Na Na pinches her pennies (aka frugal living)

Shh… don't tell anyone I'm poor. They all think I'm living frugal and green just like everyone these days. This is a blog about a senior citizen living a frugal life, on a fixed income, in a low income food desert, and passing along knowledge from lessons learned. Some she learned from her Grandma Mama many years ago and some learned only a few days ago.

Short sizing

Short sizing = the practice of shrinking packages or contents while keeping the price the same.  

Shrinkflation = smaller but just as expensive. A sneaky way of raising prices before the buyer is aware of the rise.

Short-sizing involves changing the package size of items but keeping the same price.  The outward appearance of the container may remain the same or be just slightly different. It might be a fractionally simmer box or smaller count or a couple of ounces displaced by a dimple in the bottom of a jar.

FOODS 2013 028

Old coffee jar next to new coffee jar

It’s fiendishly difficult to compare prices properly nowadays because repeated “special offers” mean the prices change frequently.  Ping-pong prices going up and down almost daily are meant to confuse the shopper so the manufacturer or processor can reduce the size but keep the same price without the customer ever realizing. Most people make purchases using their eyes and the price instead of checking the per unit cost, which is why the producers get away with this.

Food and kitchen 2015 336

I’ve written several posts about some of the short sizing tricks I’ve noticed. I have a category called “short sizing tricks” that at the moment has 7 posts and this one will be eight.  On my main blog I wrote several too but they are scattered without a category.  Years before I started blogging I noticed these tricks by manufacturers.  I think the most cunning and sneakiest I’ve ever seen was the “stretching” of meat by small cuts on the underneath side so it could be stretched out larger within the package.  It appeared to be more than was actually there.

FOODS 2013 154

The second clue of short sizing or shrinkflation is when something just doesn’t last as long as it used to last.  Or is not quite enough for a recipe when it was always plenty before.  The harsh reality is that big manufacturers are meant to manipulate you, not to educate you.  The more confused you are and the longer they can keep you confused the greater their profits.

If you are still shopping by price alone you are doing it all wrong. You should be looking at the “unit” price for a comparison before buying.  There is a reason why the price has a large font while the unit price is teeny tiny.  They simply don’t want you to read it or use it even though the unit price is required by law to be there.  The law doesn’t state that the unit price must be large enough to read.

I’ve also notice lately that shelf tags are completely missing from many items and the price check scanners are disappearing from the stores too.  If the shelf tag is missing I either won’t buy it or will ask the cashier to check the price before I decide.  I don’t care how many items have to be returned to the shelves.

Ninety nine cents seems to be a magic number for manufacturers and producers. People don’t usually think in terms of the ninety nine cents being only one penny away from a dollar.  People view prices by looking at the left side of the decimal point and mentally ignoring the right side.  My SIL is that way.  When we are together and I tell her an item costs $5 she will look at the tag and say no its $4…..99.  I don’t argue or quibble over a penny.  But this is how many people view pricing and why there are so many fractional prices around. Heck, even gas prices have the fractional point nine instead of the next penny. Again, that is a strategy to confuse you into spending more of your money for a product.

gas prices

(Image found on wise geek)

The reason I decided to post something that just about everyone is now aware is happening is because there are still some people who are shopping the same way that they always have.  With the same shopping list and at the same stores.  Its now time to stop being controlled by habitual decision making.  Start looking at the unit prices to compare.  I’ve trained myself to mentally round up a price to the next higher dollar when I look at a fractional price.  I’m using the unit price for comparison.  I’m hoping others will do the same.

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10 comments on “Short sizing

  1. Faye
    August 6, 2015

    You know I thought it was just me…I noticed on box cake mixes that I would need to add a full cup of flour to get the same size cake as years ago….just aggravating. I think I am going to just start making up my own mixes like you Anita. MAKES NO SENSE!!! Prices going up…package sizes going down…and less jobs.

    • Na Na
      August 6, 2015

      Makes a person wonder about the future doesn’t it? Yup, makes no sense.

  2. Debbie Rhodes
    May 25, 2015

    Pulled pork or chicken in a tub. One name brand “Curlys” has a BIG dimple in the bottom and they don’t even fill the container up which you can’t tell because the container is opaque.

    • Na Na
      May 25, 2015

      I’ve never heard of curlys. But I can definitely believe they have cut corners. Opaque bottles are easy to only fill partially. Heavy opaque plastic containers are another way to fool the consumer. The plastic is thick (heavy) so it feels as if there is more than what is actually there. Like steak sauce and ketsup.

  3. Kathleen
    May 18, 2015

    This happened about 10 yrs ago to me, every year I make my husband’s favorite cake for his birthday….that year they had cake mixes on sale and I thought “cool, save a bit on the mix”. Got home made the cake and it was about half the size of the other boxed cakes that I had made over the previous 20 years….I ended up mixing 2 boxes to make the same size pan I had used for years…aggregating!!!! Didn’t save anything..in fact I thing it cost me more.
    First things I remember they shorted was bags of sugar….and coffee. 😦 ….what does God say about scales being off? That will get what’s coming to them

    • Na Na
      May 18, 2015

      Ooo, I forgot about the sugar going from 5 to 4 pounds. Lately I’ve seen some 3 pound packs showing up. I stopped buying cake mix a few years ago. I make my own cake mix these days because its so easy and I don’t get any surprises.

    • Jackie
      May 19, 2015

      Yes! A gal who made wedding cakes taught me to mix 1 Jiffy cake mix with a regular cake mix to make a “full” cake. Have you also noticed the chip bags are being reduced also?

      • Na Na
        May 20, 2015

        Yes Jackie I have noticed. What used to be a 25 cent bag is now a dollar for about one and a half ounces.

        If I’m remembering right, adding a jiffy mix would be about half a regular box. Hmm, that means the regular cake mix has shrunk by half. I remember jiffy boxes being 20 cents each. Do you know much are they now?

  4. sarasinart
    May 18, 2015

    This is an excellent post! So many people can afford to just go in the store and pick stuff up and go. I’m not one of them! And if I had a lot of money I still wouldn’t be unaware and let myself be ripped off. Unit pricing is available on most items in most of the stores here and I have an idea how much the stuff I buy should cost per unit, and I check it to make sure I’m buying the most cost efficient size and to actually know what I’m paying per unit. Companies need to make money at our expense, and we need to keep on top of what they’re doing if we live on a budget.

    • Na Na
      May 18, 2015

      Thank you. I do see people looking at prices for comparison but none of them actually look at the unit price. They look at one dollar versus one fifty and think its a bargain. Those 10 for $10 or 5 for $5 and mix and match 5 meat items for $20 are total rip offs. You get what you pay for.

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