Tips

The Best (and Worst) Things to Buy at a Dollar Store

Aired September 8, 2016

Dollar stores have come a long way over the years (hello groceries!). While this is awesome for anyone looking to save big bucks, there are some things you should know before you shop. First of all, “don’t assume everything is a bargain,” says smart shopping expert Trae Bodge. And, not everything is under $1, so check prices before tossing things into your cart, she adds. Here’s her list of scores that will save you moolah (and what to skip).

 

Sunscreen: SKIP
Bodge says a sunscreen’s quality tends to degrade after its been on the shelf a while. Unless it’s a great deal with a far-out expiration date, this is a purchase you may want to skip.

 

Canned + Packaged Food: SAVE!
Deals abound on things like pickles, canned beans and bags of chips, chocolate and cookies, just check for any package problems like dents or tears and make sure the expiration date hasn’t passed.

 

Extension Cords and Power Strips: SKIP
These may seem like a great buy, but remember that they will be powering up your pricey electronics. Bodge encourages you to ask yourself if saving a few dollars is worth the risk of potential damage.

 

Clay Pots: SAVE!
Gardening vessels (big and small) are typically a steal at a dollar store compared to your local home-and-garden store. They’re decorative, functional, and can even be used as a creative alternative to gift bags.

 

Packing Tape: SAVE!
Do you go through packing tape faster than Usain Bolt runs? It’s surprisingly expensive at the big-box stores, so save yourself a few dollars and grab this home office essential at a dollar store! Bodge says you might not get as much of the sticky stuff, but it’s still a good deal overall.

 

Tissues: SAVE!
Tissues are another versatile product that most people can never have enough of. Bodge says these are typically a great buy, but if you’re a member of a warehouse club store, you might be able to find a better deal on them there.

 

Hair Ties: SAVE!
If you have long hair, chances are you go through these like a bag of salty chips, so stock up while you can.

 

Paper Supplies: IT’S A TOSS-UP
Bodge says paper supplies can be hit-or-miss, especially around back-to-school season. Check out sales at the big-box stores first, you might find a better deal there.

 

Toothbrushes: SAVE!
Many times, you can find brand name toothbrushes two for $1, which is a huge savings over your local drug store where you could end up paying anywhere from $1.50 - $6 just for one.

 

Fresh Produce: IT’S A TOSS-UP
Since dollar stores tend to get the last pick on produce, you may be able to save on heartier items (translation: they last a long time) like apples, oranges, onions and garlic, but check for bruising or mold. And keep in mind that you might be able to find fresher produce cheaper at the grocery store with sales and chain flyer coupons, says Bodge.

 

Dairy + Meat: SKIP
Bodge explains that dollar stores keep prices low on many of the meats and dairy products you’ll find there by containing less-than-stellar ingredients. For example, if you pick up a dairy product and notice that the first ingredient listed is not dairy - it’s probably not a good buy and the same goes for meat products.

More:
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Grocery Shopping Tips From Chef Curtis Stone
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