Kit and kaboodle

There are some folks, Mr. Tidbit knows, who think he is being excessively cynical in his view of the grocery industry and what he sometimes calls its "stealth price increases" — incremental reductions in size for the same price — and "convenience" versions that cost much more per ounce than the product as normally packaged. Other folks, including Mr. Tidbit, think he is spot-on.

Then there are most folks, who couldn't care less about Mr. Tidbit or the horse on which he rode in.

Anyway, today the people in the first group win a few points. Mr. Tidbit was wandering down the tomato-products aisle recently when he spotted a new offering: a large box labeled Hunt's Chili Kit. On inspection he found it to contain a can of Hunt's tomato sauce, a can of Hunt's diced tomatoes, a can of Van Camp's kidney beans (all ConAgra products) and a no-name packet of chili seasoning. Brown some meat, add the contents of the kit, simmer: There's chili.

Fair enough, although some people would include any number of other foodstuffs, and some of them would exclude the beans. But what Mr. Tidbit believed to be beyond any dispute was that the "kit" would cost more than the individual components if they were bought separately.

So he priced them all: The 14.5-ounce can of Hunt's diced tomatoes was $1.27 at that store. The 15-ounce can of Hunt's tomato sauce was $1.17. A 15-ounce can of Bush's dark red kidney beans (the store didn't carry Van Camp's) was 92 cents.

Mr. Tidbit wasn't sure how to price the seasoning packet. It was marked as containing 10 grams, while the 99-cent retail chili seasoning packets were more on the order of 30 grams but seemed to contain bulking agents (to make the slim packet appear worth buying). So to be fair, he priced the packet at between 50 and 99 cents. Total price for the contents: $3.86 to $4.35.

Shelf price of the kit: $3.09!

Mr. Tidbit, uncharacteristically, doesn't know what to say.

Cranberry pumpkins

Russell Stover, whose seasonal products (chocolate-covered Santas, hearts, Easter eggs, etc.) Mr. Tidbit has confessed to admiring, has added a number of new filling flavors for its pumpkins this year. They include apple pie, orange cream, pecan pie, pumpkin pie and cranberry cream.

Al Sicherman