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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, February 4, 2010

Check those packages before you buy


By Robbie Dingeman

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Nivea's body washes for men and women are similar, except when it comes to price: Men pay $2 less.

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"Take a closer look" is the theme of this week's consumer tips for navigating the marketplace.

For example, check the size of the package you're buying, even if it's a brand you've bought all your life.

Best example from the world of baking, for holidays past and future? Check out that C&H bag of sugar in the familiar pink-and-white package.

Yes, the company is keeping its California & Hawaiian heritage alive with that little hibiscus but some other things have changed.

There's the 10-pound package, right next to the more popular 5-pound package that's on sale. But wait, there's a 4-pound bag sold now as well, so check before you buy that you know what size bag you're putting in your shopping cart.

That's especially true for a package you've come to rely on to give you the same product year after year.

And that's a good reminder to check sizes now and then. Some companies, including makers of cereals, cheese, candy bars, peanut butter and snacks will sometimes reduce the size of the package or the amount of product rather than increase the price.

In the January issue of Consumer Reports, the staff found that women can save some money by considering the similar product marketed toward men in items that range from shaving cream and razors to antiperspirant and even pain reliever.

While some manufacturers maintain that the formulas are different for each product, the consumer watchdog magazine noted that some have the same percentage of identical active ingredients.

JUST FOR MEN?

The magazine pointed to a 16.9-ounce bottle of Nivea body wash as one example. Nivea for men comes in "cool" or "energy." A bottle for women includes "Touch of Happiness" and sells for $7.49 while the men's washes go for $5.49, a $2 difference.

Razor blades with gender identity often cost more for women, so if you examine the packages and find little difference, you might save money by choosing the cheaper item regardless of whether you match the marketing image.

With most of us working to stretch our dollars and not let things go to waste, we found some household rescue tips.

SUGAR STORAGE

The C&H Web site offers storage tips: Keep granulated sugar indefinitely in a covered container in a cool, dry area; store brown sugar in a cool, moist area in a covered container or a rustproof container or heavy, moisture-proof plastic bag.

The company advises against storing brown sugar in the refrigerator but you may want to freeze it, then thaw frozen sugar for two or three hours.

You can also revive hard brown sugar by heating it in a microwave covered loosely with a wet paper towel in 30-second intervals; or in a 250-degree oven. But you have to use it carefully (it's hot) before it cools and hardens again.

You've bought a bargain twin-pack of bread and a guest brings yet more bread. If you end up with more than you'll eat in a day or two and you didn't manage to send any home with your guest the best thing to do is freeze a loaf, then reheat it later in the oven.

If you forget about the bread and find it's rock-hard on the counter, you've still got some hope.

To warm bread, biscuits, or muffins that were refrigerated, place them in a microwave with a cup of water. The increased moisture will keep the food moist and help it reheat faster.

Curious about consumer issues or have a tip to share? Contact Robbie Dingeman at 535-2429.