If you’re a time-crunched cook wondering how to prepare a quick and satisfying meal while sticking to a budget, make the dollar store your first stop when stocking the pantry and freezer with everyday essentials.
10 food items to add to your cart at the dollar store
10 food items to add to your cart at the dollar store
A ready-made mix is a busy cook’s best friend. Dollar stores offer a treasure trove of breakfast and baking mixes that will make easy work of whipping up a stack of fluffy pancakes or creating a yummy batch of cupcakes for next week’s bake sale. Or enjoy the best of both worlds with Birthday Cake Pancakes. And, yes, cake for breakfast is a thing.
A thrifty shopper never met a can of beans she or he didn’t like. Not only are beans one of mankind’s staple foods, they work in a variety of recipes and pack a lot of protein, so they’re popular with carnivores and non-meat eaters alike. Try them in soups, chilis, casseroles, enchiladas or tacos.
Ramen noodles get a bad rap for being cheap dorm room fodder. But with a little creativity, a few extra ingredients and a clever recipe at your fingertips, it’s easy to revamp the drab instant packaged dinner into a delish meal everyone will love.
Chicken broth is a base for your favorite soups and stews as well as a staple ingredient in casseroles, rice dishes and other recipes. But simmering the homemade liquid gold on the stovetop is not always a busy cook’s reality. Rely on store-bought broth as a handy standby when time is tight.
Frozen fruits and vegetables
Frozen fruits and vegetables are not only budget-friendly, they’re healthy, too. The produce is frequently picked when ripe and then flash frozen to preserve nutrients. In addition, many varieties are salt- and sugar-free, making them ideal alternatives to their canned counterparts. If corn is king tonight, include this slow-cooked side dish on the menu.
Pasta, rice and other dried goods
Pasta, rice, grains, quick-cooking oats: These are the energy-sustaining foods that humans have consumed for centuries to stay full and fueled. And let’s face it, dishes like lasagna, spaghetti and meatballs, rice casseroles and steamy oatmeal are crazy delicious. So why not stock up on these staples at crazy-low prices? And don’t pass by the packaged dinners. It’s easy to turn a ho-hum box of mac and cheese into a new comfort food fave with an easy recipe like this one.
Coffee and tea
We all love our morning fix, but if a $5 cup of gourmet joe doesn’t jibe with a frugal lifestyle, check out the dollar store’s selection of morning pick-me-ups. Most stores offer packages of single-serve coffee capsules in addition to instant coffee and a variety of tea, creamers, sweeteners and syrups. And don’t pass up instant coffee even if it’s not your thing; it adds amazing flavor to baked goods and desserts, including this dreamy indulgence.
Condiments and spices
Condiments and spices are the secret to transforming a plain-Jane dish into something extraordinary. From simple spices to ketchup, barbecue sauce, gravy, mustard, pickles and relish, it’s never been easier to add flavor…or stock up your pantry with the basics. Want to amp up the flavor and texture in a weeknight classic? Give this glazed meatloaf a try.
Craving something salty, crunchy, chewy or sweet? The dollar store has you covered. The wide array of snacks is a gold mine for munchies of all varieties including crackers, pretzels, chips, popcorn, nuts, dried fruits and trail mixes. Whether you are planning a relaxed game-day get-together, need something fun to tuck into a lunchbox or just want to stock up on finger foods that pack a punch, you’ll find all you need and more. Or get really creative and combine a few ingredients into an easy snack mix. Don’t be surprised if your taste buds break into the happy dance.
Cutting costs doesn’t mean giving up your favorite guilty pleasure—candy. Skip the fancy gourmet confectioner shops in the mall and head to your nearest dollar store for the biggest bonanza of chocolates, lollipops, caramels and other candies. Treating the kids to a movie? Save pennies by buying those theater-style boxed treats for $1 apiece. Halloween coming up? You’ll hit the jackpot with the huge variety of trick-or-treat loot found here. Need a fun classroom treat? Use a mix of dollar store candies to decorate a pan of bars the kids won’t be able to resist. Saving money never tasted so sweet!
Whether you’re a college student on a budget or a mama bee with a penchant for pinching pennies, no one will suspect how thrifty you are when you serve dishes made from these dollar store gems. Cutting the grocery bill has never been easier—or tastier!
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With such deeply discounted prices—nearly every item flaunts a $1 price point—it’s a thrifty shopper’s paradise. But don’t load up the cart just yet. We’ll show you how to shop the food aisles at the local dollar store like a boss.
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Vintage Canning Jars
Mason jars aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. And those blue-tinted vintage Ball jars? Well, those can sell for a pretty penny to collectors. Whether you’re looking to resell them, repurpose them as home decor or—dare I say—actually use them for canning, you’ve got countless reasons to scoop up a few if you spot them on a thrift store shelf. (Get inspired by these totally genius ways to use glass jars in your home.)
Mismatched dishware is very on trend right now, so if you find a few dishes short of a set or a pretty bowl here and there, it’s easy to build a shabby-chic collection of mix-and-match dishes that give your table depth, character and a fun color palette.
Try your best to ignore that garish clown face staring at you from the velvet canvas. If the artwork’s iffy but the frame is stunning, just pop out the picture and use that ornate frame to hang something you really love. Even outdated wood or metal frames can be painted a fun color to give them new life—and a new sense of style.
Solid wood furniture can be quite expensive when purchased new. But thrift stores are loaded with wooden desks, dressers, chairs and benches that have timeless style and a teeny price tag. Look for clean lines and good construction—if it’s simple and sturdy, it’ll fit in with any style home. And those unsightly brass knobs? They’re easy and inexpensive to replace to give outdated furniture a modern makeover.
If you see a vintage pink Pyrex bowl sitting on a thrift store shelf, stop what you’re doing and put it in your cart instantly. Collectors go crazy for the pretty colors and bold patterns, and their resale value is off the charts. Even if you’d like some of your own, the cute factor and durability make them stylish, timeless kitchen workhorses. Learn more about vintage Pyrex dishes, here.
When purchased new, heavy-duty cast-iron skillets, pots and pans can carry price tags nearly as hefty as their weight. But if you find them at a thrift store, you can bring home these beloved kitchen staples for a serious bargain. Even if they’re in rough shape, it’s easy to restore cast-iron cookware to like-new, food-safe conditions. And once you’ve reseasoned your pan, go ahead and whip up any of these amazing cast-iron skillet recipes.
Unless they’re building a library, people often get rid of books first when trying to declutter the house. That means thrift stores are loaded with popular page-turners for prices often 10 times lower than bookstores. So whether you’re looking for a summer read, historical fiction or your favorite sports star’s autobiography, if you don’t mind doing some digging, you can find a whole collection of books just waiting to sweep you away.
Even if it’s a big tarnished, solid silver items can be polished and restored to like-new condition fairly easily—and they can be sold for a great price, depending on the current value of silver. Check to see if the piece is solid by tapping on the surface and listening for a high-pitched ringing sound.
Faux greenery, plastic pumpkins, heart-shaped dishes and other holiday decor sometimes have their own sections in thrift stores. While some of it might be a little gaudy (and who are we to judge?), you can usually find holiday staples with timeless appeal—Christmas-tree stands, festive dishware and ornaments—for mere cents.
Believe it or not, Cards Against Humanity can get a little tiresome after you’ve played it for the hundredth time. A trip to the thrift store can mean stumbling upon a new game-night classic for super cheap. Just make sure to open the box and check that all the pieces are there and intact. If it’s missing directions, do a quick search on your phone to see if they’re available online.
Seafoam green jadeite—popular in the 1930s—is making a big comeback in home decor. And while its retro style is reason enough to add it to your collection, it’s also really valuable if you ever want to resell. Look for McKee, Jeanette or Fire-King logos on the bottom of each piece—they’re among the most valuable brands of jadeite, with items reselling for as much as $100 apiece.