Higher grocery bill

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You could be Paying a Higher Grocery Bill for LESS Groceries

Manufacturers are downsizing their product amount and packaging

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Honey, They Shrunk the OJ! This is one of those times when I risk sounding like my parents. But, can you believe the price of food these days? It's not easy to miss the steady climb of everything from milk to bread and everything in-between. And, if you're like me, you sigh, toss the item in your shopping cart and reminisce about the days of two loaves of bread for a buck. When did a loaf of bread get to $4?!?

OK, I got that out of my system. But now I've learned that as the prices slowly go up, seemingly overnight, there's another stealth activity going on. Manufacturers of some products are actually downsizing the amount of product by little bits so that it almost goes unnoticed by the consumer. We're essentially paying the same price (and sometimes more) for LESS product. And of course you're not going to see an ad saying "now with even less!"

I make it a point to notice this kind of thing and this one almost slipped by me because it's so subtle. But never fear, here's what I learned is happening and to which products, so just keep an eye out. Also, keep in mind that as one product downsizes others will follow. As long as we're aware we can make good purchasing decisions. It's time to stop making as many buying decisions based on habit - at least if we want to save some money at the checkout.

Recent product "repackaging"

Dreyer's Ice Cream Ice cream was one of the first foods to do this. They reduced the amount of ice cream in the carton from 1.75 quarts to 1.5 quarts.

Frito Lay Chips They're reducing the amount of chips inside products like Doritos by 1/4 ounce up to 2 ounces depending on the size of the bag. That doesn't sound like much but an ounce can equal 11 chips that are missing.

Tropicana Orange Juice The OJ has shrunk from 96 ounces to 89 ounces with a redesign of the carton with a new "easy pour" cap.

Kellogg's and General Mills Cereal Favorites like Fruit Loops, Cocoa Krispies and Cherrios are being served up with about an ounce less. The packaging looks the same but the boxes are slightly smaller.

Hellmann's and Best Foods Mayonnaise This sandwich fave used to be 32 ounces, now it's 30.

Country Crock The spread famously comes in a big tub that used to contain 3 full pounds. Now it's 2 pounds 13 ounces.

Wrigley's Doublemint Gum You'll have fewer chews in their multipack; they've reduced the number of sticks from 17 to 15.

Dial Soap This one's a slippery slope. A single bar used to be 4.5 ounces now it's only 4 ounces.

Paper Towels Watch out for these, they're changing the size of the sheets and even giving you fewer per roll. They often will advertise as more absorbent to explain the decrease in number of towels per roll.

Does it Really Matter? An ounce here or an ounce there seems like a tiny bit, but when you're budgeting and trying to get the most from your money during tight times it does matter. Simply being aware that it's happening makes you a more informed shopper. Plus, there are a lot of options in every food category so it gives you reason to look into a brand that you might have never considered. Store brands are a perfect example. The mayo jar I found confirmed the new size of 30 ounces, but when I did a comparison of a store brand, I found it was still the original 32 ounces for less money.

An easy way to really compare "apples to apples" is to pay attention to the small sign on the store shelves where the price is listed for each product. There's a part of that which includes the "unit price." That tells you how much the item is costing by a similar measurement, per ounce for example. That will give you a true idea of how each item compares with other similar items.

Plus, keep this in mind. Since you'll be getting less, you'll need to restock it sooner. That means potentially more trips to the store.

Oh yes, recipes, don't forget about recipes. Sometimes a recipe will call for a package of "something" because the sizes of some things, like mayo for example, have been standard for so long. Watch out as that changes, because your buffet potato salad just might not be as yummy even though you've always added a full jar.

What to Do. Awareness is the key here and then you can make wiser shopping decisions based on your budget and grocery list. But remember, store brands are a great option. Also, for dry goods like cereal, try buying bulk. Many grocery stores, especially ones like Sprouts, have a bulk shopping area. You'll know exactly how much you're getting and won't be paying for packaging either.

Plus, if you realize a favorite product is shrinking, try the dollar stores or closeout stores and stock up. Most likely they'll get the old product as the stores are told to restock with the newly sized item. It'll still be good, just in the old packaging.

I heard someone say that downsizing is taking the place of supersizing and it seems to be true. And, if you're like me, if I'm paying the $4 for a loaf of bread I want a full loaf - I even like the heels!

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