Consumers across the nation are looking in their pantry and wondering, “Where did all the Munchy-Os go?! Why is there a divot in the bottom of the peanut butter jar? And wait, there definitely used to be more chips in this bag!” Welcome to “shrinkflation” — a practice where companies make smaller products, downsize the packaging or put smaller amounts in the box so consumers spend the same for less. These are subtle changes that most people won’t even notice but will have you questioning your sanity while you wonder where all the cookies went.
You can’t stop shrinkflation, but you can outsmart it! Here are five strategies savvy shoppers can use to shrink the effect shrinkflation has on their wallets.
Pick Your Prices Like Peter Piper
Remember the nursery rhyme about Peter Piper picking a peck of pickled peppers? Looking at the price per pepper rather than per package helps reveal the real cost of your purchase. Next to the item price on the grocery shelf, you’ll see a unit price in smaller print. Unit pricing tells you how much you’ll pay per pound, ounce, piece or whatever unit of measure applies. And it lets you compare costs across different brands or product sizes. If Peter Piper’s Pickled Peppers are $1 per pound and Mary Mary Quite Contrary’s Sour Pickles are $2 per pound, you get a better deal per pound buying from Peter, even if the price of Mary’s pickles is less for a smaller jar.
Go Big Before You Go Home
If you compare unit prices and product size, there is often a premium on smaller sizes — you spend more per ounce on the smaller bottle of ketchup than the larger one, even if it’s the same brand. If you go through ketchup like you’re running a summer camp, then double down and stock up on those supersized products. But also be mindful about waste — bulk shopping can end up costing you more in the end if you stock up on perishable items that go bad before you use them.
Whether you like to peruse the paper old-school with scissors in hand or use the latest shopping apps or digital coupons, deal hunting can get you better prices on products you use all the time. And don’t forget to seek out BOGO deals to double your purchasing power (just calculate your unit price to make sure it’s as good a deal as it seems).
Rethink Your Retail Relationships
It might be time to give up on manufacturers that have done you wrong. Maybe you buy the same brand of freezer pops your mother did, but if the amount in the box is shrinking it may be time to cut loose your brand loyalty — and switch to one that gets you more pops per pack. And while you’re at it, if you’ve traversed the aisles of the same supermarket for years, now may be the time to try out a discount grocery store, a big-box retailer or even your local farmer’s market to see if you can find better prices on products you buy.
If you’re struggling with the stress of shrinkflation, consider talking to a financial professional about your situation. They can provide budgeting help and smart saving strategies to help take the sting out of shrinkflation.