successful. As long as you know you’re going to use all of the product before it goes bad, you might as well buy in bulk and save.

  3. theblackdog says:

    Hold it, they’re comparing fat free ultra pasteurized milk to 1% low-fat (may not be ultra pasteurized) milk. This is a bad comparison because if you look in the store, there is usually a price difference between whole milk, 1%, 2%, and fat free.

  4. sarahq says:

    Isn’t skim typically a different price than 1%, anyway?

  5. PhilWeinstein says:

    I generally buy two 1/2 gallons anyways because the milk spoils so fast after you open the carton. (Even with the ultra-pasteurization.)

    • Gonzobot says:

      @PhilWeinstein: The milk spoils so fast because its ‘organic’, meaning it has eschewed thousands of years of agricultural advances in the name of ‘purity’. Meaning your expensive organic milk is of poorer quality than the cheaper industrially produced milk next to it.

  6. sarahq says:

    @theblackdog: Good point. If you look at safeway.com, the gallon of skim is actually $6.29 (on sale for $0.90 off). But the gallon is pasteurized, not ultra-pasteurized, according to the product details.

  7. lannister80 says:

    Bad comparison. Slightly different product, and smaller sizes almost always cost more per unit volume/weight because of the “convenience size” issue.

  8. timsgm1418 says:

    I always buy half gallons because of spoilage…Most people should know smaller sizes generally cost more per ounce etc

  9. Doofio says:

    This isn’t a scam or a bad deal really. As others have stated, this is a really poor comparison as Ultra Pasteurized milk tends to cost a bit more anyways. Apples to Oranges comparison here.

  10. Antediluvian says:

    Okay, yes, on a per-gallon basis you’d save money.
    But if you WANTED two half-gallons, you would not.
    There are lots of reasons you’d want two half-gallons of milk rather than one gallon.
    Maybe you have a friend you’re shopping with.
    Maybe you don’t go through milk that quickly so it lasts longer if you open only one half-gallon at a time.
    Maybe you’re bringing one to your vacation home.

    Point is, it doesn’t matter. This isn’t Safeway marking two of the same items for more than a single two-pack of the same items. It’s two different items, which HAPPEN to sum up to the same total amount of product.

    You expect multiple smaller containers to cost more than a single larger one. As far as I can tell, this is what we’re seeing here.

    And yeah, the $6.59 per gallon is pricy. That’s why I’d buy a single half-gallon — if it spoils before I can use it all, I’ve wasted less money.

  11. FreemanB says:

    Well, I checked their website using a San Francisco zip code. For all the O Organic milk, the half-gallon was $3.50 and the gallon was $6.00. I didn’t see the ultra-pasteurized listed, but that may have been because of the zip code I used.

    On another note, isn’t this the way it is supposed to work? Generally, larger sizes are going to be cheaper per ounce. I find it odder when two half-gallons are cheaper than a gallon personally.

  12. alice_bunnie says:

    As everyone else has said, you shouldn’t expect smaller containers to be the same unit price. They’re usually more because of package price.

    There have been times that my Kroger has had a sale that two half gallons have been less than the gallon price. However, that’s very rare.

  13. VA_White says:

    GALLONS of O Organics milk are not Ultra-Pasteurized. We are not comparing apples to apples here.

  14. ptr2void says:

    Yeah, since when did we expect the price of two half-gallons of milk to be equal to that of one single gallon? Sadly, I know there’s a significant price difference, as I must buy 1/2 gallons due to my wife’s disability causing problems with handling containers larger than that.

  15. Antediluvian says:

    And they are slightly different types of milk — but as savvy consumers, we know that all processed milk starts out as fat-free and then has butterfat added back into it to make it 1%, 2%, or whole milk.

  16. Jesse says:

    @theblackdog:

    In normal dairy products, Skim (Fat Free) milk is almost always cheaper than the varieties with higher fat content.

  17. Luftvier says:

    Wait, so does this mean that buying four quarts of milk is more expensive than buying one gallon jug too?

    Oh, the humanity!

    Seriously, I think I knew this when I was a tot. This should be no surprise to anyone.

  18. timmus says:

    Here in Oklahoma, $3.60 is the absolute minimum price you can find for a half-gallon of organic milk, and that’s at a large health food store here. The supermarkets (Homeland, etc) charge an outrageous $5.00-$6.00 per half gallon. Nice to see that we’re just on the short end of the stick and it’s not a massive hike of milk prices.

  19. Pasketti says:

    I always check the price when buying milk. Sometimes it’s cheaper to buy two half-gallons than one whole-gallon, sometimes it isn’t.

  20. almondwine says:

    First rule of comparisons: Make sure you’re comparing the same thing.

    Bad comparer! And Bad Consumerist for posting it!

  21. silentluciditi says:

    Having just bought milk yesterday at Safeway (‘O’ organics 2% Milk, Ultra Pasturized), the half-gallons here were on sale for 2 for $6, or, $3 each. We buy in half gallons because there is no way we’d drink an entire gallon of milk a week. So, buying larger and cheaper isn’t always the better value. No rip off here, unless that woman bought two half-gallons instead of the gallon and they’d drink it all before the expiration date. (And if she was buying ‘whatever is on sale’ here the regular Lucerne milk is on sale 2 Gallons for $5.98, which really highlights the holy crap! cost of organic items.)

  22. RonDiaz says:

    @theblackdog:

    Skim milk is always cheaper than anything else here.

  23. jmessick says:

    Kind of a waste of space, this post.

  24. Ein2015 says:

    Am I missing something or are those are two different milk products. What’s the problem here?

  25. ARPRINCE says:

    Yup I agree with most posters that the cost price has something to do with packaging. You tend to save a little when buying stuff with larger packaging (1 gal VS 2 half-gal).

  26. redqueenmeg says:

    Organic here costs $7/gallon for the cheapest stuff, and up to $8.50/gallon for the most expensive brand.

    And it’s not like I live in a state that has high salaries.

  27. AdamG says:

    you have to compare the regular price for a half gallon to the sale price. One gallon container is almost always less expensive per unit than a half gallon container.

  28. bohemian says:

    Hyvee’s organic brand does things like this all the time. The price of a 1/2 gal and a gallon varies day to day and store to store. Sometimes a gallon is significantly cheaper and sometimes two 1/2 gallons are cheaper. I always stop and do the math before grabbing it off the shelves.

  29. yourbffjill says:

    I had to buy the organic stuff a couple of weeks ago because they were all out of the other. I couldn’t believe how expensive it was!

    I’ve never seen 2-half gallon deals. The Safeways in my area always have deals in store on 2 gallons, something like 4 dollars for one, 5 dollars for 2. It’s a really great deal but there’s just no way I can get through 2 gallons before it goes bad.

  30. Canino says:

    This is why I always buy inorganic milk.

  31. dveight says:

    There is not trick here. This is not comparing apples to apples. Lets forget that you are comparing 1/2 gallon to gallon containers, but you are also comparing 2 different products. How, and why did this even get posted?

  32. ShadowFalls says:

    Also to note, many might have good reason to buy two half gallons over 1 whole gallon. Biggest reason being, once it is open, it starts to go bad. Some people don’t consume it all so fast, or they are buying for themselves and a neighbor.

  33. treesyjo says:

    As stated by nearly everyone else, this is a non-story.

  34. JustaConsumer says:

    Can you start on section on scam “specials” like you have on the grocery shrink ray? You have to bring a laptop with a database of past prices to figure out what really is a sale.

  35. Consumerist-Moderator-Roz says:

    Folks. Read the comment code. Editorial choices (e.g. “this is a non-story”) are to be emailed, not put in comments. Comment about the article meaningfully.

  36. Difdi says:

    I used to work for a dairy company, and it was quite the eye-opener.

    Know what the difference is between a gallon of homogenized milk and a gallon of 2%? The difference is 1 gallon of filtered water and a little time in the mixing machine. No kidding, that’s it.

    The bottling plant got a tanker of cream a day, just thinned enough with water to flow through the pipes. They watered it down to make heavy cream.

    Yes, homogenized milk costs more per gallon than 2%. But I’d almost guarantee that it costs less for 1 gallon of homogenized than for 2 gallons of 2%. Homogenized is the same stuff, just with half the water. Buy a blender and mix in a gallon of pure water (generally not tap water, btw). Voila! 1 gallon of 4% milk becomes 2 gallons of 2%!

    Ever wondered what was in fat free milk? By law, it has a maximum of 0.5% milkfat, and the rest is filtered water. Fat free milk cannot actually be 100% fat free, since then it would be bottled water.

    I still have all the fat contents memorized…

  37. youbastid says:

    @Difdi: Erroneous! Whole, 1%, 2% and Skim milk will often have the same level of nutrients, i.e. calcium and other vitamins. Further, the calorie content of 2% is not twice that of 1%, nor is it half that of 4%. Either you were working at an illegal bottling plant, or you’re just making shit up.

  38. SOhp101 says:

    It’s not a scam. You’re paying for convenience of having two separate containers of milk or you can look at it as paying for the extra packaging. Milk in paper cartons last longer than in clear plastic jugs.

  39. coren says:

    You pay less when you buy in bulk. This is almost always the case, at least at the stores I shop in. No rip off here (and generally “whatever’s on sale” means “get the best deal” not “just buy the ‘sale’ no matter which costs more”)

  40. ironchef says:

    $6.50 a gallon? Holy cow.

    Trader Joe’s is $3.35 a gallon. The most i’ve seen is $4.50 a gallon.

  41. ironchef says:

    oh wait…it’s organic…
    That’s where the money is blown. My bad.

  42. Difdi says:

    @youbastid:

    Erroneous! Whole, 1%, 2% and Skim milk will often have the same level of nutrients, i.e. calcium and other vitamins. Further, the calorie content of 2% is not twice that of 1%, nor is it half that of 4%. Either you were working at an illegal bottling plant, or you’re just making shit up.

    Yeah, I must be lying. That, or Vitamilk is an illegal bottler. Or you could be wrong.

    Given the choices, and the fact that I was referring to Vitamilk’s own recipe for mixing milk…I’d have to go with the third one, you’re just mistaken.

  43. Difdi says:

    Well, that or the fourth possibility, you’re nothing but a troll.

  44. radiochief says:

    @Difdi: I don’t know where or what dairy you worked at; but that not way you make ‘milk’.

    Milk processed anywhere (organic/normal) based on fat content. The more a company can squeeze fat percentages– they make more money.

    Dairy processing plants only get three types of milk tankers in: whole milk, skim milk or split-tankers (2 compartments per tanker, 1 for whole and 1 for skim). The milk is agitated with a portable impeller (think small motor boat engine) for 20 or 30 min. A QC sample is taken with a dipper (long-necked cup) that sample is processed in a variety of ways. APC and Coliform counts are done, tests for the detection of antibiotics are done, freezing point tests are done. Furthermore, a small aliquot of milk is warmed and fed into an analyzer which spits out %fat, %solids and %protein. Finally, another aliquot of milk is pasteurized in a microwave for a taste test.

    If everything is up to snuff, you tell the receiver to start pumping, and the guy running the homogenizer and pasteurizer will look at the current specs of the load. The milk may or may not be put in another silo depending on the needs of the plant.

    The mixing of skim and whole milk does give you the variety of milk you can purchase: skim, 1%, 2% and whole milk. The FDA does have guidelines for each milk product. It is true that skim milk can BE up to 0.5% fat but that is not usually the case unless someone is too lazy to flush out the bowl. 0.5% skim is a money-waster. Ideally, you want skim to be 0.01 to 0.15% fat. Any more and the supervisor will have your head. Likewise, it goes the same for others: 1% (0.9 to 1.1%), 2% (1.85 to 2.1%) and whole milk 3.25% (3.1 to 3.35%).

    Yes, I did work in a dairy about 15 years ago for 4 years(at Stop&Shop’s QC Lab) as a QC tech and I could have been manager at a competitor but who wants to go Lynn?

    Peoples, always remember to look at the plant code when comparing prices. Most name dairies produce store brands; and regionally speaking they all get their milk from the same farmers too.

  45. @forgottenpassword: i’ll usually pick up a half gallon because we won’t go through a full gallon before it goes bad.
    more expensive per ounce? yes.
    cheaper based on what we use? yes.

  46. FrankTheTank says:

    Good to see that Consumerist readers are more intelligent than Consumerist writers.

  47. youbastid says:

    @Difdi: Nice job refuting any of the facts I gave you. “No, you’re wrong” doesn’t really make a good argument.

  48. Bad_Brad says:

    Also, don’t be fooled into believing that “organic” milk is necessarily better (or even in many cases, any different) than milk that is not labeled “organic”.

  49. BayAreaGuy says:

    You people are idiots for falling for the “organic” scam, too. Organic doesn’t mean “natural” or “healthy.” It means that someone has fooled the dairy into believing that turning his back on modern science is a good idea. As a result, the organic milk you’re buying has none of the safeguards against microbes and other infectious agents, and plenty of risk. You people should worry less about saving a few bucks, and more about whether you’re poisoning your kids with this “organic” fetish.