5 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Shop at Dollar Stores

Image by Robin Higgins from Pixabay

A while back we wrote about the five reasons why you should shop at a dollar store. And we think there are some reasons. But dollar stores aren’t perfect, and there certainly are arguments against them.

Here, then, are five reasons why you should not shop at a dollar store.

Too Much Processed Food

Grocers in recent years have done a better job selling more simple foods. There’s always something to be said for a product with an ingredients list you can understand and a sodium count that isn’t going to give you a heart attack.

I don’t see a lot of simple foods at dollar stores. What I see instead is a lot of junk food, a lot of canned and packaged food, and a lot of frozen food. I see pizza and mac and cheese, chips, candy, and soda. I see things that are quick and easy, but they’re also high in sugar, sodium, fat, and carbs. And I see long lists of ingredients I can’t pronounce.

That’s not to say that I can’t find healthy foods at dollar stores. I can. But it takes effort, and the options there feel small compared to a traditional grocery store or even a big box store.

Not Enough Fresh Produce

This is a long-standing complaint about dollar stores. If you go into a Dollar General, Dollar Tree, or Family Dollar, you’re not going to see much — if any — fresh produce. While some dollar stores are now piloting introducing fresh fruits and veggies into some locations, we’ve yet to walk into a dollar store ourselves that sold salad, fresh fruits, or fresh vegetables.

The reason? Logistics. Produce doesn’t last long. Dollar stores tend to shelve products that can last for a long time. What’s more, getting produce to stores requires distribution, and that’s a layer that isn’t easy, especially when you’re talking about, say, distant, rural Dollar General stores.

It’s still frustrating. Sure, we can find canned fruits and canned veggies and maybe fruit juice. But that’s not the same, and we don’t think it’s nearly enough.

Limited Selection

I’ve already touched on selection constraints with respect to food balance, but it can be an issue in other ways, too. Dollar stores are low-inventory, with a smaller slate of options than big box stores. Those dollar stores do a pretty good job mixing in essentials with rotating seasonal items, but that doesn’t plug all the gaps, either in the food or non-food areas.

If your shopping trip is just about a few core items, you might be able to get it all at a dollar store. But if you get too far beyond that — if you need something, say, more niche — you’re liable to run into more challenges finding it at a dollar store. This is especially true of Dollar Tree, which focuses mostly on a specific slice of price range.

Moreover, when you do find something you want, you may not have a lot of options in that category. Don’t expect to have more than one or two options for certain products, which could be brand name or house brand.

Not Always a Good Value

On this site, we like to calculate price per ounce. Yes, a price might look low. That doesn’t mean it’s a good value, especially if you can go somewhere else and get a better price for something just a little larger.

More than once, we’ve stumbled on dollar store products that have a low total price but a high price per ounce. That might be appealing to some people if you don’t need a lot, but if it’s something you’re going to be buying a lot of, you’ll end up losing money in the long term. Dollar Tree pizzas, for instance, are more expensive per ounce than Totino’s, and Dollar Tree’s potato chips are about the same price per ounce as Lay’s.

Quality Can Be Hit or Miss

In our time writing about dollar store products, we’ve found that sometimes products are decent, and sometimes they are not. Name brands are, of course, name brands, and you know what you’re getting. When it comes to house brands, though, our track record has been merely passable. It’s rare that we find a dollar store house brand that proves superior to a name brand or a private label titan like Aldi.

And some dollar store products are just flat inferior. We’ve seen it with food, like with Dollar Tree’s terrible house brand dips or Family Dollar’s weird private label strawberry preserves. We’ve also seen it with non-food items, like Dollar General’s ill-fitting private label jeans and forgettable house brand body wash or Dollar Tree’s unpleasant-smelling dry shampoo.

It’s not to say that dollar store private labels are automatically bad. But I can’t think of a single dollar store private label that I would go to the store for over another private label. The best stuff at a dollar store, in my experience, is the name brands, assuming the price is right.

Closing Thoughts

There are some things I like about dollar stores, including speed and convenience. Dollar General has saved us during camping trips, and Dollar Tree has a great greeting card selection. But we’ve never been big fans of the selection, and the quality and value of products, especially house brands, doesn’t seem to quite measure up to Aldi or Walmart, at least in our experience. That may make it less appealing as a must-shop stop.

About Joshua

Joshua is the Co-founder of Dollar Store Reviewer. He is also a writer and novelist. You can learn more about him at joshuaajohnston.com.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *