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From party favors to cleaning supplies, the dollar store offers plenty of great ways to save a buck.
But there’s one section of these discount stores that many people avoid simply because they’re just not sure about the quality and value — and we’re talking about the food aisle.
Dollar Tree foods you may want to buy elsewhere
I recently scanned the food section of an Atlanta-area Dollar Tree for a closer look.
After identifying items that seemed like good deals, I went across the street to an Aldi to do some comparison shopping – and the results even surprised me.
Here are 7 items that you may want to stop buying at the dollar store:
1. Some spices
Brand name spices are one of 18 things that can break your grocery budget, so I always assumed that the $1 spices from Dollar Tree were a bargain.
But the next time you buy spices, pay attention to the net weight listed on the packaging.
A 2.5 ounce container of garlic powder sells for $1 at Dollar Tree, but a 5.5 ounce container – more than double the size – is only $1.19 at Aldi.
Worried about quality? Don’t be. A Consumer Reports taste test gave cheap spices the OK.
2. Chips and pretzels
Just like many other food items from the dollar store, bags of chips and pretzels have been shrunk to the point where you can buy them cheaper elsewhere.
Aldi’s house brand of chips cost more than a buck, $1.49 to be exact, but the bag is double the weight.
Don’t let the size of the bag fool you. Sometimes a larger bag will have less product than a smaller one. Always check the net weight listed on the packaging!
3. Coffee products
While Dollar Tree’s $1 coffee mugs are a steal, the coffee that goes in them leaves a lot to be desired.
Sarah from the Sensational Finds YouTube channel said dollar store instant coffee just doesn’t taste very good and creamer products aren’t a good deal per ounce.
On the other hand, coffee filters are an OK value, but they’re pretty cheap everywhere.
4. Frozen meats
Perhaps the most controversial items sold at Dollar Tree are located in the frozen foods section.
Last year, I tried the Stampede ribeye steak when it was temporarily discounted from $1 to $0.33 — and it was chewy, salty and a very tiny portion.
Now, they’re selling country fried steak as well. Larry from TheWolfePit YouTube channel tested it:
Since you’re not really getting a lot of meat for a buck, you’re probably better off buying something from the markdown section at a regular supermarket.
5. Some condiments
What could be wrong with these full-size containers of ketchup and mustard? Nothing really, except you can find the same size or even larger at other stores for less.
Shopping at Aldi, I bought a 24 ounce bottle of ketchup for $0.89 and 20 ounces of mustard for $0.79.
And while we’re talking about things in the condiments section, I noticed that you can also buy distilled white vinegar for less at Aldi, just $0.79.
Read more: Save with these 8 brilliant uses for vinegar
6. Baking soda
Baking soda is a staple of the American household and it’s not just for baking! People use it as a household cleaner to tackle stubborn stains and smells.
It’s also cheaper than you might think. A one pound box sells for $0.49 at Aldi.
Even if you don’t have an Aldi in your neighborhood, you can generally find larger quantities of Arm & Hammer baking soda for less than $0.60 a pound at Walmart or Target.
Read more: 5 uses for baking soda you never knew about
7. Canned vegetables
A can of green beans at Dollar Tree is less than a buck, but it’s still not even close to the best deal.
Major supermarkets frequently put canned vegetables on sale, so you can easily beat the dollar store’s $0.79 price if you check the weekly circulars.
Across the street at Aldi, Happy Harvest green beans have a new low price of $0.36 a can.
There are still some good deals in the food aisle…
Although not everything in the food aisle at the dollar store is a bargain, I found their prices were competitive on a number of pantry staples: pasta, rice, dried beans, oatmeal and even fresh bread!
No matter where you shop, pay attention to unit pricing (such as price per ounce) to identify true deals.
There are plenty of ways to get food items for less than a dollar at Dollar Tree — and sometimes free — by using manufacturer coupons and cash back apps on brand name products.