Tips for fighting “shrinkflation” in the face of soaring grocery prices

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If you’ve noticed recently that your toilet roll is running out sooner than it used to, or that a baking mix that made 15 cookies only makes 12 – even though you’re paying the same price you always have – you are not alone.

It’s called “shrinkflation”, and even I’ve been a victim of it. Phil Lempert, food industry analyst and editor of supermarketguru.com, indicates that shrinkage occurs when manufacturers reduce the quantity of products but maintain the same retail price to compensate for their increased costs. “It’s not a new phenomenon, but it has gotten worse,” says Lempert.

According to consumer advocate Edgar Dworsky, when a manufacturer’s bottom line is reduced, the company must find a way to maintain its profits. “They have three choices: raise the price, but consumers notice and risk unhappy customers; they can reformulate with cheaper ingredients; and the third option is to make a discreet price increase by making the product smaller but [keeping] the same price,” he says. Most choose option 3 because it’s so subtle that many people don’t notice it.

“Dawn dishwashing liquid has shrunk the size of the soap in its smallest half-ounce bottle, but kept the same bottle and UPC code,” says Dworsky, who tracks examples of shrinkage on his Consumer website. World. “And Tresemme’s big black shampoo bottles went from 32 to 28 ounces.”

Sometimes the change is minimal. Annette Economides, co-author of “Cut Your Grocery Bill in Half” and co-editor of the Money Smart Family website, notes that some bags of Doritos contain 9.25 instead of 9.75 ounces (about five fewer chips). ) for the same price.

Consumers have little or no recourse, but there are things we can do while shopping to limit the impact of shrinkage on our grocery bills. Some tips are simple; others require a bit more time and effort.

Shopping experts share their top tips for saving on groceries

Focus on the unit price. If a product is at a familiar price, you may not notice that it is smaller or the quantity has changed. Examine shelf labels for price per ounce, pound, or sheet. Or check the product label for its net weight. Different coffees can all be the same size, but can range from 10.5 to 16 ounces, Lempert says.

Be aware of the size. Don’t randomly pick items from store shelves. For your favorites, remember what the package looks like, says Dworsky. If you don’t look, you won’t notice it. A box or bottle may look the same until you compare it to a similar product and find that it is shorter or shallower.

Monitor sales. Paint store flyers and take advantage of digital deals and coupons. Then make your purchase from the retailer at the best price. To save the most, you may need to shop at multiple supermarkets. The good news is that in many communities there are several grocery stores within a few miles of each other.

Take inventory. Go through your pantry for items you buy frequently and jot down the price and number of sheets or net ounces on a list you can refer to when shopping. Then check the amounts in store. If an item has been discounted, find a comparable product that has not.

Let go of brand loyalty. Don’t turn your nose up at private labels. They are usually the last to cut back, they usually cost 20-30% less than the big brands, and they are on par with or better than the brand. “Look at the ingredients and nutritional information,” says Lempert. “Chances are, if they’re the same, you’ll be happy, and store brands usually have a return guarantee.”

Don’t be fooled by the labeling. Watch for the words “new and improved”. “What has improved is the company’s bottom line,” says Dworsky. Simply changing the packaging and adding the word “new” can mean that your favorite laundry detergent now cleans 96 loads instead of 100. Or manufacturers can change the shape of the bottle to camouflage the reduced amount.

Another trick is to label, like calling family or party size cookies or cereal. Of course, the package may be larger, but these conditions do not necessarily mean that you get a better deal. And even family-sized or party-sized items are subject to downsizing. “If you focus on the words on the package versus net weight, you’ll keep buying the same product thinking you’re getting the same amount as before. Instead, buy by weight,” Dworsky says.

Shop clearance items. Clearance shelves are great places to find non-perishable items that have been reduced in price because stores are overcrowded or the product is repackaged. And don’t overlook the clearance sections in the produce and meat aisles, Economides says, especially if you plan to use the product that day or the next.

Put the time. Many people spend hours finding the best deals on Black Friday or other trendy sales events, but they don’t pay the same attention to groceries. This is a mistake, says Economides. “I walk down every aisle because you never know what the store is getting rid of because they bought too much and put it up for sale. I call it saving money.

Denver-based writer Laura Daily specializes in consumer advocacy and travel strategy. Find it on dailywriter.net.

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