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May 11, 2008

The incredible shrinking everything


Before the conversation on sneaky downsizing goes much further, I thought I better make it a separate entry. Where I really mind it is in cans of things, because I like cooking from mid-century cookbooks sometimes, when sizes were different. It can really affect a recipe, and it's hard to make the right adjustment.

Just to bring you up to date, here's the discussion so far: ...

Has anyone noticed that all ice creams are shrinking? What used to be a half-gallon box is now 1 3/4 quarts, or sometimes even 1 1/2. Of course, the price didn't shrink at all ...

Posted by: WildBillFan | May 10, 2008 6:01 PM

WildBillFan -- I made the same point about ice cream sizes two weeks ago, as per this post (scroll down to my comment at April 29, 2008 6:38 AM).

Posted by: hmpstd | May 11, 2008 7:06 AM

The incredible shrinking food size affects more than just ice cream. I expect some of them are scaling back the size and keeping the price the same hoping that not too many people will notice rather than raising the price and having everyone notice.

Posted by: Rosebud | May 11, 2008 7:39 AM

I am so happy that I am not the only person who is unhappy with the shrinking ice cream carton. I was in the grocery store this week and noticed how much the 'half gallon' carton had shrunk. Now intellectually I had processed the change a long time ago, but the visual processing had not quite kicked in. There in the case was a Turkey Hill special edition carton sitting strangely alone on the half-filled shelf. It was so tiny that I stopped to really look. Well, it was 48 ounces. This is a difference not to be sniffed at. Coupled with the 3.69 per gallon cost of gasoline and it is just too much for a mere mortal such as I. I am going back to bed to await my Mothers Day breakfast. But since the two chefs are still asleep, maybe I will make my own.

Posted by: Regina | May 11, 2008 7:44 AM

As I put the groceries away Friday, I realized that the Hellman's mayo was now only 30 oz instead of 32. Luckily, it was a BOGO or I would have been more upset.

Posted by: bra1nchild | May 11, 2008 8:25 AM

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 10:11 AM | | Comments (58)


I hate it, too. It shows condescension towards the buyer.

When possible, I avoid buying products whose manufacturers do this. As I said back on April 29th, I stopped buying Greenspring half and half when they changed the quart containers to 28 ounces. Beans from one of the local coffee roasters are sold at Whole Foods near me, but I won't buy them because they're sold in less than one pound bags (I forget if they were 14 or 12 ounces).

Those of us of a certain age can recall when size shrinkage was used to maintain the price of a single-serving portion, such as the 5¢ or 10¢ candy bar (boy, am I dating myself with those price references). Absent extreme gluttony, the same reasoning can't be used to justify shrinking the half-gallon carton of ice cream (let alone shrinking the quart of mayonnaise).

Please don't try making any older pasta recipes which call for a "32 oz." jar of pasta sauce, 'cause most have gotten down to 26 ounces (with stops at 30 and 28) and a few are already down to 24.

That's why they stopped saying "Half Gallon" or "Quart" on the ice cream - those are established quantities, so they now say "56 ounces" and can get away with it. By the way, does milk still come in Gallons? I don't buy large quantities so I haven't noticed.

What's a BOGO?

Buy one, get one (free). EL

Favorite NYC graffiti: No Mo PoMo

Just as Geroge Costanza said: THERE WAS SHRINKAGE!!!

Just think of it as capitalism putting America on a diet.

I haven't seen BOGO at a grocery for quite some time. Where was this?

I would rather think of it as what it really is: capitalism knowing America (in a Biblical sense.)

Here's another one -- Tropicana now has a new 'easy pour pitcher' they are promoting the heck out of. What they aren't saying much about is that the size of their container has shrunk. What used to be a 96 oz. jug (i.e. 1 1/2 gallons) is now an 'easy-pour pitcher' that holds 89 oz. So you get basically 7 percent less orange juice for the price.

I can't stand it when companies try to pull these fast ones wrapped up in nice marketing, treating shoppers -- their potential customers -- as complete stooges.

The Web site is great for finding out about stuff like this -- and then vowing to take your business elsewhere.

The BOGO in question was in Publix in South Florida. It's just a way to soften us up before the next hurricane when we will act like Baltimoreans and queue up for milk, bread, toilet paper and water.

RTSO ... Capitalism knows you intimately on a daily basis. Walk gently with it in Bliblical fashion. You have no choice.

Safeway always has BOGOs all over the store.

The Consumerist blog has a watch for this kind of thing. They seem to be inconsistent in how they label the posts, but for example take a look at their "grocery shrink ray" category:

They'll also post about shrinking non-food items as well.

Go to Safeway's web site. They have a section that lists many BOGOs. Ice cream is almost always in abundance on that list under ONLINE SAVINGS.

Ever notice that they do a BOGO right before a price increase, or they have one before they put out the reduced-sized containers?

I'm not a fan of BOGOs. As a singleton, I often need only one of an item, especially if it's perishable, and I'd much rather get a discount on the one I want than feel like either I'm losing out by only buying one or I'm being pressured into getting one I don't need, just so I don't get cheated out of a bargain.

But back on topic, as EL said, those of us who sometimes like to cook old-school with the inevitable and somehow ever-so-satifying can of cream of mushroom (or chicken or celery, or . . . ) soup, find that the recipes don't turn out quite the same now that the cans are smaller.

Superfresh has done a lot of BOGO's recently for meat. Their Perdue boneless skinless chicken breast and ground beef specifically. I hate to grocery store hop but I've taken to making lists for 2-3 different stores, comparing the prices and hitting them with my stack of coupons clipped from the Sunday Sun.

Good to know there are so many Consumerist readers out there!

Two questions that I've raised elsewhere:

1. How do reduced package sizes affect recipes? May the Lord strike me if I ever make anything that requires 32 oz. of mayonnaise, but would you then have to buy *two* jars?

2. Sometimes manufacturers pull a similiarly annoying ploy: they water down the product so you have to use twice as much of it to get the same effect. Lather, rinse and repeat!

Liz Kay said: 1. How do reduced package sizes affect recipes? May the Lord strike me if I ever make anything that requires 32 oz. of mayonnaise, but would you then have to buy *two* jars?

Mayonnaise isn't a good example, as an open jar of mayo has a pretty good shelf life in the fridge. It's more of an issue with stuff in cans that doesn't keep all that well once the can is opened.

What unholy thing would involve 32 ounces of mayo?

Hey hmpstd, where did you get the cent sign? I haven't seen a ¢ since EBCDIC.

Owl Meat -- it helps to use MS Word on the side. In Word, go to the menu bar, select Insert, Symbol, then select character code 00A2 from the "Unicode (hex)" character set, then hit the Insert button, then hit the Close button. Then, cut/copy the resulting cent sign symbol from Word, and paste it into the D@L comments box, thusly:


Owl Meat Fungi said: Hey hmpstd, where did you get the cent sign? I haven't seen a ¢ since EBCDIC.

EBCDIC?!!! Aaauugghhh! I'd managed to forget about EBCDIC! I think I remember ¢ signs on manual typewriters, though.

You can make them in HTML with ¢

Either I am blissfully unaware or I am totally missing something: What is EBCDIC? Thank you.

That's a long way to go for the cent sign. It jarred me a little because there isn't one on ASCII keyboards.

PRob: There used to be two different character sets for computer terminal keyboards. IBM's was called EBCDIC (Extended Binary Coded Decimal Interchange Code) and everybody else used ASCII. I recall that IBM had a cent sign on theirs. The binary code was different for the different systems too. They both use QWERTY keyboards normally, but have a few special characters that are different. That's what I remember.

Woo Hoo! Thanks to OMG, I have attained another day having learned something new. Now I only wish I had not been so adamantly anti-computer back in the 80s so I could already know this stuff.

Education rules @ D@L.

It's embarassing that i know this but a bit easier way is to hold down the ALT key and then type 0162.


That didn't work LPM. BUt you still super nerd points for trying. Are you using Windows?

Yea. I'm pretty sure thats a windows only trick.
It should work in most any text box though. Try other numbers, every symbol has an corresponding code

I had no problem with the Alt-0162 command in the D@L comment box, thusly:

¢ ¢ ¢

You do have to keep the Alt key depressed while typing all four digits 0162, and then, when you release the Alt key, the ¢ sign magically appears. (And, yes, I use Windows as well as IE 7.)

As for Owl Meat's comments about my original method being a long way to go to generate the cent sign, I'll admit it -- but I doubt I'm going to memorize the Alt-xxxx codes for several dozen symbols. In Word, anyway, the Insert Symbols dialog box remembers the last 18 symbols you selected, and presents those 18 in an easy-to-select line.

¢ ¢ ¢

Yahoo! It worked for me!!!
Now if I could only remember that :-)

¢ £ ¤ ¥ ¦ § ¨ © ª

Ok, so now I'm just being silly before bed time, but I hadn't used codes for special symbols since my old Word Perfect days.

The trick with Alt-0162 (or any other number) is that you have to use the keys on the numeric keypad. The number keys on the main part of the keyboard won't work. I'm currently typing on a laptop, which makes the Alt thing a pain-in-the-&^%$,

In HTML, you can use the HTML code for the cent sign, which is an ampersand followed by "cent;" (without the quotes). I tried demonstrating it earlier, but the blog software turned my demo into an actual cent character. I'll try it again:


Mr. VoR, thanks for another useful bit of HTML code that works with the blogware. I'm using Firefox and when I hold down the Alt key it selects the File menu options. #$@#$.

Since I play with numbers a lot (the Court Order said no more little furry animals) I have a separate numeric keypad for my laptop and it makes this trick easy.

Now, if anyone (who uses Windows) cares, go to Start, All Programs, Accessories, System Tools and then select Character Map. Depending on the font (not all fonts have Alt codes for characters, although those like Times New Roman and Arial do), highlight the character you want, then look in the lower left corner: the Alt0xxx code is there. The method to insert special characters works in all the Office programmes, even Excel. So now you can impress your friends. (Hmm, maybe that's why I'm left to stand alone at cocktail parties.)

So what about those of us who use Macs?
No rude comments, please!

What, Macs don't do this automatically? I would have thought if not, they would send a little guy out to crayon in what ever symbol you might need. (Not to be rude, of course.)

(the Court Order said no more little furry animals)

RtSO, didn't Book object to this? And stop staying up so late, you're channeling something/someone very weird.

Pardon the pun but its best that Book's playmate remain a closed book. They have a past, what with fires and being locked away. And you never know what odd ideas come popping out. Very sad.

It worked with keypad. I use Opera as my browser.

Ta da! It is absolutely bizarre that I had to use the numeric keypad. Who uses that? Aren't the same ASCII codes being transmitted? How is top row 1 different than a numeric keypad 1? Weird.

For a Mac all I know is that it is intuitive, so I'm sure you already know how to do it. Or perhaps an invisible wood nymph will do it for you.


Wow, I just got a nerd shiver. Thanks guys.

What font is this page?

Special chars fun

OMG said: Aren't the same ASCII codes being transmitted? How is top row 1 different than a numeric keypad 1?

I believe it's handled either in the keyboard itself, or the keyboard driver. The operating system proper gets sent the resulting code, not the sequence of ALT and number keys.

Oh, and it isn't ASCII (if it was there wouldn't be a cent sign available).

wow, you guys took care of all the loose ends for me, thanks!

I've got a hex headache. I'm building an interface for my PDP-8 because I know the octal codes better.

Wow, I remember having networked access to a Digital PDP-8 network in high school, lo those many years ago, though it was dial-up access through a teletype terminal (and programs had to be loaded on paper tape). Talk about a blast from the past!

Wow, hmpstd, you are tech OG.

For a mac, try option-4.


It looks good in the preview--did it work in the post? Or did it just produce gobbledygook?

Thank you MIriam. Boo ya! Just a guess.


Oooh, this is fun! Thanks, mitzi!

What else can I do with that option key?

Meanwhile, back on topic, Giant has a number of BOGO deals for the week starting today, including Hebrew National franks, other packages meats, chewing gum, kitchen gadgets, foil pans, and -- get this -- "seasoned skewers". (Silly me -- I always toss the skewers instead of eating them.)

As an added twist, if you buy two packages of Hebrew National franks, you get a free jar of Gulden's mustard. (I assume that means that you have to show up at checkout with 4 packages of franks plus the mustard, and that the cost of 2 packages of franks and the mustard will be deducted at checkout.)

You can get a copyright symbol with option-g, ©, a trademark symbol with option-2, ™, and also use the option key for all your favorite foreign language characters:
ç, option-c
ø, option-o
é, option-e, then hit the e again
ü, option-u, then hit the u again

I could go on, but I won't bore everyone else.

Back on topic--I always thought pasta was sold in one-pound packages, then I took a look at the thin spaghetti I had in my cupboard and it was 12 ounces. Another example of shrinkage?!?

Haven't seen them, but I would assume "seasoned skewers" would be like using rosemary sprigs for skewers - get some herb-y flavor (not some Love Bug) into whatever you are grilling.

My latest package of rotini was 13.25 ounces. Not only less, but a strange number, not nice-n-neat like mitzi's 12 (3/4 of a pound).

In my shopping experience, the 1-lb. pasta box is still used for "basic" varieties (spaghetti, macaroni, penne, ziti), but smaller boxes are used for "special" varieties (tortellini, lasagna sheets, or pasta with extra calcium and/or fiber). Once upon a time, bizarre sizes could be chalked up to conversions from metric standards, but that isn't the case. I now have a box of fiber-rich spaghetti that weighs 14.5 ounces, or 411 grams.

I, too, was looking at the pasta sizes earlier. The Whole Grain and Fiber Enriched spaghetti do come in smaller sizes - I saw ranges from 13.5 to 14.5 ounces. I guess they feel you're getting something "healthier" so you should pay more, like paying more for "salt-fee" things. Some of the imported pastas came in 500 gram packages, about 17.5 ounces, and I have seen "gourmet" pastas in 12 ounce packages.

Having found the character map per the instructions above and having to hunt down this post to try to find it again, I would suggest the following:
1) Special chars are fun but the ALT xxxxx method is no good unless you memorize them,
2) It's a pain in the Windows to get to them via Start, All Programs, Accessories, System Tools, Character Map
3) Once you get to Character Map copy the shortcut to your desjtop for future use.

♫ La la la la ... French Vanilla
♫ Cooo-ooool Whiiiiip

Toilet paper. Well, yes, it IS related to food--hope it's not too early in the morning to be bringing up the relationship. Anyway, have you noticed how skinny the roll looks on the holder now? They have just recently shrunk it. It was somewhat gradual, and for a while you could see on the shelves that some was still the old width, but now it seems to be uniformly 4x4. Used to be 4.5x4.5. Then it got down to 4.2. At 4x4 it is really puny. Hate it. The scale is all wrong for my bathroom.

Is chez G anal or what?


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About this blog
Richard Gorelick was appointed The Baltimore Sun's restaurant critic in September 2010. Before joining the paper staff fulltime, he contributed freelance criticism and features articles about food to area and regional publications. Along the way, he dispatched for short-distance trucking companies, shilled for cultural non-profits, and assisted in cognitive neurology research – never the subject, always the control.

He takes restaurants seriously but not himself, and his favorite restaurant is the one you love, too.

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