My box of crackers is shrinking. So, too, is your mac and cheese.

You know this, intellectually. When you go to the store, you’re not crazy. You can see that the box is smaller, the contents weigh less, the container is modified to hold several ounces under its former size.

Faced with the actuality, what can you do? Go without your Ritz? Does it really matter that there is, on average, 20% less of certain products, especially dry goods? Should you care about the carefully reduced packaging of Yoplait yogurt and Maxwell House coffee?

What should any consumer do? I have a friend who recently tried to make her own crackers, not so much because of cost, although she is certainly “hard put” these days. You might try it, if you’re so inclined. There’s a recipe below, but if you do, you’ll suddenly come clear on why we continue buying 15% fewer Triscuits.

Since the economic downturn of 2008, I’ve seen a new futility on the part of the American worker, our middle class. We’re pushed from all sides. Gas prices hovered around $2.75 a gallon four years ago – we’re currently at $3.46, on average. Our costs increased overall, while our incomes have steadily failed to match the cost of living, inching up and up like a weed.

You might be tempted to argue statistics. That’s fine. I can still spot a smaller box and I’m paying higher prices.

Back in high school, when I could really get fantastically upset about public issues and the plight of the common man, I wrote a paper which actually won an award and earned me a spot at a young writers’ conference, called “The Rape of America’s Palate.” It outlined the decline in healthy mass-produced food and the techniques involved in manufacturing our grocery goods – like burning tomatoes to create the flavor you associate with catsup. I was on fire.

After that, I was fighting for myself in the trenches. A story for another day, I’ll just say that the flame snuffed out. I was engaged in earning a drizzling stream of money, staying in college, and making, what I thought, was a way for myself.

All these years later, I can’t say much has changed.

Thoreau’s “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation” gives a sort of bleak hope. What was true in Walden can hold today. But must it be true that we are whittled down, smaller and more spare than at an earlier time?

My dad used to say, of a pretty woman, “I wouldn’t kick her out of bed for eating crackers.” Maybe not, but these days, you might if they were wasted.

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Saltine Cracker Recipe
Copied from Cooks.com

SALTINE CRACKERS
2 c. flour
1 tsp. salt
2/3 c. milk
2 tbsp. butter
1/2 tsp. baking soda
Combine the dry ingredients, cut in the butter, then stir in the milk. Round into a ball and knead for few strokes. Divide dough into several pieces and roll out very thin on a floured board. Lay sheets on ungreased cookie sheet. Sprinkle with salt and prick with a fork. Cut into 1 1/2 inch squares with a sharp knife or pizza cutter. Bake at 375 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes or until lightly browned.

 

Sources:

Companies Shrink Packages as Food Prices Rise

Downsized: More and more products lose weight!

Food containers have been reduced as much as 20% – but prices have not

Historical Gas Price Charts

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