The Dollar Store Foods You Should Avoid Buying At All Costs

It's not a good idea to buy canned foods or frozen meats at a dollar store due to quality and food safety risks.

By Kari Apted | Published

As inflation sits near the 40-year record high set earlier this year, more people are looking for ways to make ends meet, especially when it comes to the grocery budget. Many turn to their local Dollar Tree, Dollar General or Family Dollar store to stock up on inexpensive essentials, but this might not be a good idea. Find out which foods you should never buy at a dollar store and why.

Buying canned goods is a good way to stock the pantry, but they can be a major waste of money when purchased at a dollar store. First, paying over a dollar for a can of corn doesn’t make sense when grocery stores usually sell canned vegetables for 79 cents or less. Also, dollar stores are notorious for stocking canned goods from other countries where food production standards aren’t well regulated.

Reading labels to check where the food comes from is an important health consideration because lowered food regulations mean the can’s contents may include pesticides that have been banned in the U.S. In most cases, canned food is also less nutritious than fresh or frozen varieties and can contain crazy high levels of sodium and sugar.

Canned meat products sold at dollar stores are usually of inferior quality with high fat and sodium levels. A dollar store can of chili may weigh the same as a can of national brand chili, but the dollar can is full of sauce instead of meat and beans. The same is true for dollar-store beef stew, which is mostly gravy and potato chunks with just a few small chunks of heavily processed beef.

With meat prices so exorbitant these days, who wouldn’t love to save money on a nice, juicy steak? Unfortunately, frozen dollar store steaks showcase the old adage that you get what you pay for because a thin, tough, dollar-something cut of beef is absolutely nothing like a $20 ribeye. You’re better off saving up for the real deal instead of buying such poor-quality steak that it ends up in the trash.

dollar store

Chips, crackers and other snacks are favorite dollar store purchases, with many of the dollar retailers offering name brands that seem cheaper than the same products at other shops. However, a quick glance at the label usually shows that you get much less food for your money. It’s important to calculate the cost per serving to find the best deal on snacks and it’s usually not going to be found at Dollar General.

Soda is often another treat we run into the dollar store for, and if you’re buying a single bottle or can, it might be a little cheaper than grabbing that exact drink out of a convenience store cooler. If you don’t mind generic sodas, you might also find a great deal on a 2-liter or even a 3-liter of generic pop. What you won’t find at Dollar Tree is a 2-liter of name-brand soda at its current $1.25 price point.

Cheese, milk, and other dairy products are best bought from a grocery store. Dollar store cheese is notorious for not melting and lacking any real dairy products on its list of ingredients. And milk often comes in such small containers that it’s the equivalent of paying $8 a gallon.

So, what foods are okay to buy at your local dollar store? Some spices are fine, provided that they are in the same size containers as the generic spices at the grocers. Many dollar stores now stock bread, rolls and even bagels from popular local brands and those may be cheaper per pack than their grocery store equivalents. The bottom line: shoppers must know other stores’ prices per serving on specific products to determine if they’re getting a good deal on dollar store food. Dollar stores can be a great place to find deals on non-food items commonly stocked at grocery stores. Examples include greeting cards, party supplies, toothbrushes, food storage containers, and certain cleaning supplies.