Thinking Out Loud by Connie Schaeffer: The Incredible Shrinking Package

The economic turndown has affected everyone on some level, but for me, it is most noticeable when I go shopping for groceries. Everyone goes food shopping, so I am sure you know exactly what I am talking about! One hundred dollars used to buy a lot – a whole cart load, but not anymore. The cash register tape is shorter and grocery budgets are higher.

What I have been noticing lately is the seemingly deceptive practice or marketing strategy of the name brand companies. A lot of products are being repackaged to reduce the quantity of the product. Do “they” really think that just by adding a new look we wouldn’t notice that the quantity is shrinking? Another little display trick that was noted is that the height and width of the package is the same, but the depth is not. So, when you look at it on the shelf, it looks the same, but the package has less in it. Have you noticed too that on plastic bottles the bottom indentation is much larger? The bottle is the same size, but now there is less of it for us to consume; at a higher price of course.

I thought it was just me, so I did a little survey among my friends and I got quite a response. I will not use brand names, but here are some top examples of the products that have gone through the shrinking machine and have outraged my friends.

1. A 5 pound bag of sugar is now a 4 pound bag…seriously?

2. Yogurt– it used to be 8 oz. per carton, then it shrunk to 6 oz. and last December, it was shaved it down to 5.3 oz. and offered at a higher price!

3. Toilet Paper – it has always been a standard 4.5 inches across; now it is 3.9 inches. Doing TP pranks will now cost way more as will replacing the roll in the bathroom.

4. A pound of coffee should indeed be a pound of coffee, but now the bag contains only 11 or 12 oz. No one should mess with coffee!

5. Look carefully when buying bacon, what looks like a pound may only be 12 oz.

6. The standard for ice cream was always a half of gallon. This was one of the first things many of us noticed when that shamelessly got narrowed down to 1.5 quarts.

There are less cheese slices in a package, less crackers, chips and cookies. Pet owners know that dog food is dwindling in the bag and Moms have complained about the decreasing number of diapers in the package. Health and beauty products have not been exempted from going through the shrinking machine. Fewer tissues are in the redesigned boxes, less toothpaste per tube and name brand shampoo is missing almost 2 oz. Laundry detergent advertises the same number of loads, but the amount has been reduced down.

The total ounces in canned soups and veggies have also been adjusted. I first noticed this when I was using a recipe that required a particular size can. The cans are now smaller albeit it is only a few ounces, but potentially it could affect a favorite recipe. I really blew steam when I realized the baking chocolate bar had been reduced by 5.5 ozs. No one should mess with chocolate! Friends have claimed most chocolate bars are reduced in size along with cupcakes by that famous PA bakery in Philadelphia.

We know and understand that drought, disease, production and demand are some of the reasons which affect prices; it is inevitable. It just seems “sneaky” the way the packaging all of a sudden changes and shrinks. We are conditioned or made to believe that the product is different, improved, now gluten free, etc. but all the while we are sold a smaller amount at a larger cost! Speaking of cost, according to a recent Wall Street Blog, the top 10 skyrocketing products in order are: bacon, ground beef, oranges, coffee, peanut butter, margarine, wine, turkey, chicken and grapefruit.

What’s a shopper to do?? We can clip coupons; although this usually is not effective for a one or two person household. Usually 2 or more items are required for purchase to get the deal. We can shop at discount stores; always check expiration dates! We can cut back on luxury items and convenience foods. We can grow our own food supply; if you have the time, energy and appropriate area and know how. You can watch the flyers and buy while it’s on sale, buy bulk or co-op with neighbors and friends. Freeze and store extra value items. My favorite though is shop local farmers’ markets. You know the products are fresh; there is no deceptive packaging and you will help sustain small business in your community! As someone once said: “We all eat and it would be a sad waste of opportunity to eat badly, so shop wisely!” This is just me, thinking out loud!

Connie Schaeffer is a resident of Kutztown and enjoys reading, writing, but not arithmetic.