Back in the 80s I had a strange fascination with Shrinky Dinks — the toy, not ‘the deflating disappointment’. Sigh. If you were a kid during the late 70s and early 80s, you too probably couldn’t avoid these plastic pieces shaped like Smurfs or superheros hiding in your cereal boxes and under your peanut butter jar lids.

If you have no idea what I’m squawking about, I’ll briefly bring back the magic. Basically, you take your Shrinky Dink character, color it with a marker, and then oven bake it for like two minutes. The magic happens when that Dink shrinks to one-third their original size and becomes nine times thicker. Cool, eh! Kids could then turn Shrinky Dinks into shoelace charms or necklaces. So much awesome fun in a teeny tiny package.

Anyhoo, as an adult my fascination with teeny tiny things hasn’t waned. I often bake miniature morsels and I’m a little obsessed with compact packages. In my world (yeah, it’s a nice place to visit) small things can bring a lot of big fun.

But my wondrous world of the teeny tiny came to an end the other day when Carl brought home the groceries. Turns out his favorite brand of peanut butter turned into the dinks of shrinks by packing 25% less product into each jar. Yeah, the store discontinued the larger 1kg size in favor of this 750g shrunken micro mini — a decrease of 250g, or 25% per jar.

HONEY, they shrunk the peanut butter!

After unsticking my tongue from the roof of my mouth in disgust, I did a little mathy math to figure out the cost of a humble peanut butter sandwich. I went through my grocery receipts and found the prices.

The gobsmacking results surprised me, and we’re not talkin’ peanuts here, people.

consumer spending

Over time we’ve purchased both the 1kg and 750g jars for $3.99 each. At $3.99 per jar, there’s a jump in unit price from $0.40/100g to $0.53/100g — an increase of $0.13/100g.

Bottom Line: The lip smacking mathy math does not lie — a 25% decrease in product size at $3.99 per jar results in a 33% increase in peanut butter price!

What you can do about ‘Shrinky Dink’ products

Price inflation with product deflation is a strange, and expensive phenomenon. There’s no doubt that mindlessly buying your usual grocery products without paying attention to unit prices, sizes, and old receipts can cost you. Yeppers, those marketers are sneaky sneakers and often repackage and rebrand shrunken products JUST to charge you more.

As a smart consumer, there are a few tactics you can employ to combat the dreaded Shrinky Dink product and save yourself a little dough.

Tactics for combating Shrinky Dink products:

  1. Buy the larger size. If the former regularly sized product becomes a cute micro mini, compare the unit price of the larger size, if available — it may be a better deal.
  2. Compare prices at another store. When your usual supermarket becomes super at shrinking, do a price check experiment at another chain to compare prices. My Price Check Experiment at Costco shows you how to do it, and reveals super savings on certain products.
  3. Make it at home. If you’re fed up with paying bigger prices for smaller grocery items, then roll up your sleeves and get friendly with the word HOMEMADE. Carl hasn’t bought peanut butter in months since he now roasts and grinds organic nuts at home for less.

    Here’s the recipe: Homemade Peanut Butter: A Visual Guide and Cost Analysis.

Lastly, calling up customer service and registering a complaint about micronized products might be worth a shot too.

Question for you guys: Have you ever noticed a shrunken product with the same price? What do you do about it?