I love a good deal. That said, I was dubious when my editor handed down this assignment. My perception of dollar stores has always been that of subpar or off-label products, but then I talked to a couple of pro money-savers and they set me straight. “You can find phenomenal deals at the 99 cent store,” say Steve and Annette Economides, finance experts and bestselling authors ofCut Your Grocery Bill in Half. “But you’ve got to know your stuff before you start stretching your dollars.”
Preparation involves several factors when it comes to dollar stores, the couple told me. They armed me with the following:
Armed with the above tips and suggestions from Steve and Annette, I headed off to my local dollar store to see what I could find. It didn’t disappoint. Below you’ll see a sampling of Annette and Steve’s best deals, along with what I found.
Fresh Fruit and Vegetables: Spend. Steve and Annette had told me that I would find great produce, but I must admit I didn’t believe them -- but right they were. I came home with a pound of artisan lettuce (they had told me about this) for a buck (the same lettuce my local grocery store sells for five dollars); a bunch of bananas; tomatoes (five in a container); a bag of nectarines; a bag of five large apples for a dollar; and huge artichokes for 99 cents each. The quality and taste of all were fantastic.
Pantry Items: Spend. You definitely need to check sizes here, but I found great deals on flour, noodles, sugar, spices, mustard, mayo and ketchup. I skipped salt and pepper because I’ve seen better deals at my local grocery store. Annette found a 28-ounce jar of raspberry jam.
Toiletries: Study. I bought toothpaste and shampoo, but I skipped toothbrushes, and deodorant because the former was not great quality, and the latter was almost travel-sized.
Greeting cards: Spend. Steve and Annette say that their Dollar Tree has a dollar deal that buys you two cards for one buck.
Kid stuff: Study. If you’ve got small kids, the dollar store is a great place to stock up on bubbles and sidewalk chalk, but they still have the cheap plastic swords and other toys that break quickly, so choose wisely.
Cleaning supplies: Save. As Steve warned, a lot of cleaning supplies are heavily diluted, and the quality didn’t seem up to snuff on paper towels. But a gallon of bleach was a good buy.
Cereal: Save. The dollar store that I was at had plenty of cereal options, but the boxes were all much smaller than what you’d see at your regular store.
Bread: Spend. I found great deals on brand name healthy whole-wheat bread for 99 cents. I stocked up on some extra to freeze for school sandwiches.
Marianne McGinnis is an award-winning writer whose work has appeared in such publications as Prevention, Better Homes and Gardens, Reader's Digest and Completely You. Marianne also co-authors and ghostwrites books.
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