Across the nation, the cost of food is soaring. In May, the food price index rose 10.1% compared to the previous year — the highest increase the U.S has endured since 1981. And then you’ve got prices rising at historic levels on other things too. For instance, the average cost of gasoline is $4.01, as of Aug. 10, according to AAA; in 2021 it was $3.18, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Naturally, as the cost of basic goods spikes, consumers are feeling the heat and being all but forced to seek out reduced prices wherever possible. As such, they’re heading to dollar stores in droves for everything. But this isn’t always a good idea. In some cases, stores like Dollar Tree are actually not your cheapest or best bargain option — especially not for groceries.
“They’re perfectly fine to consume, but the value often isn’t there,” said Julie Ramhold, consumer analyst with DealNews.com. “For instance, a 2.5 ounce bottle of a spice is $1.25 at Dollar Tree, but if you shop Aldi instead, you can expect to pay $1.09 for a 3.12 ounce bottle.”
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“You don’t have to be a coffee snob to recognize that the java at dollar stores doesn’t taste great,” Ramhold said. “You may be able to find some name-brands at select stores, but more often than not you’ll pay more in the long run purchasing your coffee from these discount retailers. Instead, shop for your favorite coffee at big-box stores like Target – you’ll get a better deal and hands down they have a better selection as well.”
“Once again, the price just isn’t as good as what you’ll find at big-box stores, or even warehouse clubs,” Ramhold said. “A 20 oz bottle of ketchup at Dollar Tree will set you back $1.25, but you can find 20 oz bottles of store brands for 99 cents at places like Target. And if you’re shopping other dollar stores, like Dollar General, the rates may be even worse: a 20 oz bottle there can go for upwards of $3.45 for a name brand.”
“A lot of the canned foods you’ll find at dollar stores are generics, which isn’t a bad thing, but you’ll still end up paying $1.25 per can in most cases,” Ramhold said. “You’re better off shopping stores like Target or Walmart, particularly when they have these items on sale, as you can stock up for much less.”
“Breakfast cereals, especially name brand ones, are already pricey depending on where you shop, but dollar stores are some of the worst offenders,” Ramhold said. “You’ll pay nearly $5 for a box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch, for instance, at some dollar stores, but the same size box is at least 20 cents cheaper at Target. Honestly, you’ll get an even better deal if you opt to buy generic cereal in the large bags at stores like Walmart, or even choosing a standard sized box at Aldi.”
“Although $1.25 per bag sounds like a great deal, shoppers can actually find better prices at most grocery stores,” said Offers.com‘s savings expert Mackenzie Shand. “For example, at HEB, shoppers can score a 7 oz bag of PopCorners for just $3.79 — as opposed to a just a 1.75 oz bag of PopCorners for $1.25 at the Dollar Tree.”
“You can buy individual drinks at dollar stores for just $1.25 each; however, this really isn’t always the best deal,” Shand said. “Typically at grocery stores, you can actually save money by buying these drinks in large packs. For example, at HEB, you can purchase a 12-pack of Sparkling Ice for $11.29 (less than $1 per bottle), as opposed to purchasing an individual Sparkling Ice bottle for $1.25 at the Dollar Tree.”
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