6 Ways to Fight the Growing Shrinkage Trend
Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared on The Penny Hoarder.
If you suspect that the things you buy are getting smaller and smaller, you might be right.
- Angel Soft toilet paper was 425 sheets per roll. Now that’s 320 sheets per roll.
- A bag of Doritos weighed 9.75 ounces. It is now 9.25 ounces.
- The dial soap was 21 ounces, and now it’s down to 16 ounces.
- Gatorade bottles were once 32 ounces, but are now 28 ounces.
Product sizes have gone down, but prices have stayed the same – and even gone up in some cases. What’s going on in our grocery stores?
These are just a few of the many, many examples of “shrinkflation” – a term coined to describe when companies reduce the size of a product but maintain the same price.
Although the contraction is more widespread now with rising inflation, it has actually been going on for years, according to ConsumerWorld.org founder Edgar Dworsky, who has been tracking the contraction since 1995.
The contraction may be so subtle that you don’t notice it. So how can you spot in-store shrinkage and ensure you’re getting the most out of what you buy?
Beating shrink begins with simply being a savvy shopper. You will need to be more careful when shopping and be prepared to change your habits. Here are a few ways to do it.
1. Buy the store brand
Don’t hate store brands. They are cheaper, often as good and sometimes even better than the name brands.
When it comes to shrinkage, private labels also have another advantage: they are usually the last brands to shrink in size.
Shrinkflation experts like Dworsky advise turning to store brands, or even other big-name brands, if you notice your favorite brand has started to downsize their product.
2. Compare the price per ounce
This is called the unit price. You simply divide the total price by the quantity to determine the unit price.
For example, if a carton of soup is 12 ounces and costs $2.40, the unit price of the soup would be 20 cents per ounce. However, if the manufacturer reduces the size of a carton to 10 ounces and keeps the price the same, the unit price would be 24 cents per ounce.
This hack is not just for groceries. Look at the price per ounce or per item for toothpaste, baby wipes, razor blades, etc.
Most stores include the unit price next to the total price on the shelves labeled under the items.
The unit price must be disclosed in many states, while many retailers still choose to disclose it even when it is not required.
3. Buy in bulk
Buying in bulk from retailers like Costco and Sam’s Club not only helps you save money, but it will also help reduce the amount of shrinkage you experience.
In many cases, goods bought in bulk are a better deal as they usually have a lower unit price. Let’s say a single apple costs 75 cents at the grocery store and a 3-pound bag at Costco containing six apples costs $3. You’ll save 25 cents per apple by buying in bulk.
This is especially true for dry products, which last much longer. The more such products you already have on hand, the less you’ll need to buy them at the grocery store, which could prevent the contraction back and forth.
A great online alternative to buying wholesale is Amazon’s Subscribe & Register program.
4. Consider other stores
Inflation even hit discount stores like Dollar Tree, Family Dollar and Dollar General. Everything is no longer a dollar, as some items in these stores have been raised to a new base price of $1.25 or $1.50.
That said, you can still find plenty of great products, including pantry essentials, at an incredibly low price. From egg pasta to cereal, chips and snacks, all for a dollar.
There are deals to be found at other locations as well. Pharmacy rewards programs and numerous coupons can reduce the price of your shampoo or granola bars to little or nothing.
5. Shop online
Shopping online is more of a shrink time saver than anything else.
You can quickly compare prices and unit prices without walking around the grocery store and struggling to read the fine print on a price tag. You can also quickly compare prices between stores — or even just other sellers — and brands to see where your dollar will go further.
Then, even if you choose to visit the store in person, you should have a good idea of how it handles shrinkage.
6. Take advantage of discounted apps
Stores like Target and Walmart have apps with a huge collection of digital coupons to help you save.
Make a shopping list and possibly a meal plan, then browse these apps to find available coupons for the products you need. Other apps like Checkout51 and Ibotta help you earn cash back and offer weekly discounts at many grocery stores.
Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click on links in our stories.