Less for more

By Joe Rector

Some kind of critters managed to sneak their ways into a box of cereal at the house. At first, I thought, “Mice,” but on further inspection, I decided that some kind of little bugs had gotten into the stuff. Off I went in search of plastic containers to hold cereals and other types of foods, and before reorganizing the cabinets, I scrubbed them with soap and vacuumed everything. The problem has been solved.

What I have noticed during this cleaning exercise is just how much smaller boxes of cereal are. I remember back when I was a boy and my dad, who died August 31, 1965, would eat cornflakes. He’d grab a bowl that resembled a washtub and pour the stuff in. That box fed a family of five for at least a week with some to spare when the next grocery store trip rolled around.

Today, a box of most cereal is about twelve ounces. That makes for too few servings. Oh sure, a family can pour a meager serving of flakes or oats or shredded wheat into their bowls and stretch the box over a longer period of time, but I thought the reason for eating cereal for breakfast was to have a meal, not a snack. Yes, I know cereal isn’t the healthiest choice for the morning meal, but sometimes I’m in a rush, and at other times, I don’t have an appetite for bacon and eggs or some other larger menu item.

Chips are other food items that have shrunk over the years. Back in the day, a large bag of Fritos or Lays Potato Chips was a treat at hour house. We three boys would fill ourselves and still have the majority of the bag left for other times. I discovered Cheetos when I was about thirteen and have since loved them. The old bags were stuffed with big pieces, unlike the scrawny products today that have more air than food in them. The Cheetos are tiny morsels that do little to satisfy a craving.

I almost laugh out loud when I watch the Payday candy commercial. The announcer talks about the giant size of the bars. He evidently was not a child of the 50’s and 60’s. A Baby Ruth or a Payday was so large that a child could only ingest about half of the candy. The leftover part was stashed in the refrigerator for a later time. Sugar Daddy suckers lived up to their claims as “all day suckers.” Mouths and jaws tired long before the pure sugar treat was eaten, and the remaining part was good for later if the wrapper didn’t stick too tightly to the surface.

The only things that haven’t shrunk over the years are prices. I suffer from sticker shock every time I look to purchase a treat. My favorite candy is Reese’s Cups, but I just can’t bring myself to spend a dollar or more for an item that is half the original size. On occasion, I will break down and buy some kind of candy, but I’m so traumatized by the price that the joy in the treat is gone.

I do realize that time has marched on and that things are different. I further recognize that prices have increased for everything we buy. What I don’t understand is how we’ve allowed companies to increase prices on products while reducing the amount that a container holds. Even toothpaste prices have soared, but the tubes hold much less than they once did. It would be nice to occasionally be able to buy an oversized Reese’s Cup and feel I’ve gotten my money’s worth. However, that’s not going to happen in this lifetime.

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