No Sugar Added: The case of the shrinking Saltines

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The other day, I got a call from the high school nurse. My daughter, Ophelia, needed to be picked up. Apparently, her symptoms indicated that she may have suffered a concussion. Nausea, lightheadedness, trouble focusing on her work.

How might this have happened, the school nurse inquired?

It was a reach, but I interjected that perhaps it may have had something to do with the fact that her 11-year-old brother, Charles, had, two nights earlier, kicked her with enough force to leave a skateboarding shoe imprint upon her delicate forehead.

So I picked her up, took her home, and then headed to the local grocery store to gather Saltine crackers, ginger ale and the makings for homemade chicken noodle soup.

The usual trio of healing.

As I opened the box of saltines, I noticed something was amiss. The crackers just didn’t “feel” right in my hand as I slid them from their protective plastic sleeve. Upon closer inspection, I ascertained that they indeed were not “right.” They were not the same Saltines I had been serving my nauseated children for the past 17 years. They were smaller. Most people may not have noticed, but, being a designer, and quite aware of details, I noticed. They had shaved a quarter inch or so off of the width of each cracker.

Our Saltines had shrunk.

This was disturbing to me on a number of levels.

First, they still cost the same price.

Second, it was just another casualty to add to my list of shrinking food items.

It began with the cans of Campbell’s soup. They got smaller.

Next, it was the cans of tuna. Shrunk.

After that, it was boxes of cereal. Still the same height. Still the same width – so when they sit upon a shelf at the grocery store, they appear to be the same size as they have always been. But those clever people at Kellogg’s or General Mills have made them thinner – the boxes are now not as thick as they used to be. Which means, you guessed it: same price, less cereal.

And to add insult to injury, not only are our food items diminishing in size, but so are our personal hygiene products.

Ladies and gentlemen, our toilet tissue is shrinking.

Yes, you heard it here first. I believe it was last spring that I purchased my usual mega-roll package of quilted Northern at Target, only to pop a roll onto the spindle and notice that something was quite wrong. My designer antennae, trained to notice details, went on high alert.

Why was there suddenly so much of the shiny silver bar showing on each side of the ultra soft, quilted toilet tissue roll?

Had the toilet-tissue holder grown overnight?

No. Indeed, it had not. Instead, the toilet tissue roll had shrunk. Same circumference. But narrower.

Do the people who make Northern toilet tissue think we will not notice such things?

Meanwhile, chain restaurants such as Applebee’s are serving up single dinner-sized portions of food large enough to feed a family of four for a week. And everything comes with two pounds of French fries. Even if you order pasta, you apparently still require more carbohydrates.

No wonder so many Americans are overweight.

With all of that food to digest, one would think that the toilet tissue rolls would be getting larger, not smaller.

So what exactly is happening here? Please tell me, because it boggles my mind.

Are the excess profits from our toilet tissue and cans of shrinking tuna now going toward the production of under-priced, disturbingly over-sized plates of food at places like The Olive Garden?

Is my toilet-tissue money subsidizing the meals of the patrons of such establishments?

A couple of years ago, I purchased a book about the quintessential French lifestyle.

In it, there was a chapter about food. Good food. And how less of one overpriced, delicious thing is better than more of an enormous plate of mediocrity.

I have always agreed with this premise wholeheartedly.

I will happily trade 10 pounds of French fries for one Meyer lemon. Just don’t shrink my toilet tissue.

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No Sugar Added is Cape Elizabeth resident Sandi Amorello’s biweekly take on life, love, death, dating and single parenting. Get more of Sandi at, see her art at Silver Crayon Studios in Portland or contact her at