Breakfast isn't the same since the cereal killers came


The Roman goddess Ceres would be laughing all the way to the bank if she knew the price of dried cereal in today's market.

At our house the Great Cereal Debate rages.

Somehow the two of us slipped into the routine of having cereal for breakfast instead of our usual juice and toast. Like little kids, we'd been looking at television ads promoting cereal as having so much "goodness" in it -- whatever goodness means. I guess it's about vitamins, no fat or just hidden sources of energy that guaranteed to make you live longer and stronger.

Dried cereal doesn't have as much fat in it as do two pieces of buttered toast, so we switched over.

We are sampling all brands, and so far we don't feel any better. But then we didn't feel too bad on the fruit and toast.

We've noticed that the people who are eating all these new cereals are young, thin and vibrant. Except of course, the older couple who are eating their All-Bran. (Although I wish they wouldn't scrunch and munch on camera -- that noise drives me nuts). And yes, there are nuts in many of the new cereals.

During our cereal tryouts, we have had inane conversations as in, he says: "Looky here, Grape-Nuts have not changed. Let's stick by them and it doesn't say anything about goodness here. Just that it has 25 minerals and vitamins . . . and wow, you can heat them in the microwave."

"Yuk, I don't want 'em hot, and no," I tell him, "Grape-Nuts still stick to the teeth, I don't want the dentist to spend time extracting Grape-Nuts."

So lately I've been surfing the cereal aisles of my supermarket for cereal golden oldies.

First of all, I can't believe the prices of these cereals. An old standby, Shredded Wheat, isn't so bad: A 16-ounce box costs $2.59.

"Let's stick with Shredded Wheat," I announced.

But he says it has no flavor and he'd rather eat hay.

A box of Total is $3.69, and Cocoa Puffs -- those things grandchildren go cuckoo over -- are $4.79. There's Honey Nut Cheerios for $4.59 (a 16-ounce box), but you get a little quiz about bees on the side panel for Junior. And Frosted Mini-Wheats are $5.15!

Why, I could go to McDonald's and get a cheaper breakfast.

Remember the days when we had just plain old cereal like corn flakes and little metal toys came in the box?

Now cereals are big business, so big that the controversies over prices and added sugar still get national attention. In March, a few lawmakers called cereal prices unfair. Two congressmen reported that breakfast-food makers were overcharging and that the price of cereal had increased by 90 percent since 1983 -- twice the rate of other foods.

The big ones -- Kellogg, General Mills, Post/Nabisco -- were reprimanded. They think the consumer is getting lots of "goodness." Wrong.

I'm with the law makers, the buyer is getting ripped off.

Cereal makers know that our children are looking at those Saturday morning TV ads and threatening their moms with a food strike unless they get one of the colorful brands with the alluring names, and probably yummy and sugar-coated.

But in the congressional, look-see no one was talking about how scarce the contents are in the modern day cereal box.

Remember how you had to squeeze the Charmin? Well, now squeeze your cereal. It crumbles into small powdery stuff, good only for the topping of your '50s macaroni casserole. Half the time, the boxes are only half-full.

While I read all the vitamin contents, I carefully hold the box upside down to see if there is anything in it -- all to find the right cereal.

I don't like shelling out $4.49 for Cocoa Puffs for the grandchildren. And did you ever count the raisins in Raisin Bran? They claim two scoopfuls, but I find about 20 raisins in each box and they are stale.

To add to the cereal debate at our house, we got some samples in the mail. Let's face it: No one turns down anything free. They both boasted "low in fat," but one had 390 milligrams of sodium per serving.

I'm not finished my search yet, and I may just go back to my husband's Texas heritage and have grits.

The box of Quaker Quick hasn't changed: It still has that cherubic-faced man on the box and he's still smiling.

True grits have no sodium and no sugar, and they stick to your rib -- not your teeth. The box of grits is full to the top and sells for $1.29. Now, that's true "goodness."

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