shopping cart piggy bankAs caregivers, we all love a good deal, especially in this economy.  Shopping at one of the various dollar stores (The Dollar Store, The Dollar Tree, The 99 Cent Store, etc.) can shave quite a bit off your monthly household and caregiving budget.

The most important thing to keep in mind when shopping at these discount stores is that they are not held to the high standards that the grocery stores are.  So you must be careful what you purchase.

The Do Buys:

Cleaning products are said to be a good value at the dollar stores.  And if you come across a name brand that you trust, go ahead and buy it.  It’s safe.

Generally speaking, bleach is bleach is bleach and most of other cleaning products have the same ingredients as the name brands.  (Veronica Bright of Hub Pages states that she found a wonderful cleaner called Mean Green at the Dollar Store which she says is amazing!)  Sponges are generally a good buy, as well.

Greeting cards are a great dollar store find.  Brand name cards can cost as much as $5.00 a piece and at the dollar store, you can find nicely made cards for as little as fifty cents a piece.   I stock up on the “homemade scrapbook-like” cards so that I’m never without the perfect card.  I’ve also found some very pretty and well made Gift bags as well as paper shred.  The ribbon didn’t seem to be much of a bargain.

Food storage containers, are less expensive and from my experience, hold up as well as the grocery store brands.  I buy the aluminum foil type casserole pans to use for pot lucks and delivered church meals.  I’ve also seen tortilla warmers for a dollar.

School Supplies can be found cheaper at stores like Target and Wallmart during back-to-school sales but when you find that you need poster board in January, it’s much better to pay a dollar than the $3.79 it would cost at other stores.  Two sets of tabbed dividers are $1.00 as compared to $2.50 – $3.00 at office supply stores.

Movie Night Candies can be expensive especially when purchased at the theatre.  The dollar stores carry name brand candies in “movie-sized” containers.  Although most sugars don’t deteriorate quickly, it’s still a good idea to check the experation date.

Children’s shoes are actually a good buy because their feet grow so quickly.  Summer sandals and flip flops are an especially good bargain and can be a fun gift for the grandchildren.

Picture frames can be rather costly in department stores.  If you’re lucky, you can find some decent ones now and then at the dollar store.

Wine goblets are a great find.  For just a dollar, you can purchase big (we detest those tiny 4 oz glasses that don’t allow the wine to breath or be swirled) sturdy glasses for both red and white wines.  Now I’m not advocating that you serve your care recipient giant glasses of wine but long into his 80s, my father loved wine and still had an excellent palate.  There shouldn’t be lead in these, but I might do a bit of research about that.

According to Jeff Yeager, author of “The Cheapskate Next Door”, Spices are a good purchase.  I would agree with that if you’re not super picky.  It’s difficult to mess up pepper or parsley but there are other spices that require better quality.  Remember to check expiration dates.

Books and specialty CDs are two of my favorite finds.  I’ve found some great current reads and some lovely inspirational books for just a dollar each – excellent gift items.  CDs with relaxing music for mediatation or bubble baths can often be found along with holiday CDs – just don’t expect well-known artists.

Seasonal items are good purchases if you have not shopped the previous years’ end-of-season sale.  Be wary that anything painted (especially ceramics) might contain lead.

The Don’ts

Over-the-counter medications and vitamins – As tempting as these are to purchase, I wouldn’t do it.  As I entioned before, the dollar stores are not as well regulated and Consumer Reports has stated that some vitamins didn’t have the amount of nutrients that they claimed to have on the label.

Children’s Toys (except for coloring books).  I just wouldn’t trust the quality.

Batteries – Many of the battery products found at the dollar stores are made with carbon zinc, as opposed to lithium, so they do not last as long.  Carbon zinc can also leak, thus doing damage to your electronics.

Plastic and Aluminum Wraps – One dollar for 25 feet of aluminum foil is just not a good deal.

Pet Food and Pet Toys – Again, this is due to lack of regulation and in my opinion, shodiness of product.

Gum – Costco is cheaper, Amazon even more so.

Oven mits and kitchen towels – They’re just too thin and may not protect you from being burnt or be very absorbent.

Socks – I’ve found them to be poor quality and NOT soft.  I will say that iVillage disagrees with me and recommends them as a good buy.  (Shoe Shining blocks are a good value at $1.00 for a pack of 2.  I’ve seen these at Nordstrom for $5.95 each.) I keep one in the car in order to quickly wipe off smudges before doctors’ appointments or church service.)

Power cords – Again, in my opinion, they are poor quality and might damage your electronics.  Duct tape, sand paper, painter’s tape and bungee cords are good though.

Sodas – Sodas can be found less expensive elsewhere.

Baby items – Avoid them due to lack of regulation.  (I’ve never seen diapers available though.)

Perishables – YES and NO  A bunch of green onions for a dollar is not a steal when they can be purchased for 79 cents elsewhere.  But I once found a giant package of ginger root for .99 cents – now that’s a steal! I also found some great gourmet caramel popcorn with almonds and some chocolate covered pretzels (that I normally bought wholesale for my giftbaskets at $3.00 a package).  If you’re aware of your normal supermarket prices, and there is a brand available that you trust, go ahead and purchase.  Again, just be sure to check expiration dates.

Grooming items are iffy but worth checking out.  Shampoo is a decent find as are scrubbies/loofahs.  Items like Chapstick and Vaseline can often be found there and my very favorite soap (Yardley oatmeal and almond) is almost always available at the dollar store.  Nail files, packages of combs, tooth flossing sticks are of value. Skip the cotton swabs (too flimsy and could be dangerous), make-up (due to lack of regulation), and make-up remover pads (can I just say UGH!?).

Also remember that many dollar type stores accept coupons so don’t forget to bring those along.

What are YOUR favorite finds?



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