Is Shrinkflation Affecting Your Wallet? Here's How To Look Out For This Sneaky Trend

It's not your imagination, your kid's favorite snacks are getting smaller (but cost the same price).

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Photo of little boys helps their mother in a shopping at supermarket
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Grocery shopping is always an adventure — especially when your kids are trying to sneak sugary cereals and cookies into the cart while you're distracted. But thanks to shrinkflation, parents have something new to worry about: products getting smaller but the price staying the same (or, in some cases, increasing). That's right; not only do you have to double check how much your favorite brand of peanut butter costs thanks to inflation, but now you also have to figure out if you're paying more for less.

With inflation at an all-time high, consumers are already feeling the pinch in their wallets — especially at the grocery store. This is especially troubling for families and anyone living on a fixed income. Many budget-savvy moms are already cutting coupons and switching to store brands when it makes sense. Still, it's hard to save money when brands are sneakily passing the cost of supply chain issues and inflation on to consumers by shrinking their products in the most subtle (some might even say insidious) of ways.

Luckily, people aren't just noticing the brands shrinking products instead of prices; they're calling them out on TikTok and Reddit. The shrinkflation tag on TikTok has garnered over 240 million views, while the shrinkflation subreddit is proving to be an invaluable resource for anyone trying to keep track of which brands are taking part in the trend.

Whether you're new to this troubling retail phenomenon or simply looking for ways to make your grocery budget stretch a little bit further, read on for everything you need to know about avoiding shrinkflation before heading to the checkout counter.

Why is shrinkflation happening now?

Shrinkflation has been around for a long time, but it's now getting more attention thanks to an uptick in brands' shrinking products to pass production costs to consumers. A recent survey from Morning Consult revealed that 54% of American adults are aware of shrinkflation, and of those, 64% are concerned about the trend. The high awareness is largely thanks to inflation making shoppers hypervigilant of rising costs.

As you may have guessed, just as inflation is affecting your household, it's also impacting the companies that produce the products lining grocery store shelves. Corporations are trying to combat rising gas prices, ongoing supply chain issues, the increase in the prices of ingredients, and continued COVID outbreaks that can slow production. All these costs add up over time, and for many companies, the solution is to pass those costs down to the consumer in the most subtle way possible.

Enter shrinkflation. The catchy term describes the practice of making products smaller without informing consumers that they're getting less. For instance, where once your kid's favorite granola bar may have come in a box of 12, you may notice it now only has 11. The difference may be small, but it adds up over time, especially when you're getting less bang (re: granola bars) for your buck.

How can you spot shrinkflation?

Unless you memorized the pre-pandemic size of your go-to cereal brand — and let's be real, no one has time for that when you're busy keeping up with your entire family's schedule — spotting shrinkflation can be tricky. Companies don't want you to notice you're getting less product, so some brands actually attempt to make the packaging look bigger. With that in mind, here's what you need to do before your next shopping trip:

  • Start paying attention to a product's net weight or the net count in paper products. This will help you catch shrinkage early.
  • Be wary of new package designs. Is your cereal box suddenly taller? That's not a glow-up; that's a way to create the illusion that you're getting more, when in actuality, the box is likely also thinner, which means it holds less food.
  • Visit Reddit and TikTok to see which brands are being called out for shrinkflation online — then you can make an informed decision about whether or not it's still a must-buy product or one that can be substituted for something more cost-efficient.

Ways to Keep Shrinkflation From Eating Up Your Budget

Now that you know what to look out for, let's explore ways to beat shrinkflation before it impacts your family's monthly shopping allowance too much.

  • Switch to generic or store brands where possible. They cost less, and in many cases, they contain the same ingredients.
  • Reach out to companies if you notice their product size is shrinking. They're not likely to reverse course, but they do care about keeping customers happy. Often they'll send along coupons you can use on your next shopping trip.
  • Pay extra attention on the snack aisle. While consumers have noticed shrinkflation across all grocery categories, according to Morning Consult, shoppers believe snacks are being hit the hardest. That means now is the perfect time to start putting together simple homemade snacks for your kids (and for yourself) instead of hitting the oh-so-tempting chip aisle.
  • Buy in bulk! Bulk savings are real and can cut down on trips to the grocery store, which means more family time and more time for yourself.
  • Use discount apps. Sure, coupons are awesome but cut the price for your favorite foods even lower with digital ones. You can find coupons that best suit your grocery list using discount apps.
  • Shop online. Not only does this save you a trip to the grocery store, but you can compare prices and unit pricing faster than strolling the aisles and analyzing the back of different packages. Often you can buy things in bulk online or search the web for a more reasonable price.

Shrinkflation is both annoying and costly, but by making a few adjustments, you can avoid spending more and getting less at the grocery store — but you're on your own when it comes to keeping your toddler from tossing random candy bars into the cart while you're trying to check out.

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