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Hidden Savings at the Dollar Store

by Tara Kuczykowski on April 28, 2010 · 17 comments

Photo by www.jeremylim.ca

The following is a guest post from Lina of Grocery Alerts Canada:

Most people spend the bulk of their grocery budget at major supermarkets and small chains. However, we recently started shopping at local dollar stores for great deals on certain items as well. One of the tricks with shopping at dollar stores is that you cannot be brand loyal. Instead, look for the store's private label products. While dollar stores do not typically accept coupons, the cost savings without coupons can still add up.

Here are some of our favorite deals:

Spices

At the grocery store, spices can be very expensive, as much as $4 or more for a small spice shaker. On the other hand, dollar stores have spices for a dollar or less. You won't find expensive spices like saffron or Herbes de Provence, but picking up spices like cinnamon and black pepper for less than a buck is a great deal.

Cleaning Supplies

We love to live in a clean house, but cleaning products are not cheap at the grocery store. We have found great deals on rubber gloves, dish soap, plungers, window cleaner, and bleach at our local dollar stores.

Greeting Cards

It is a nice feeling to receive a well written card for your birthday or anniversary, on a holiday or just because. In our family, there are many young children that love receiving cards in the mail. At specialty card stores and grocery stores, greeting cards can cost over $3. At dollar stores, the quality of the cards and paper is not as high quality, but you can often get more than one for a dollar, and the importance of the card is the message inside of it anyway.

Beauty Supplies

It is amazing how much some beauty aids cost at drugstores and grocery stores. We find that the dollar store has great prices on products like nail polish remover and epsom salts.

Cooking Supplies

Tinfoil, baking soda and baking powder are all on my shopping list at the dollar store. On a price per unit basis, these often are great deals. For many products on this list, the best deals are often on the "no-name" products. You must be comfortable purchasing outside your typical brand to save money.

Calculate the Price per Unit

To be sure the products you're purchasing are really a great deal, calculate the price per unit basis of the product:

For example, if a 250g container of baking powder is $1 at the dollar store, the price per gram of baking powder is $0.004. If the grocery store carries a different brand of baking powder at $3.50 for 1 kg, the price per gram would be $0.0035, an even better price. Use a pocket calculator or your mobile phone to calculate what is a better deal.

Keep in mind to consider the expiration dates on anything you buy in larger quantities (especially with baking powder!).

What other great deals have you found at the dollar store?

Lina Zussino is the co-founder of Grocery Alerts Canada, home of canadian grocery deals and printable grocery coupons. She enjoys teaching group fitness and saving money in beautiful Victoria, BC with her husband Steven.

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Ashlee April 28, 2010 at 10:56 am

The dollar tree is basically my favorite store ever. A few years ago they added a frozen foods section and you can find some great name brand deals there. Dollar stores are great for snacks. I think they are also great for birthday party supplies. They have a great selection of plates/utensils but also party favors. For my wedding I got really modern looking large candle holders for $1 each for my table settings. I had to go to a few different stores, but I was able to get 26 holders.

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2 Buffie April 28, 2010 at 11:48 am

The greeting cards are a great deal as they are always 2 for $1 at our dollar store and you just can't beat that. I also get the Sunday paper from the dollar store to get my coupons super cheap. And my daughter loves those compressed wash cloths they have. She loves pulling them apart to see the picture during bath time.

The spices at the dollar store scare me. My mother regularly buys them, but I feel that the quality is much lower. I'd rather spend my money on a few high quality spices.

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3 Steve Zussino April 28, 2010 at 12:15 pm

In Canada, we don't have that many different dollar stores (less competition).

Wow 2 cards for a dollar!

You are right about the spices (never had any issues with quality).

I have even found hardware is a great deal there (like epoxy glue, brackets, braces, measuring tapes).

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4 Diane April 28, 2010 at 12:46 pm

Certain items like greeting cards, gift wrap and bags, candy, and paper products are great but I would stay away from food items like the spices and potato chips. Once I purchased a bag of cheese puffs from the dollar store that were very stale.... not such a bargain to throw away that dollar! I would also assume that the spices are old and therefore, not at flavorful. When spices are new, you can use less and save money by doing so.

I would also prefer to shop brands that I trust (even store brands) for things like cleaning supplies, toothpaste, and beauty aids--- lots of chemicals in those things and I want to make sure that what I am buying is FDA approved.

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5 Angie April 28, 2010 at 1:40 pm

I agree that dollar stores can be great for gift bags, paper products, cards, balloons, etc. I would be very hesitant to buy food or cleaning products at a dollar store. I have seen cleaning products from other countries with US labels slapped over the old label..those countries may not have the same standards that we do. Some food may be OK but I would rather use coupons and get name brands for less money. :)

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6 Becca Filley April 28, 2010 at 1:48 pm

We have a Dollar Tree in our town and it always has great name brand foods for 1.00....we get Sargento shredded cheese, the frozen Texas Toast that you can get at Wal-mart for 4.00, chicken broth, canned veggies and fruits, and sometimes chips....it's great! oh and last week my husband found bags of frozen fruit so he bought TONS as we use it alot and have never seen it that cheap...they also sometimes have canned pie filing, which is not cheap!

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7 StephieD April 28, 2010 at 1:57 pm

I've bought spices from Dollar Tree tons of times and they are just as good as the expensive stuff that I buy at the grocery store. I've also gotten some of the frozen foods there and it's the same stuff! They all sell a cleaner called Greased Lightning that is AMAZING! I use it on all kids of stuff, but it works really well to take blood out of my hubbys ACUs and grease out of his Coveralls (from his civilian job)!

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8 Nicole April 28, 2010 at 1:59 pm

I have never had a problem with the quality of the food I have bought at a dollar store.

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9 Jenna b April 28, 2010 at 2:11 pm

All food and cleaners sold anywhere in the USA have to meet the same standards,so not to buy items at the dollar store for that reason is silly.

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10 Vicky April 28, 2010 at 3:01 pm

As an owner of a dollar store, I wanted to provide some feedback on previous comments. You do have to be picky as with any store. FInd one that has good service and lots of traffic and read the exp dates. In our store, we do not carry expired foods. Because foods are cheaper, they use less of what moer expensive brands use - sugar, salt, etc. therefore they are healthier. We personally try all the food items that we carry. All are good. Cleaning items are as good as name brand without the extra packaging and cost (to pay for corporations and their employees, benefits, etc.) We use all the cleaning supplies in our own home. I find the dollar store is a great place to teach little ones about finance without breaking the bank. None of the toys use metal, therefore no lead. Toys R Us had lots of recalls due to lead in toys. We are not associated with Dollar Tree. Dollar World in Colorado Springs is our store. Always remember. Many items you find at the dollar store are the same items you find at Target, Walmart, etc. for a lot less! Happy shopping!

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11 Melody April 28, 2010 at 3:05 pm

I recently got solar lights , the same ones walgreens was selling for $2.99 each. I always get brand name lipsticks..... Loreal, revlon, cover girl, etc saves me around $6 per tube.. Buy their brand of febreeze.... Works just as good. Air freshners.... 3 for $1..... Same ones at walgreens for $1.79 each. Once in a while I find salon name haircare..... Joico, schwartzkoph. Books for a buck..... Can't beat that!!! I heart dollar tree!!!!

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12 Melissa April 28, 2010 at 4:07 pm

Diane - I dont buy candy at the dollar store unless, it says made in the USA. Most of the candy at the dollar store is made in China. Some US mfgrs are now making the candy in China and the packaging says "distributed by ABC Company". Some have gone so far as to say "made responsibly in China" I am not going to let my children be the guinea pig for that recall. Let's not forget that not long ago they put poisonous materials in their baby formula in China. I do not trust candy made in China. My kids know and accept that if I can not verify where a piece of candy from a goody bag was made - it goes in the trash. I replace it with a US made piece of candy. If you havent looked lately at the candy packaging I encourage you to do so the next time you shop at the dollar store.

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13 Joy April 28, 2010 at 5:18 pm

Melissa,
I feel the same way about candy made in China and Mexico. Any goody bag candy or holiday candy that says made in China or Mexico goes immed. in trash. Same goes for fruit snacks (like Florida Naturals). I won't even but candy canes made in Mexico.

I was so disappointed at Easter time when I saw that Willy Wonka now makes many of its jellybeans and candy in Mexico, Chezch (sp?) Republic or Brazil. We can't make jellybeans here in the USA?!? Needless to say we didn't buy any Willy Wonka candy this Easter.

I will literally spend more $ or go out of my way to find stuff made in USA, whether it's candy, toothpaste, school supplies or household stuff. I know sometimes its unavoidable, but when I can I try to buy "Made in USA."

I did find a bag of Blow-Pops (for me) at Dollar Tree that has a big "Made in USA" label on the front. :)

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14 Joy April 28, 2010 at 5:33 pm

I meant to also say that I will buy stuff that says "Made in Canada.: :) Or, I will buy stuff that says made in some European country (like Oral B's Essential floss that is made in Ireland). I know sometimes it is hard to buy stuff "Made in USA" like toys and clothes, but it is possible to find lots of everyday stuff "Made in USA." Just have to spend a lot more time reading labels on everything!

My biggest pet peeve lately is feminine need products are increasingly being made in China. Kotex's new U brand is made in China. So disappointing. :( So I refuse to buy them.

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15 Carolyn April 28, 2010 at 6:58 pm

I love the dollar stores. We have a .99 cent everything store here where everything in the store is .99 or less. They sell brooms, mops, dust pans, car cleaning products, kitchen products like sponges, ect all for .99. You can't beat that! I have also found name brand items there like Kraft, Greber, ect that are not expired. Yes you do have to check expiration dates. They also sell Sarah Lee bread and bagels. They also have fresh produce that is brought in every Tuesday. Like I said there is a lot of name brand things at the store that you can get for just .99. They have gift bags for .39 each! Cards for .50. I have also found DVD there. They are the old ones like all the Friends seasons but hey a buck! I also like to buy holiday items there. I have bought cleaning product from there and I love them! At dollar tree there is a great stain remover and it has taken everything and anything out of my carpet. My kids love the coloring books they have there and go threw them like crazy. You'll ba amazed at what you can find at the 1.00 stores!

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16 Squirrelers May 12, 2010 at 4:32 pm

A dollar store is a good place to get kids started learning about shopping choices Seriously, it has worked for me. My 6-year old had received some birthday/tooth fairy/valentines cash, and I used the dollar store as the place she could buy something. Most things are the same price - $1 - so its easy for kids to make choices without factoring in money. She saved the rest, and got to go to the store and buy any one thing (just about) that she wanted. She chose a notebook, after 15 minutes of "serious" browsing :)

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17 JEAN GIBSON May 17, 2010 at 4:14 am

I am a part time event and wedding planner. I can pull together great party decorations at the dollar store. Especially great for a child's party.

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