Saturday, July 5, 2008

Dollar Store Dining

I know that we're all looking for ways to decrease our food budget - but do you think buying food at the "dollar store" is the way to go? You know, the stores like Dollar Tree, Dollar General, Everything's a Buck, etc (whatever the ones in your area are called).

Our local paper did a story about a month ago about buying food stuffs at the dollar store - and the reporter seems to have done a lot of comparison shopping. She said on a recent trip to a specific store here in the city not one item was past or even near its expiration date, no dents and very few "off brands." And it wasn't all Top Ramen or potted meat. Now, she did provide the warning that you shouldn't assume that just because "it's only a dollar" and it's a name-brand then it must be a better deal than the same brand sold at the grocery store, Target or Wal-Mart.

Bad deals: Morton's kosher salt (1-pound box at the dollar store, $1; 3-pound box at Kroger, $2.49 and the store brand at Kroger is $1.49...for three pounds). Duncan Hines brownie and cookie mixes are smaller at the dollar stores (5 1/2 ounces rather than 16 1/2 ounce boxes sold at the grocery store). Other "skip its" she says are canned fruit as the cans are smaller and they are "off brands." And the tortillas are better suited to using as sandbags or weapons because they were so hard.

If you hate mincing your own garlic then the jars of the stuff at the dollar store are a good buy (8-ounce jar for $1; 4 1/2-ounce jar for $1.50 at the grocer). However, if you don't mind mincing your own, then buy the stuff in the produce section at Kroger where it's around $2/pound. Buying the heads of garlic at the grocery store also gives you cloves of garlic for other recipes. Minced stuff in the jar can only be used in recipes that call for...well...minced garlic. ;) (we use too much garlic for that to be a good buy for us)

She says the good buys are jars of red bell peppers (as a matter of fact, she bought almost all the stuff for an antipasto tray at the dollar store - olives, mushrooms, marinated vegetables, crackers), 24-ounce bottles of Hunt's ketchup, bread crumbs, chicken broth (I'm guessing that's if you don't buy low-sodium like I do); and 28-ounce cans of tomatoes; dried herbs and spices; seasoning mixes for the grill. Brad uses canned tomatoes when making his salsa (we really need to get some tomato plants!) so I'll send him to the dollar store the next time he gets a hankering to make some.

Things that are worth it if they're not on sale at the grocery store: the minced garlic previously mentioned, pasta, cooking oil, jam, jelly and preserves, long-grain white rice, soft drinks (3 cans for $1) and snack foods like chips and pretzels. My mom buys the bags of Tootsie Roll Midgies (that she stashes in her desk drawer) from the dollar store

What do you think about this "dollar store dining"?

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