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Shelling Out More (or the Same) For Less

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You may have been spared growing up with weekly coupon cutting and no-name canned goods, all while laboring through grocery aisles with a mom, a calculator and three or four baby sisters hanging in and on the cart. OK, that’s not many people, but during the recession in the ‘80s my parents had to track every dime and there are few things like needing to feed a family of eight to make a grocery budget strain at its seams.

With all the grocery-bill-cutting advice these days, there’s a lot of "don’t waste" tips (excellent idea—waste makes up an average of 25-30% of your budget). Look at upper shelves and lower because items placed in the middle are the most expensive, don’t shop hungry and have a list. But what are manufacturers and vendors doing on their end to cut their costs? After all, their profit margin is hurting too.

A fantastic (and fun) spot on the blog Consumerist tracks the interesting changes on the retail side with “Grocery Shrink Ray.” When the size of your favorite jar of peanut butter suddenly shrinks but the price stays the same, who’s getting the short end of that stick? Of course, retailers have to adjust to economic changes as well but what you can do is be mindful of packaging in those grocery and toiletry aisles. Check ounces vs. cost per ounce. Seems like a chore but a quick peek at that 16.5 vs. remembering last week that the jar was 18 oz. can lead you to the jar down lower that costs less for the same amount, and heck, you might like it better.

One key to smart shopping is knowing that big business needs to keep up its end too and will make changes—not only price changes—to do that. Respecting that two-way street and thinking about how you can make it work for you is really taking control of what you have control over—your money. Now, about my peanut butter…