Dollar stores like Dollar Tree, Family Dollar and Dollar General have become more and more popular as a places to get certain personal, household and food items at extraordinarily low prices.
In fact, according to a Consumer Reports Survey, 88% of Americans shop at dollar stores on occasion. However, just because they are cheaper in general doesn’t mean everything is a great deal or worth purchasing. Here, we look at some important do’s and don’ts of dollar store shopping to help you shop successfully.
Don’t Shop for Everything
While dollar stores are in many ways much more affordable than grocery or big-box stores, they aren’t really designed to accommodate all your shopping needs. Dollar General spokesperson Crystal Luce told Consumer Reports that their aim is to fill in the gaps of items that crop up between major shopping trips.
So, you’re not going to buy all your groceries or home goods here, but you might stop by for toilet paper, shampoo, a few canned goods or some wrapping paper.
Do Buy Frozen Veggies
While you aren’t likely to find any fresh produce at dollar stores, you will find good quality frozen veggies, according to Consumer Reports. These are just as nutritious as fresh veggies but require some creative recipes to make tasty.
Don’t Buy Vitamins and Supplements
Vitamins and supplements aren’t regulated like other medications, which means you can’t count on their quality or value at the dollar store, according to Consumer Reports. If you do buy them, look for labels such as USP or NSF International, which guarantee some oversight.
Do Buy Personal Care Items
Some of the best value products you’ll find are on items like shampoo, soap, feminine care and toothpaste, according to Lisa Gill, pharmaceuticals reporter at Consumer Reports. The only issue is that there may be low variety and inventory, depending on your region.
Don’t Buy Generic Batteries
While cheap batteries may seem like a steal at dollar stores, they’re actually a potential waste of your money.
“Beware of electronics or batteries,” frugality expert Andrew Woroch told a Detroit news channel. “Cheap batteries can leak and they can actually damage your electronic or toy that you’re using those batteries for. Things like HDMI cables or power strips … they can break and then actually cause damage to whatever you’re logging in with … you don’t want to do that.”
Do Buy Milk and Eggs
While fresh food may not be the forte of dollar stores in general, according to Keating, these two kitchen staples are typically perfectly fresh and healthy. You just want to be sure to check the “best used by” dates on them to make sure you’re not buying them too close to their expiration dates.
Don’t Buy Lightbulbs
Dollar stores have a tendency to stock old-fashioned incandescent light bulbs, the energy-stealing kind that also have a tendency to burn out or break more easily, according to John Galeotafiore, associate director of product testing at Consumer Reports.
Do Use Additional Coupons
Both Dollar General and Family Dollar offer sales and coupons on their website, and they also take manufacturer coupons, according to AARP. Try downloading their apps, which offer additional coupons.
You can also download dollar store phone apps for coupons on the go. Just read the fine print.
Don’t Buy Canned Goods
It’s tempting to buy canned goods because of their shelf life and convenience, but according to Amy Keating, food safety and testing program leader at Consumer Reports, the kind of canned goods you’ll find at dollar stores are likely to be those with high sodium and/or extra sugar.
Also, if you find cans that are dented, don’t buy them. They could be compromised, allowing in bacteria or mold that makes the foods unsafe to eat.
Do Expect To Save Money
Even though inflation has affected prices at dollar stores so that not everything is not $1 anymore, and they have reduced some packaging to smaller sizes, Consumer Reports reporter Brian Vines determined that it is still financially worth shopping at them.
He writes, “While you may not reliably be able to find everything you require to feed your family or clean your home at a dollar store, when you do find what you need, the savings can be real.”
Don’t Expect Consistency
Unlike your favorite grocery or home goods store, where you’re likely to find the same products every week and plenty of them (barring supply chain issues), you can’t expect that same level of consistency or inventory at dollar stores. They’re often working with what products are available at a discount so they can offer them to customers for their low prices.
As you aren’t bothered by unpredictability, you’re better served to keep shopping there.
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