Nowadays, I not only take my calculator along on grocery shopping trips (the better to ascertain if we can or cannot afford to eat again this week), but I probably should take a magnifying glass along too.
I don’t mean to alarm anyone unnecessarily, but our food appears to be shrinking. Granted, most would agree Americans needs to shrink their portion sizes.
What I think, however, is that most people thought that meant on their plates — not at the source.
When did crackers stop coming four “sleeves” to a box and become only three? Picking up a cool, refreshing half-gallon of ice cream? Forget about it. It’s some weird off-size that I can’t figure out anymore.
Many famous brand cereals now contain an average of 2.4 fewer ounces per box. I suspect that was never mentioned during Saturday morning cartoons.
Always looking out for us, Wrigley’s is dropping its 17-stick PlenTPak in favor of the 15-stick Slim Pack. Obviously it’s just become so unwieldy to carry around 17 whole sticks of gum.
Coffee is the worst offender. Used to be a three-pound coffee can was the absolute benchmark of all things coffee. Nowadays, it’s two pounds and whatever spare ounces they had laying around. “We’ve secretly replaced their dark, sparkling Folgers crystals with . . . fewer dark, sparkling Folgers crystals. Let’s see if they notice.”
Of course, as luck would have it, I’m always poised to do something at the exact wrong moment to do so.
Example: I decided to list our rental properties, after 15 years of happy ownership, at the precise moment the economy took a nose-dive and housing prices went in the dumpster last fall.
Some hapless realtor hammered a “For Sale” sign in the yards and a nanosecond later the economy went into a free-fall. Oops.
In a similar vein, I recently embraced my inner-cook at the very moment grocery store items became dearer than gold. Leave it to me to stop paying for our sustenance with spare change I find laying around the house at the exact same moment that food prices soared and foodstuffs became microscopic.
Thus, at the very moment I did want plenty of ingredients so I could whip up affordable “home cooked meals” the way all the financial experts were urging me to do, the ingredients began to disappear before my very eyes!
I understand it’s probably tough to be a manufacturer these days. Prices are up and down and all around and consumers are holding tighter to their wallets than ever before.
That said, there is just something galling about the way they shout it from the rooftops if they so much change the screw-top from left to right on a bottle of something, but if they cadge six ounces off the top they say nary a word? It feels sneaky somehow.
I think my problem is I’m a nickel and dime kind of gal. I just always have been and I suspect I always will be.
Whether in our salad days or steak and baked potato days, I am always calculating what a product will cost me on a per-month basis. I never just toss something into the cart.
So, say, $3 for crackers sounds like a deal. Factor in, however, that with the ever-smaller portions enclosed I’m now buying four boxes a month and I realize with a start that I’m spending $12 per month for crackers. That seems spendy.
That’s like a cable bill! OK, a cable bill in 1985 (something else the terminally cheap like me never let go of — what things “used to” cost. Inside my middle-aged body beats the heart of some reincarnated Depression survivor who swears she could remember nickel loaves of bread if she just tried harder).
I’m sure what galls me the most is that I never notice this shrinkage on things that wouldn’t sting as much. Last time I checked, a pound of broccoli or a head of cabbage was still just that — a pound or a head. They haven’t started pricing in half-pound or “semi-heads” (yet).
No, it’s all my favorite foods — the chocolate, the sugary, the fabulously fatty yearning to run free on my thighs — that seem to be wasting away to nothing.
Chocolate bars, cookie packs and ice cream are all wasting away to nothing.
Now, if only that could catch on with my waistline — there might be some magic to this shrinkage thing yet!