A lesson in frugality: dollar store grocery shopping

October 13, 2015

You can save money and time if you do some savvy grocery shopping at your local dollar store. As long as you do a little comparison shopping beforehand, bear in mind the actual cost per serving of each item, and prepare a list ahead of time. Here's what you need to know.

A lesson in frugality: dollar store grocery shopping

Smaller quantities are perfect for singles, retirees and couples

If you have a large family, dollar store grocery shopping may leave you frustrated.

Cereal boxes, condiments bottles and jars, crackers, cookies and frozen food, for example, are sold in smaller quantities at dollar stores. As such, these items aren't suited for feeding lots of hungry mouths. They are, however, perfect for individuals, retirees and couples who are living on a budget and don't need enormous boxes or bags of cereals.

Besides cereal, the following items typically found in dollar stores offer a good bang for your buck and are generally indistinguishable (taste-wise) from their grocery-store counterparts.

  • peanut butter
  • jams and preserves
  • crackers, such as wheat, cracked pepper, cheese
  • canned vegetables (usually offered less than a dollar)
  • relish, pickles, olives, mayo, mustard, steak and Worcestershire sauce
  • teas, single serving instant coffee
  • sugar
  • spices
  • pasta and noodles
  • rice
  • sliced bread, pitas or buns

Shop at a dollar store with a decent frozen/cold food section

Many dollar stores carry surprisingly palatable frozen vegetables, steak or sweet potato fries, small pouches of fish such as tilapia, and fruits.

In particular, frozen fruits make great smoothies, even if they're not top-of-the-line quality.

A well-stocked dollar store will also offer eggs (usually cartons containing 8 small eggs), milk (pints) and cold fruit juice for less.

A dollar store with an extensive frozen section also offers you the advantage of frozen vegetables, which generally carry more food value than canned vegetables.

Be a shrewd shopper

Many consumers have discovered that buying groceries from dollar stores (where everything's actually a dollar or less) isn't such an outlandish idea. And though quality in certain dollar-store food might be lacking, only a post-purchase taste test will reveal this to you.

But, even among the dollar store grocery aisles you can get some idea of what to expect if you read labels to check for high corn syrup, sugar, sodium and preservative content. You can also get a sense of an item's quality if you can see where it was packed or produced. Your best bet, though, will be to stick with name brands whenever possible to know what you're getting without having to taste test it.

So keep these tips in mind, and head down to your local dollar store. You might just find some great groceries at a good value and a few in-store bargains, too.

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