Dollar Store Hits and Misses

Have you ever shopped in a dollar store? Consumer Reports recently made some helpful recommendations about what to buy and what to avoid in such stores. It said that dollar store prices on aluminum foil, gift wrap, and party supplies can’t be beat. However, it recommended taking a pass on electrical products (they may carry fake UL labels vouching for their safety, according to the article), medications (they may be past their expiration date), vitamins (their multi-vitamins may not contain the amount of nutrients listed on their labels), and kids’ jewelry (it may contain high levels of lead).

I once checked prices on 17 items our family buys regularly, comparing our main grocery store to a deep discounter (Aldi) and two dollar stores (Dollar General and Dollar Tree). Dollar General, which actually sells a lot of items for more than $1, carried 13 of the 17 items on my list. While it offered the best prices on just three items (vegetable oil, graham crackers, and laundry detergent), its price for laundry detergent (Arm & Hammer) was the lowest by far.

Everything sold by Dollar Tree is, in fact, priced at $1. Since it focuses on house wares, hardware, and party supplies, it carried very few of the food items on my list. Of those it did carry, I had to do some calculating to come up with fair comparisons since it sells food in small package sizes to keep its prices at $1. Even so, its ready-to-eat cereal came out at a very low price per ounce. It also had the best prices on cereal bars and tortilla chips.

Since Aldi had every item on my list and the best prices on most of them, we shop there regularly. We use dollar stores very rarely – mostly for non-food items.

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