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You don’t have to pay more for less with these moves

BRYAN ALLEN/GETTY

By

Donna Fuscaldo


AARP

September 08, 2022


Paying more for less has become the norm with inflation hovering at a 40-year high. But elevated prices aren’t the only way consumers are being squeezed. Shrinkflation, a practice in which manufacturers lower the product count or size but usually not the price, is growing, with consumers shelling out more for less across several categories. ​

This growing phenomenon is not lost on older adults who are forced to scale back. Among baby boomers surveyed by Morning Consult, 62 percent were aware of shrinkflation. A majority were very or somewhat worried about the impact it’s having on their budgets. That makes sense, based on Morning Consult’s research. Consumers polled said they saw shrinkflation in many product areas, including: ​

  • Snacks

  • Pantry items

  • Frozen foods

  • Meat

  • Bread and pastries

  • Dairy

  • Beverages

  • Produce ​

“In consumers’ minds, snacks are the biggest shrinkflation culprit: More than half of U.S. adults said they’ve noticed snacks decreasing in size or quantity while prices have either remained steady or gone up,” wrote Emily Moquin, a food and beverage analyst at Morning Consult, in the research report. ​

Consumers aren’t taking all this shrinkflation lying down. Nor should you. Here are five ways to fight back.​

1. Pay attention to the net weight and count

Avoidance is the best way to combat shrinkflation, and that starts with knowing how to spot it. Pay attention to the net weight or net count of the product you’re purchasing. It may be ounces for apple juice or number of sheets for toilet paper. Looking for the unit price on store shelves will help you spot shrinkage. “Ignore the size name and look at the size number, then compare that with what you have at home and bought last time,” says Edgar Dworsky, founder of Consumer World, and a consumer advocate who has tracked shrinkflation for over 30 years.​

2. Forget loyalty — best deal wins

Older consumers may be loyal to a certain brand, but in times of high inflation, loyalty may not have its rewards. To avoid shrinkflation, experts say consumers should go with the cheapest option. That’s particularly true if a competing brand is on sale. You may even fall in love with the cheaper alternative! ​



3. Go generic

Generics have gotten a bum rap over the years, but these days store brands tend to be equal in quality as well as cheaper in price. Pretty much every supermarket and retailer has its own brands, offering customers savings of anywhere from 20 percent to 25 percent, according to Consumer Reports. ​

4. Buy in bulk

Buying products in bulk is a great way to fight shrinkflation. When you buy in bulk, you often pay less per unit. It may be pennies, but those pennies quickly add up. However, this way of saving isn’t for everyone. You’ll have to spend more up front and transport the items, which may be heavy, such as water or canned goods. You’ll also have to make sure you’ll use whatever you buy. “Buy in bulk when the price is good, but don’t overbuy, particularly food that will spoil or that you won’t be able to use by the ‘best by’ date,” says Dworsky. ​

5. Look for deals and discounts

If there are no suitable alternatives and you have no choice but to absorb the shrinkage, look for other ways to save. Here are several tactics you can employ:

  • Sign up for your favorite brands’ email, mail and text lists

  • Use mobile apps and digital coupons

  • Search for discounts on deal websites

  • Wait for items to go on sale

  • Track products on social media



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