8 Dollar Store Groceries To Buy When You’re Broke

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Rogelio V Solis/AP/Shutterstock (6120211a)This photo shows the Family Dollar store in Ridgeland, Miss.
Rogelio V Solis/AP/Shutterstock / Rogelio V Solis/AP/Shutterstock

Thanks to inflation, there are droves of Americans who were previously doing OK who are now barely scraping by. For many, inflation means not only upping their usual cost-saving measures such as coupon clipping but changing how and when they shop, particularly when it comes to essentials like groceries. More and more consumers seem to be turning to dollar stores to get their shopping done.  

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But dollar stores can be misleading. Sometimes you can find a cheaper, better buy elsewhere. Other times they’re just so overcrowded that they’re overwhelming to navigate. 

And so, when shopping for groceries at a dollar store, it’s important to head in knowing exactly what to buy. Here’s what grocery items Julie Ramhold, consumer analyst with DealNews.com, recommends buying from dollar stores when you’re broke. 

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Name Brand Cereals

“They’re not going to be the best value, but you could do worse than grabbing things like Honey Nut Cheerios, Cheerios, Frosted Flakes or Raisin Bran off the dollar store shelves,” Ramhold said. Expect to pay around 31 cents per ounce, which isn’t a bad deal for a box that should give you a handful of easy meals.”


“You can get name brands like Folgers, Maxwell House and Cafe Bustelo, but the best value will be for the larger canisters of coffee rather than smaller bricks and definitely avoid the single-use cups if you can as those tend to be far cheaper elsewhere,” Ramhold said. “Expect to pay around 35 cents or so per ounce at dollar stores, which is a decent deal when you need a cheap caffeine fix.” 

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Top Ramen 5-Pack

“It’s not 10 cents a pack anymore, but buying a 5-pack at the dollar store is a better price than buying each pack individually as the multipack breaks down to about 25 cents each,” Ramhold said. “If you’re a broke college student especially, the odds are good you have an appreciation for Top Ramen, and while you definitely shouldn’t make it your only meals all day every day, it’s a cheap and filling non-perishable food to keep on hand.”

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Dried Pasta

“Depending on the size of the package, these tend to be $1-$2 each and are an easy, affordable base for various kinds of meals,” Ramhold said. “If you can bulk it up with things like frozen veggies, it’s a good way to make it more filling and healthy, but even if you don’t have those on hand, buttered noodles are easy and relatively affordable to make.”

Spaghetti Sauce

“While you’re picking up dried pasta, grab a jar of the name-brand spaghetti sauce for a combo that should provide a few meals at least and quick and easy ones at that,” Ramhold said. “A 24 oz jar of Ragu will cost around $2.50, while a larger 45 oz jar will be about $3.85, but the good news is that there are other sauces available too, including things like Prego spaghetti sauces and Bertolli alfredo sauces too, with prices ranging from $2.65 to $3.75 depending on what size you opt to buy.”

Flour Tortillas

“These can be used as a sub for bread in many cases, whether you want a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or a cheese quesadilla,” Ramhold said. “They’re not the healthiest option, but they’re an affordable way to mix things up, especially if you keep basic burrito fillings on hand like dried beans and rice. A pack of 10 should cost around $2 depending on your area, so it’s a good staple you can stock up on time and again.”

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“Speaking of rice, you can pick up a couple of varieties at the dollar store including long grain and Minute rice if you need something that’s easier to cook,” Ramhold said. “Either way, it’s an affordable base, much like the dried pasta, that can be tweaked to make a different meal and keep you out of the cheap eats rut. Prices will vary depending on whether you want the package of extra long grain rice (about $1.50 for 16 oz) or the box of Minute rice (about $2.85 for 14 oz) or even Spanish yellow rice (about $1 for 9 oz).”

Mashed Potatoes

“The packets of dehydrated potato flakes are a really affordable way to give yourself some comfort food after a long day, and that’s something that everyone can appreciate,” Ramhold said. “Name brands like Idahoan will range from $1.20 per 4 oz package to $2.65 for larger 8 oz packages, but of course the store-brand will typically end up cheaper – about $1.75 for 9 oz.”

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About the Author

Nicole Spector is a writer, editor, and author based in Los Angeles by way of Brooklyn. Her work has appeared in Vogue, the Atlantic, Vice, and The New Yorker. She's a frequent contributor to NBC News and Publishers Weekly. Her 2013 debut novel, "Fifty Shades of Dorian Gray" received laudatory blurbs from the likes of Fred Armisen and Ken Kalfus, and was published in the US, UK, France, and Russia — though nobody knows whatever happened with the Russian edition! She has an affinity for Twitter.
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