Frugal Frustrations: Shrinking Products

First it was coffee. We started to notice cans of coffee no longer contained a pound of coffee. This was not really noticeable for us because we buy our coffee in bulk at the warehouse club. Then it was ice cream. No longer were containers half gallon, but 1.75 quarts. We lost 12.5% of the product overnight. It was a pretty bold move cutting the size of the product so much.

Now, another shrinking product, this time a 20% cut in the size of the product. 20%?!?!?! shrinking products

I had heard a lot about this one but this week was the first time it hit my grocery purchases. We don’t use much sugar in our house. I had been buying it at the warehouse club but with the small amount of sugar we use, I decided to pick it up at Wal-Mart instead. Our previous 5 pound bags of sugar, have been reduced to 4 pounds.

For as long as I can remember, this staple in the kitchen has been 5 pounds. You would buy 5 pounds of flour and 5 pounds of sugar (good God, is flour next?).

I understand that huge increases in cost have motivated this move, but I think it is silly. With other products, people might not so easily notice but losing a pound of sugar in your bag. I would imagine that this is noticeable.

Why can’t food producers just be honest with us? Rather than raising prices, they decrease the size of the product and hope we don’t notice. With the price of everything going up today, most people are frustrated but understand. I would rather pay higher prices and get the same amount of product than come home and realize I’ve been cheated out of 20% of the product!

Have you noticed the shrinking products on the grocery shelves? Which ones have frustrated you the most?

 

Coffee!

Yesterday, on the Facebook page, I ask readers to consider how much they could save if they made coffee at home rather than buying it before work. The savings are pretty amazing really. If you spend $5 a day on coffee, you’ll save over $1,000 a year! I thought I’d talk a bit about making good coffee at home, because if you aren’t making good coffee at home, you aren’t going to drink it.

The Coffee Maker

I’ve used a lot of different coffee makers in my day. I’ve also worked for a few coffee shops, too. I don’t see a huge difference in coffee makers in the way they brew coffee. Some do a better job than others at keeping coffee hot without burning your coffee. Some have more features than others. We use the Cuisinart DCC-1200 12-Cup Brew Central Coffeemaker. We’ve had this coffee maker for about six years now. We broke the pot once and it was easy to find a replacement. It makes a large pot of coffee but also has a setting for 4 cups or less. It is programmable, too (not that we remember to program it very often. The Cuisinart also has a auto shut off. It doesn’t grind beans or anything special like that, but it does what we need it to do at a great price. We also use the coffee maker to brew tea for iced tea in the summer.

Coffee

Since you are saving so much money making your own coffee at home, don’t buy cheap beans. If you don’t like the coffee you’re making, you aren’t going to drink it. First you’ve got to figure out what kind of roast you like: mild, medium or dark. Do you like flavored coffee? If you never make coffee at home, you might want to see if you can get a sampler pack. Try a few different things, starting with mild and getting progressively stronger. Try different brands of coffee too. We purchase our coffee at BJ’s. We purchase the store brand French roast. It’s a great coffee at a really good price. The internet is also a great place to find coffee deals. Even if you purchase expensive beans, you will still save a fortune.

There are lots of people who debate freezing vs. not freezing your beans. I’ve done a bit of research on this and we don’t freeze our beans. As long as you are going to use up what you have in less than 30 days, don’t freeze them. If you purchase a large amount of coffee and won’t use it in that amount of time, you should keep some of the coffee in an airtight container out of direct sunlight and freeze the rest. Taking the coffee in and out of the freezer daily messes with the oils in the coffee and will also mess with the flavor. I’ve never tasted a huge difference between grounding coffee at the store and grinding it at home. I use the free grinder at the store. Just make sure that you choose the right grind for your coffee maker. The finer the grind, the stronger your coffee will be. We use a finer grind and use less coffee for each pot.

Odds and Ends

There are tons of different tools out there that claim to help you make better coffee. There are only a few that I have purchased:

  • Tamper/Scoop – When I worked for Starbucks in college, we used on of these for the espresso machines. I use it today for my coffee maker. We use one scoop for every two cups of coffee. Then we use the tamper end to tap down the coffee. The slower the coffee travels through the grinds, the stronger the coffee will be. You can use less grinds to get the same cup of coffee. Most brands will suggest one scoop per cup, so we’ve been able to cut our grind usage in half.
  • Unbleached filters – we’ve tried using just a gold tone filter but because of the fine grind we use, it leaves coffee dust (not the official term) in the last cup. I’m not a huge fan of coffee dust, so we use unbleached filters. Again, I buy these at BJ’s. They are really inexpensive. Make sure you purchase the right filters for your coffee maker.
  • Travel mugs – There are tons of different kinds out there, but if you don’t have one, you can’t take your coffee with you. Jeff has a large thermos and a travel mug that he takes with him everyday. He LOVES coffee.
  • Cream and sweetener – I would highly recommend that you purchase whatever your local coffee stop normally puts in your coffee. If you are used to half-n-half, purchase that. If you usually use nondairy creamer and you like it, buy it. This is another one of those places that if you skimp, you’ll regret it. I use French vanilla nondairy creamer. I like the way it makes my coffee taste.

Making coffee at home is a great way to trim your budget. Just make sure you like what you are brewing at home. If you don’t, you just wasted a bunch of money and you’ll be back to your local coffee shop on Monday.