How Our Foods Get Screwed

We are constantly being screwed. No, not by sketchy men. By grocery stores and food companies. I get it. The economy is in the toilet, but that doesn’t mean consumers should get screwed.

Toilet paper sheets are an inch shorter, or worse, thinner. Cereal boxes are getting thinner while remaining the same height and width (giving the illusion of containing the same amount). A candy bars has gotten an ounce and a half lighter yet sports the word “Giant”. Because surely only kids eat candy, and kids are stupid.

Let’s examine how we get so screwed…..


Its common knowledge that Americans are obsessed with potato chips. Here’s a frightening statistic:  in 2009 the US spent $2 billion more on chips than the federal government’s entire budget for researching and developing new sources of energy. Which is probably OK, since any new sources of energy would have probably just been spent driving our ourselves back to the store for more chips.

I can safely assume almost everyone reading this has opened a bag of chips and discovered that the bag of salty goodness was just as full of nondelicious nothing as it was with actual chips. And if there’s anything we hate more than paying for water, it’s paying for chipified air.

The Ripoff:

In the food industry likes to get into the habit of “half-filling” their packages with the actual product. On some random episode of “unwrapped” I saw that chip-makers said they want a cushion of air around their products as protection. Sure, a bag of smushed chips sucks, but a bag full of paid air sucks more.

The Other “Light” Meat

For the sake of this post, lets day you want to shrink your waistline and decide to buy “light” meat. As in, “Light” Farmer John Breakfast Links.  Well…even thinner, the companies still think your dumber.

The Rip-Off

Sure, they’ve cut 25% of the calories out. But look closely. Nope, they just decided that a pound should weigh 12 ounces. Its real hard to justify price points on meat since most of us are used to paying by the pound. Hmmm….makes me wonder if the Deli should take just start bulking up the paper that they wrap the meat in. Because nothing says, “screwed” like paying for paper.

Water Water Everywhere

Let’s say you’re giving up carbs or whatever for lent and you decide to replace them with some produce. For the sake of this post, let’s say you’re running low on cash and opt for canned produce. Maybe you’re stocking up for an apocalypse or Y2K-esque shelter, or maybe you just like hoarding in general — who am I to judge?

You come home only to discover that you only got about 4oz of green beans and a shit ton of green bean flavored water. Now, I’m infamous for actually liking “pickle juice” or “olive juice”, but I draw the line somewhere.

Oh, and same goes for meat, only slightly more disturbing.

The Ripoff:

Food manufacturers often put a little something else in their canned foods. Sometimes it’s broth/brine and sometimes it’s syrup, but most of the time it’s just plain old water. The tricky part is that when they label the can, they’re only required to include the “net quantity” which is the combined weight of the food and the water.

Most consumers have no idea how much of their food is actually food until they get home. And PS, if your think you’ve outsmarted the manufactures by buying say, “fresh meat” you should also know that lots of meats are “plumped” with salt water to weigh more and appear bigger. Makes that whole “say no to plumping” commercials a little more meaningful.

The Dome

Ever turn over you peanut butter jar? I know, probably not. Its not like the nutrition label is there or some prize.

This sneaky little dome was put there for one reason: to mess you and make you think there is more peanut butter in that jar. But manufacturers are keeping the prices the same, and sometimes even raising them. Sigh….

It doesnt stop at peanut butter. Remember the now discontinued “Boca Vegan Chili”? It was delicious but not cheap. And at the bottom of that microwavable bowl was…..a giant dome! No wonder it was so skimpy on calories (the whole thing was 150 calories)!

Wow, I’ve rambled enough….So how have you been screwed? What can we do? Boycott? Pitchforks?

18 thoughts on “How Our Foods Get Screwed

  1. The air situation with chips really gets to me every time! You get a huge bag of chips and ends up being filled only 1/3 way up. Same thing goes with bars. By looking at the packaging of a larabar you would expect the thing to be larger by at least 1/3.

    On the flip side though, I do think there should be smaller containers in the grocery stores, priced accordingly of course. I was really shocked when I first came to the US! What do you mean there is not milk container less than 2 liters? And the breads? And why do eggs get sold only by the dozen? What am I supposed to do that I live alone and can’t possibly consume them fast enough? I think that was the main reason I kind of stopped buying most of packaged foods. That, and the fact that I have absolutely no control next to the aforementioned chips…

    • True, and to be honest, food in europe always seems expensive to me. When I got visit my grandmother in Belgium, I get peeved I need to keep going to the store to buy eggs! (I eat a lot of eggs!)

  2. This reminds me of an incident when I was about 7 years old – I had a little packet of Lucky Charms fruit snacks, and there was ONE MEASLY FRUIT SNACK IN THE ENTIRE PACKET!!! The rest was air – there should’ve been at least 10 or 12 little gummy snacks in the packet. Not cool, especially when you’re only 7 years old.

  3. My personal peeve is with ice cream makers. A half gallon is NOT equal to 1.75 Qt. you bastards, and don’t think I didn’t notice that a LONG time ago. Luckily, there’s one ice cream company around here who still makes actual half gallons, which is nice. The crappy thing is, the flavors are limited to pretty much the basics, so if you want something fun like Birthday Cake Flavor or whatever, you have to buy the smaller size to get it.

  4. Boycott AND pitchforks (except for peanut butter). I try to use far less canned or boxed. I started buying dry beans and cooking them all myself and just keep them frozen. I cook off my own veg burgers and such too b/c I know what’s in them, and I’m not paying 5 bucks for 4 patties. That’s a rip off. It’s not even meat!

  5. I do my mom’s grocery shopping too and the chip thing gets me every time. It’s always only half a bag–especially nacho chips. What a rip. A lot of cereal companies are trying to cut down on box size, so you have to make sure you’re still getting the same amount of product for the price. It sucks you have to question everything, but that’s the way it goes these days!

  6. I noticed a few years ago that all of the yogurts had shrunk from the standard 8 ounces to 6 – yet the price stayed same or went up. Ugghh!
    And canned tuna is now mostly 5 oz as opposed to 6. Same price or higher 😦
    As far as eggs, my store does sell eggs in half dozen quantities, yet no bread or buns in half sizes. I wish they sold 4 packs of buns and 1/2 loaves of bread to avoid going stale!

  7. oh this is freakin awesome! thanks for posting the truth here Eden! I hate our FDA! Thats why I want to move back to New Zealand so much. REAL FOOD, REAL PRICES, REAL INGREDIENTS!

  8. The air-filled bag of chips really gets to me. But I hadn’t considered the dome before! Wow, what a shady way to make things appear larger than they are!!

  9. I have to agree with the other commenters! I hate hate hate when I spend money on chips (which I know I can make at home for cheaper) and half the bag is just puffed up nothing. I think scrutinize the main thing consumers can do. Pay attention to labels, price/quantity ratio and ingredients.

  10. i HATE the peanut butter dome! haha i just noticed it today at work with my skippy jar. i went to scoop out a big honker onto my oatmeal and the jar fell on the ground and i looked down at it and thought wow that is a HUGE dent between the ground and the bottom of the jar..

  11. Oh the joys of the FDA and the food industry, haha I hope enough people start noticing these ways of our food companies get around things and start demanding better food and better quality of products. I think we all deserve to pay for good food and get our money’s worth 🙂

  12. Even more reason to make your own treats. So much cheaper to buy ingredients and then make what you like:)

    P.S. I enjoyed reading your post on “Meals and Moves.”

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