Unless you grow all your own food, you’ve probably noticed that our groceries are shrinking, but the prices aren’t. I’m not thrilled by this development. What’s the cause of this phenomenon and what can you do about it?
The Shrinking Groceries Phenomenon
Products have shrunk in the past. I noticed that Starkist tuna shrank from 7 ounces to 6.5 ounces a couple years ago. That wasn’t too big a deal, but now it’s becoming an epidemic. A 96-ounce bottle of Tropicana orange juice is now 89 ounces, under the guise of adding an “easier pour spout.” Yoplait changed the bottom of the container to make it 4 ounces rather than six.
Of course, they don’t lower the prices at the same time. Instead they keep the prices the same and hope consumers won’t notice the smaller weight or higher unit price. According to Time magazine, and many other sources, manufacturers are doing this to combat higher production costs. I have to wonder thought – how much did they have to spend designing a new container for their product?
Smaller Quantities or Higher Prices?
Which do you prefer? Personally, I’d rather they increase the price than decrease the quantity. If I was used to buying a carton of OJ and having it last eight days, now it will only last seven. That means I have to buy a couple extra cartons per year. Sure, that’s not a huge budget-buster, but imagine the family that buys a lot of packaged food? That’s certainly going to hit them in the wallet.
Rather than being sneaky, manufacturers should fess up and adjust prices. We’re going to pay more either way, so why not be honest about it?
Strategies for Dealing with the Changes
Depending on the type of food, there are few ways to handle the grocery shrinkage.
Eat less food.
If you usually drink eight ounces of juice, drink seven. If you normally have a cup of cereal, pour a little less in the bowl. Not only will the package last just as long, you’ll probably help your waistline, too.
I have a recipe that calls for a specific sized can of tomato sauce. Now that the can is smaller, I had to modify the recipe to account for the difference. It works out to one less serving of sauce, which annoys me, but at least I have a plan.
Complain to the manufacturer.
In addition to modifying my recipe, I wrote a letter of complaint to Contadina. I told them how much I loved their product, but was challenged by the changed can. I asked for coupons to offset the need to buy more cans. Sure enough, a few coupons arrived in the mail a few days later. According to the fine couponers at Hot Coupon World, you can only do this every few months because they keep a list.
Look for sales and coupons.
Watch the stores for sales on those products and then stock up on them then. In addition, collect coupons to combine with those sales.
Compare unit prices.
Manufacturers are hoping we won’t notice the difference, so your best defense is to compare the unit prices of the different brands and buy the cheapest one.
So how do you feel about the shrinking groceries? Would you rather that they raise prices or shrink the packages? Would you be more comfortable with it if they admitted what they were doing? How are you handling the shrinking groceries? Tell me in the comments.