What you can do

Last reviewed: February 2011
  • Look at different brands. Not all competitors act in lockstep. Minute Maid still sells its orange juice in half-gallons, and Ben & Jerry's packs its ice cream in pints. In addition, companies don't always downsize every package in their lineup.
  • Compare unit price (per ounce, per quart, per pound, or per sheet) of package sizes. Promotions change, making one size or another cheaper from week to week.
  • Try store brands. They're usually 25 to 30 percent cheaper than name brands and are often at least as good, we've found.
  • Stock up and save. Supermarkets sell staples such as paper goods, cereal, and soups at or below cost to draw you in. Those "loss leaders" rotate regularly. If you follow flyers, you'll see that many items go on sale at predictable intervals, letting you stock up until the next sale.
  • Buy in bulk. Warehouse clubs offer everyday low prices on large sizes or multipacks, so you don't have to wait for a sale.
  • Contact the company. When we asked customer-service representatives why a product had been downsized, we were often given coupons toward our next purchase.

If enough people complain, companies may actually listen. Virginia reader Glenn Tonnesen thought Pepperidge Farm was trying to pull a fast one by labeling its German Dark Wheat bread "New Size, New Price." The old loaf weighed 24 ounces and cost $2.66 per pound; the new was 18 ounces and $2.92. The message, Tonnesen suggested: "We made it smaller, but that's OK because we made it more expensive!" Pressured by consumers unhappy with the lithe loaf, Pepperidge Farm brought back the larger one, briefly. It has since been discontinued.