Thursday, October 27, 2011

Are Dollar Stores Really a Bargain?

I have a retail chain dollar store not too far from where I live. I’ll go visit every once in a while. I’m usually looking for inexpensive party decorations, kid’s party favors, gift bags, candles and miscellaneous items for kid’s school projects. I’ve always by-passed the food and household goods sections. I just assumed it was all non-brand or generic of inferior quality. Now, I’m not a person who only buys brand name products. I’m feeding a family of five, so I look for sale items, use the club cards, buy grocery store brands, and clip coupons. But, the dollar store has never been on my radar for food buying bargains.

Last week, our group of interns went on a little field trip. We went to a dollar store on a scavenger hunt. We had to find a set of small microwavable storage containers, plastic wrap or foil, a bottle of soap, detergent or cleanser, a jar of spice, a piece of kitchen equipment, one unhealthy food item and two healthy food items. This was much easier to do than I thought. Then I started wondering if the items we found were really bargains. If you compare these items with their grocery store counterparts, are you saving money?

Here’s a sample of some of the price comparisons:

Pineapple fruit cups/4 pack: Dole $3.69 (regular price at major grocery store chain), DelMonte $2.50 (sale price at major grocery store chain), Major grocery store brand $2.00 (sale price) – Dollar store wins!

Unit price comparison of Reynold’s aluminum foil: Dollar store $0.05/sq ft, Major grocery store chain $0.06-$0.07/sq ft depending on package, Major grocery store brand $0.04/sq ft (sale price) – If you have to have Reynold’s, the dollar store wins. If not, buy the store brand on sale.

Unit price comparison of Brillo Soap Pads: Dollar store $0.13/pad, Brillo brand at major grocery store chain $0.25/pad, SOS brand at major grocery store chain $0.28/pad, Major grocery store brand $0.22/pad – Dollar store wins! (Money saving tip: Cut pads in half before using, brings cost down to less than $0.07/pad)

Unit price comparison of Quick Cooking Oatmeal: Dollar store $0.06/oz, Quaker brand at major grocery store chain $0.11/oz, Major grocery store brand $0.09/oz – Dollar store wins!

Nutritional/unit price comparison of Reduced Fat Soy Milk: Dollar store (WestSoy Plain Low Fat) $0.03/oz, WestSoy Milk Plain 1% Lite brand at major grocery store chain $0.08/oz, Silk Soy Milk Original Light brand at major grocery store chain $0.06/oz – Dollar store wins!

It looks like the dollar store is a real bargain! If you’re not shopping at one near you, maybe it’s time to at least check it out.

There are a few things to keep in mind when bargain hunting at any store:

  • Check expiration dates – even the best stores can miss these.
  • Only buy in quantities you know you can use before the product expires. Throwing away food you spent hard earned money on doesn’t save you anything.
  • Don’t buy dented cans or opened packaging.
  • Compare the unit pricing, not the overall price.
  • If you are unfamiliar with the product, read the nutrition facts label! Make sure it’s healthy. Unhealthy food isn’t a bargain.
  • Look beyond the claims on the front of the package. Again, read the nutrition facts label!


  1. Physical clothing store like you usually see in the market are not so idealistic as it seems and sometimes it cost more when it comes to rend. if there are things that store owner should take a look is how online clothing stores are transforming traditional retail. maybe they would realize how it is great to have an online store also.