I read a lot of posts from people who sing the praises of dollar stores, and many of their household items there, including food. While there are a lot of great deals to be had, there are definitely things that you should leave on the shelf, and buy elsewhere.
Party supplies/gift wrap: this is the best place for these items. Many things wont be used again after one party, so as long as they make it through the day, you have come out ahead.
Office supplies (with caveats): binders, pens, name brand crayons (don’t waste your time with non-Crayola crayons), paper etc. Don’t buy tape, sticky notes, staplers, scissors, or anything else that can fail mechanically (even if you think it is a simple thing, it will likely stop working after a few uses).
Tin Foil disposable pans: these are half the price of the grocery store, and are great for when you need to leave a dish somewhere (potlucks, parties, taking to a cottage etc) and don’t want to have to worry about cleanup. I have washed and reused them, and they are fine also. No difference in quality between these and the grocery store pans.
Greeting Cards: these are a waste all by themselves, but since you will need to buy them occasionally, opt for the cheap ones. They get looked at for 5-10 seconds max by the person you gave them to, and then are thrown out after you leave. Why pay $5, if you can get away with spending $1?
Holiday decorations: Some of them are great, and can be reused year after year. Buy carefully, and avoid the ones coated in glitter. The glitter will just serve to irritate you every time you take it out, and put it away. Dollar store glitter doesn’t stay on the intended decoration – it ends up everywhere.
Hangers: I recently bought a bunch and I am very happy with them. No need to spend a lot on these when the dollar store ones work just as well.
Ziploc baggies: they aren’t Ziploc brand – they are some other like-sounding knock off. I don’t know how they can still be selling these – I bought them twice, and both times I used one (it failed) and I got rid of the rest. They weren’t even fit to store crafts, or other small stuff.
Toys: steer the kids away from this aisle, and don’t waste your money. First off, who knows what is in the paint they use on these things (there have been many recalls over lead in these toys), and if it is safe. Secondly – most of the toys don’t work and will only bring tears and heartbreak to the kid who tried to play with it and it broke in their hands. Stay away from the puzzles – they never fit together correctly – you would do better to print out a picture, glue it to a cereal box, cut it into 20 pieces and give that to your kid to play with.
Electronics: now I have to say that phone charging cables have had a good track record for me. But anything else – beware. Someone brought a mini lantern from the dollar store over to our house. My son was playing with it, and asked me why it was getting hot. Sure enough – this thing was faulty and would have likely burned a hole through the table had we left it and walked away.
Food: There can be great deals, but shopping at the regular grocery stores can often yield just as good deals. Many of the brands are off-sized, so you really can’t be sure that the amount you are getting is equivalent to what you would buy normally. They usually look very close, but are in fact 10-15% smaller. Let’s not even get into the quality issue – just be wary about what you are buying if it isn’t a brand you recognize and can be comfortable feeding to your family.
Baby items: this just goes without saying – the quality is very substandard. Baby toys can break and cause choking, and there is no guarantee that bottles, wipes etc conform to safety standards.
I love a good dollar store, and looking around to see what new items they have, and how many useless items I can’t live without. Let me know if you have favorite items to add to the list – I would love to hear from you!