Best Dollar Store Deals

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:

  • Know your options. Depending on where you live, you may have anywhere from one to a handful of different dollar store varieties. “You’ll get different deals at different stores -- some have produce, some sell greeting cards two for one, so get familiar with the deals and differences in your area,” says Steve.
  • Check the size. Look at the size of the product compared to the price. “I saw a package of really lean lunchmeat ham that looked great on first glance, but then I saw that it was just 4 ounces for a dollar -- that’s four dollars a pound -- pass!” says Steve. Some manufacturers are now making products especially for dollar stores, which means they sometimes make the packages smaller.
  • Look for quality. Annette was thrilled to find an off-brand 1,000-count package cotton swabs. “I was able to feel the tip to know that there was plenty of padding -- a great deal.” You can also garner clues by reading the package labels carefully. If a product looks similar to a name brand product you might see in the store, it could be made by that same manufacturer, but just be designed for dollar stores. And you can also read labels of cleaning products to see how much they are diluted. “Dollar stores carry off-label brands and sometimes the concentration is much less than you actually need, so it really doesn’t save you any money,” says Steve.
  • Have a buy price. Steve and Annette suggest keeping a simple price sheet on products you buy regularly, so you’ll have a quick reference guide when you go shopping. “Stuffing is a family staple for us, and I know that the best deals available for stuffing are at Thanksgiving time, for around 99 cents for a 16-ounce box,” says Annette, “so when I saw stuffing in May at the dollar store, I stocked up.”

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.

6 Winter Hazards to Get Ready for Now

As anyone who’s ever survived a winter storm knows, cold weather can wreak havoc. Unfortunately, "people usually prepare after a big event", says Jim Judge, preparedness advisor for the Scientific Advisory Council of the Red Cross. But if you prepare for adverse conditions when it's nice out, you’ll be able to do in an hour what might take you many hours to do in worse weather or what you might not be able to do at all.” Here's how.


1
. Prevent hypothermia.

You can contract hypothermia in nonfreezing temperatures if clothes or skin get wet. Children (and the elderly) are more prone to hypothermia because they don’t have much muscle mass to insulate them. Dress everyone in multiple thin layers, hats and wind-resistant jackets. And if they get wet, make sure they come inside and take their layers off as soon as possible.


2
. Put together an emergency car kit.
If you must drive in severe conditions, bring along your cell phone, copies of personal documents and an emergency car kit that contains blankets, first aid supplies, water, nonperishable food, a flashlight, a hat, mittens, socks, a shovel, jumper cables, a windshield scraper, a distress flag, flares, extra oil and antifreeze, candles, waterproof matches, and a bag of kitty litter for traction, since it won't freeze like damp sand.


3
. Get your car checked and keep your tank full.
Bring your car to a mechanic to check the steering, brakes, antifreeze levels, heater, defroster, oil, battery and hazard lights. And don't forget the exhaust system. With windows closed, even a small hole can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning. In addition, check your tires frequently; they deflate in cold, increasing the chance of blowouts. Don’t forget to keep your gas tank full to keep the fuel line from freezing.


4
. Keep antifreeze away from pets. 
Ethylene glycol, an ingredient in many types of antifreeze, has a sweet taste that's irresistible to animals. Be aware that winter cabins occasionally put antifreeze in their toilets. It only takes a tablespoon of antifreeze to poison a cat, and a few big licks to poison a dog. If left untreated, kidney failure sets in within 24 to 36 hours. The first signs of poisoning: the animal seems to be drunk and drinks lots of water.


5
. Get a carbon monoxide detector.

Never use a gasoline, propane, natural gas or charcoal-burning device in a home, garage, basement or any partially enclosed area. Locate units away from anything that could allow carbon monoxide indoors. Install carbon monoxide detectors all over your home. If they go off, get to fresh air and then call for help. "We hear tragic stories of people dying in the night because they didn't have this little piece of equipment," says Judge.

6. Run water to keep pipes from freezing.
Even a trickle or slow drip from a faucet can help prevent pipes from freezing. And even if they do freeze, you'll have alleviated the pressure, and the pipes won't burst. Frozen pipes often burst when subfreezing temperatures hit normally warm areas, where pipes are more likely to be in unprotected, non-insulated areas. Pipes in unheated attics, in crawlspaces or on outside walls are vulnerable, so insulate any exposed pipes.

More articles from Completely You:

·         Stay Healthy When Everyone Else Is Sick

·         Best Ways to Soothe Sensitive Teeth

·         How to Exercise Outside in the Cold

Follow Completely You (@completely_you) on Twitter!

18 Healthy Holiday Gifts for Everyone in Your Life!

We scoured the Web for a whole year, finding, trying and reviewing the best and healthiest products you should know about daily. Now, to help you choose the perfect gift for everyone in your life, we’ve pared down the list to just our favorites in these six categories: fitness, food, home, gadgets, beauty and style.

What made the cut: ingenious healthy gifts that simplify your life. There are ideas to fit every budget and will cover everyone on your list -- even yourself. Happy holidays!

FITNESS

Mi Adidas Customized Sport Shoes
Design your own sneakers.

If your feet are different sizes (as most people’s are), Mi Adidas lets you order the right fit for each foot. Then you choose the colors for the body, trim and sole. Available for men and women for running, training, tennis, golf, basketball and more.
Cost: Starts at $105

Pear Mobile Training Intelligence System
A personal coach for serious runners.
This little gizmo is a smart biofeedback training system: It measures your body’s response as you work out and delivers coaching to keep you on track. It even syncs with your favorite playlist.
Cost: $250  

Hyperwear Sandbells
A new way to strength-train that torches more calories.
They’re dumbbells, kettlebells, medicine balls and more. Sandbells (sand-filled, disk-shaped bags in a range of weights) really raise your heart rate, giving you a cardio burn at the same time. Use them to break out of your usual strength training routine.  
Cost: $7.99 and up

FOOD

Aqua Zinger
Make your own flavored water.
Not a fan of straight-up water? The base of this water bottle has a mini-grinder. Fill it with your favorite fruits or herbs, shake the bottle and voila: You’ve got great-tasting water!
Cost: $26

Brooklyn Brine Pickling Kit
Make your own pickled veggies with expert help.
Love pickles? You’ll love pickled carrots, radishes and just about everything else pickled too! This kit, developed by Williams Sonoma and the pickling experts at Brooklyn Brine, will help you make your own great homemade versions with jars, spice blends, easy recipes and more.
Cost: $29.95

Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi
A vegetarian cookbook that makes healthy food taste positively sinful.
This cookbook, from a top London chef, is our top favorite of all time. Every recipe is bursting with so much flavor, you won’t miss the meat!
Cost: $19.47 


HOME

Uncommon Goods Self-Watering Planter
Gives anyone a green thumb.
Having a roomful of plants is good for your health, since they can remove indoor air pollutants. But if you are the type who always forgets to water them, this planter is perfect. Just fill the center chamber with water, and the planter does the work for you.
Cost: $50

Brinse Tumbler and Toothbrush Holder
Protect your toothbrush from bathroom germs.
This all-in-one toothbrush and tumbler set saves you space and keeps your toothbrush germ-free. The tumbler stacks on top of your brush after you’re done brushing your teeth, protecting it from airborne germs -- like the kind that get sprayed when you flush the toilet.
Cost: $13

Tree Leaf Rocca Ultrasonic Humidifier
A cute humidifier you’ll be happy to display.
If your skin gets dry as soon as the heat goes on in the winter, a humidifier may be a necessary evil. But this is one that actually looks good in any room. It’s quiet, easy to fill, and no filters are necessary -- and it’s just as effective as that old ugly one. 
Cost: $249 

GADGETS

Power Commute Laptop Messenger
Never search for a socket again.
This messenger bag by Timbuk2This comes with a TSA-compliant charging pack, so you can stash your phone or tablet in it and charge as you travel or commute. There are tons of pockets and compartments to keep your other stuff organized too. 
Cost: $200


Clocky
A diabolically ingenious alarm clock.
Never be late to work again! This alarm clock rolls out of reach and forces you to chase it if you hit snooze more than once. It sounds crazy -- but it works!
Cost: $39

Echo Touch Gloves
Text with your gloves on.
No more taking off your gloves to use your iPhone or other touch-screen device. These gloves sport special fabric on the index finger and the thumb, making them gadget-friendly. Plus, they come in gorgeous colors and are available for men, women and kids.
Cost: $32 and up

BEAUTY


Josie Maran Argan Bronzing Oil
Get a safe glow all over -- instantly.

Say goodbye to winter-pale skin. Add a drop or two of this organic oil, rich in vitamin E and other good-for-your-skin ingredients, to your body moisturizer and foundation for a lovely glow that’s totally believable.
Cost: 
$52

CoverGirl NatureLuxe Gloss Balm
Moisturizing balm, gloss and lipstick -- all in one!
Looking for a lipstick that’s moisturizing enough to wear all the time? With 16 shades to choose from, this lip balm is perfect. It goes on shiny like lip gloss, has color and moisture that won’t quit -- and SPF 15 to keep your lips perfectly kissable all year long. 
Cost: $8


Liquid Palisade
The secret to a perfect manicure.
This new product makes flawless nails possible even for the most manicure-challenged. It works like painter’s tape: Simply brush it on your cuticles and the areas surrounding your nails, and it’ll keep the polish off them. After the polish dries, just peel off the Palisade and admire.
Cost: $22

STYLE


Hollywood Jean Kit
An easy way to change the length of any pants -- fast.
This kit lets you change the length of your jeans so you can wear them with flats or heels. It also includes straps that keep your jeans from getting untucked from your boots, and a belt that prevents gaps and underwear sighting at the back of your jeans. Brilliant!
Cost: $19.99

PUMA Lily Ballet Flat
A stylish shoe that feels like a sneaker.

Dressy enough to wear to dinner but comfy enough to trek around in all day, these flats are a godsend, especially for vacations. Available in basic black and lots of fun color combinations.
Cost:
$75 

And, finally, a special bonus and our personal favorite, which we’ve found to be a sweet surprise for those who are far from you this holiday season:

Gone Pie Gluten-free Vegan Brownies
Chocolatey, gooey and, oh, so good!
Whether you choose the fudgy smooth brownies or the triple nut variety (or both), these tasty treats are worth sending away for. Since they come in a pan, you can even fib and claim that you made them yourself. We won’t tell!
Cost: $21 for an 8 x 6 pan (six to nine brownies)

More articles from Completely You:

·         Take Back the Holidays

·         Stay Healthy When Everyone Else Is Sick

·         Look Thinner During the Holidays

Follow Completely You (@completely_you) on Twitter!

Do Your Spring Cleaning Now

It’s a fact: Mess leads to stress. In one survey of 1,000 men and women, about 40 percent admitted that their clutter caused them considerable anxiety. And you don’t need any more of that -- especially during the holidays.

“Set aside a couple of hours to organize your house now; it will pay off big-time during the onslaught of presents, cookies and guests,” says Lea Schneider, a professional organizer in Pensacola, Fla. Just follow our room-by-room guide to holiday harmony.  

                                         

Kitchen

·    Clear countertops. You’re going to need all the room you have for cookie sheets, dishes and other holiday goods. First, make a sweep of everything in your kitchen that doesn’t involve cooking, like bills, catalogs or your kid’s school folders. “Place it all in a laundry bin, and cart it off to where it belongs,” suggests Schneider. Then evaluate your small appliances: If you don’t use a gadget at least once a week, find room in a cabinet for it -- or even stash it on a shelf in the garage.

·    Plan for extra groceries. Chances are, you’ll be buying lots of baking supplies, plus party and holiday dinner food. Where is it all going to fit? Clear your pantry of out-of-date items to create space for new goodies. Bonus: It’ll help you find out whether you need to restock baking basics, like cinnamon or vanilla extract. “When you bring home the new non-perishable groceries, store them in a plastic bag by recipe,” says Schneider. “So, when you want to make chocolate chip cookies, for instance, all the dry ingredients are together.”

·    Tally your tableware. Don’t wait until the last-minute to discover that you don’t have enough china for a 12-person dinner party, or that some of your favorite holiday cloth napkins are stained. “Do an inventory of your plates, glasses, flatware and linens now to see if you need to replace or borrow anything,” says Jodie Watson, of Supreme Organization in Sherman Oaks, Calif.  

Bathroom

·    Streamline the vanity. Let’s face it: No holiday guest needs to see your hair gel or deodorant. Stash all your supplies under the sink, including paste, floss and toothbrushes. Even though it’s not really a faux pas to leave out toothbrushes in a pretty holder, they’re better off out of sight so that bacterias don’t get on them every time the toilet is flushed.

·    Make way for supplies. You’ll need extra soap, toilet paper and cleaning products this time of year. Either designate a space in the bathroom closet for them or find somewhere else to put them.

·    Add a couple of hooks. Nothing looks messier than an overstuffed towel rack! If you have guests staying with you over the holidays, pick up a couple of removable hooks to hang bathrobes and towels.

Living Room

·    Decorate smart. Some of your regular decor will need to disappear to make room for your holiday stuff. Stash it in a labeled tote before you pull out your seasonal favorites.

·    Pile on the presents. “Wrapped gifts are beautiful and shouldn’t be hidden away in a closet unless you have young kids,” says Schneider. Designate a place in the living room for them now so you won’t even have to think about where they go later.   

·    Make a fun center. Gather board games, books and holiday CDs near the coffee table so guests can help themselves, says Watson.

Kid’s Room/Play Room

·    Tidy up the toys. If you have a young child, of course you do this every day -- even every hour! But organization experts say to use the weeks leading up to the holidays to clear out toys that are broken, have missing pieces or ones you’re certain he’s outgrown. So when new presents come in, your house won’t look like Toys “R” Us.

·    Organize holiday clothes. Put away pumpkin T-shirts and other fall-specific wardrobe pieces. Designate a section of the closest for holiday outfits so you can easily pull out a cute shirt when your family is invited to a cookie exchange, or for the holiday party at school.

·    Keep it merry and bright. You don’t have to deck out your kid’s bedroom for the holidays, but think about one little touch -- maybe a New Year’s countdown calendar, paper garland or a snowman music globe.

Have more tips? Share below or tweet us @Completely_You

6 Apps That Will Simplify Your Thanksgiving

BUTTERBALL COOKBOOK PLUS
The famous turkey brand has a lot more than a bird to offer. Manage your menu with this app’s extensive and searchable list of Thanksgiving dishes and beyond. It includes voice commands so you know the next step when you’re hands-deep in dough, a shopping list, conversion charts, substitution suggestions, timers and how-to videos.
Available in: iTunes
Cost: $4.99

OUT OF MILK
No need to scour the store Thursday morning for the one ingredient that didn’t make it on your list. With this app, you can create shopping and to-do lists you can share with your family in real time. The app also calculates costs, saves your shopping history and keeps tabs on what’s in your pantry through its scanning feature. If you upgrade to the Pro version, you can keep track of coupons too.
Available in: Google Play
Cost: Free, but Pro version costs $1.99

FLIGHT+
Whether you’re flying to Grandma’s or going on airport pickup duty, this app can help you avoid traveling turbulence. Get real-time info on departures, arrivals, delays and weather conditions -- you can even access each airport’s flight board.
Available in: iTunes
Cost: $1.99

GAS BUDDY
This cheap-gas finder works on the road to help you locate the best prices as you travel -- which you’ll be especially thankful for when you burn up fuel in traffic. Bonus: If you report prices to this community-driven app, you’ll earn points toward a weekly $250 gas-card giveaway.

Available in: iTunes, Google Play, Windows Phone Marketplace, BlackBerry App World

Cost: Free

YAHOO! FANTASY FOOTBALL ‘12
Don’t panic if you get called to the table during a turnover. You can stay in touch with all of Thursday’s games -- and your fantasy lineup -- from your lap with this intuitive app.
Available in: iTunes, Google Play
Cost: Free


TGI BLACK FRIDAY
Don’t let that 4 a.m. alarm go to waste. Plan out which sales you’re going to hit with this Black Friday app, which notifies you of deals as the ads come in and helps you create a shopping wish list. You can also access PDFs of Ad Scans, which will save you the headache of clipping (and organizing) coupons. If Black Friday is not your scene, you’re in luck: There’s also a TGI Cyber Monday app that helps you find and share online shopping steals -- plus you can make purchases directly from your smartphone.
Available in: iTunes, Google Play
Cost: Free