Monday, October 24, 2011

Paying More But Getting Less

I just got home from grocery shopping, one of my least favorite tasks, particularly on a pretty Monday morning. I've been noticing that food packaging seems to be shrinking more and more. Nearly everything I purchased today was smaller than the same product a year ago. However, the cost of food is rising significantly.

A large can of coffee, originally three pounds, is now only two pounds, two and a half ounces. The small package, which used to be a pound, is now only eleven to thirteen ounces, depending on the brand. A pack of bacon isn't a pound anymore, and a half-gallon of ice cream is long gone.

Canned goods, cereal, cookies, cleaning and laundry products...most brands have cut the size of their packages. Unfortunately, their pricing has stayed the same or increased, so the cost per ounce has gone up.

Downsizing may be popular, but I really don't like this trend. Especially when the redesigned packaging boasts “NEW LOOK, SAME GREAT TASTE” or “VALUE SIZE” on the label. They just pretend nothing else has changed and hope shoppers don't notice. But we do notice when we run out of something that used to last all week because there aren't as many servings included.

Even with coupon clipping and shopping sales, many folks on fixed incomes have been feeling the pressure of rising food costs for a while now. Some switch to store brands to save money, but those can be even smaller sizes with fewer servings. To get the most value from their ever-shrinking dollar, people today have to spend more time looking for bargains.  It's a challenge, and sometimes it's fun to score a great discount.  But I'd rather be doing something else!

Useful Notion:  Here are a few ideas to help combat the higher cost of food and household items:
  • Don't buy it if it isn't on sale – it will likely be on sale later
  • Plan your weekly menu around what's on sale this week
  • Clip and use coupons – and don't forget to take them to the store
  • Compare cost per ounce or serving, not just item price
  • Buy extra of sale items when possible – use the freezer or pantry for storage

Inflation is taxation without legislation.  ~Milton Friedman