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Jun 20, 2007 11:51 AM

Dollar Tree

While there are many of the same items, the two in my area are radically different.

Food-wise these stores carry off-brand canned goods, spices, snacks, bread and frozen food.

There is also kitchen-ware and party supplies like paper plates and plastic cutlery.

EVERYTHING is $1 or less. Amazingly enough these stores are on the stock exchange and making money for their stockholders.

So, anything good here? How are the pickles ... for a dollar a jar, that seems like a deal. What about the spices ... McCormick size bottles all for $1. Kosher salt ... $1.

How are the canned veggies ... 2 for $1? They carry Latino cookies and products made with sugar and not HFCS.

My two stores:

250 San Pablo Towne Ctr (next to Albertsons)
San Pablo, CA 94806
(510) 235-9898

Everything bad you would imagine about stores in this category. Open boxes, dented cans, litter on the floors. Awful.

11555 San Pablo Avenue
El Cerrito, CA 94530
(510) 965-9973

The polar opposite ... sparkling clean and neat ... three times the size with a larger selection of food like fresh bread and tortillas. A frozen food section will be added in a month.

Neither store carries wine or beer.

Any thoughts about the Dollar Tree?

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  1. You know I have also wondered about the food items. I have a clean and neat store near me too, Charleston, but the only thing I have bought are non food items. I would love to hear from anyone who has bought any of these off/foreign brands.

    1. There is one by my work in La Mirada, CA and it's great for gadgets. I have a LOT of rubber spatulas but my favorites are the two pink ones I bought at Dollar Tree. Maybe I started using them more because they were the cheap ones (ie if they get messed up oh well) but they are great!

      1. i don't buy food at dollar stores anymore, although there was a time in my life when i did.

        many times the canned goods are actually cheaper in the regular store, ime. the dried beans and spices are so cheap because they are old--warehoused so long they are sold to the discount brand to package and sell for a buck. you can get pretty much the same performance if you scrape the dust off the top of your fridge and use that. i have bought ramen and canned soup-- these would be absolutely the last thing i would choose to ever eat, and i''m talking about after i'd already eaten the vietnamese war-era c-rations from my dad.

        that said i would probably look into dollar-store goods like the tortillas, bread and frozen foods. i'd look carefully at the packaging of things and make sure it does not appear to be last-year's stuff, but it is likely that there will be some decent things among the chaff-- you get people in to buy dollar tortillas and they'll buy your inferior dollar beans and dollar rice, and a dollar wooden spoon to cook it with too. . .you get the idea. some things will be a good buy for a buck, most things will be overpriced at a buck--same as everything else in the store, the trick is to get you in there to buy 1 item and you leave 20 dollars later. . .

        incidentally, and maybe i should add this to your other thread, sorry-- you can get a lot of bulk stuff at your local co-op. you package only what you need, so you can buy a few cents' worth of spices or 30 cents of rice, whatever. cheap, budget friendly, you can spend the dollar and get small amounts of 6 or 7 different, high quality, super-fresh spices. same goes for dried beans, legumes, pasta, rice, grains, etc. shop the co-op but ignore everything but the bulk section. good luck.

        4 Replies
        1. re: soupkitten

          But did you find that across all dollar stores or at a specific chain?

          It is like Safeway and Albertsons and Fairway, etc are all in the same class of grocery store, yet the prices, quality, etc will vary.

          Grocery Outlet sells rock bottom price ...insanely cheap groceries ... yet it is more overstock than expired ... still have to watch the dates, but for the most part it is not what one would expect.

          I have read on the board that some dollar / 99 cent stores sell wine. Even within Dollar Tree the quality varies. I know when I lived in the San Diego area, I would read these horrid stories in the newspaper about some of the dollar stores in that area.

          It is often, it seems the non-chains that are the worst offenders. They are just buying cheap, damamged junk.

          I'm not a bargain store shopper for much of anything. There isn't the thrill of the hunt for me. I consider Trader Joe's more than I want to deal with. However, Grocery Outlet has me curious about if there's anything else good out there. Then again, I'm doing this little $3 a day experiment so I thought I'd look into these as a tie in.

          Yeah, usually I buy from bins for certain items. I have a cootie factor though going for me. If it is a scoop where everyone can put their hands in, I'm less likely to buy it than if you can just funnel it into a bag with no hand contact. I just started re-considering olive bars when while I was there some woman at Safeway reached in with her fingers and helped herself to samples. I told her my onpinion of that.

          1. re: rworange

            >> Then again, I'm doing this little $3 a day experiment so ...

            I'm very, *very* much looking forward to reading the lab report on that one :)

            [edit: aha, found it: ]

            1. re: rworange

              unfortunately i don't have much experience with the dollar store chains you have near you in cali, and there are currently laws here in mn about selling wine in grocery stores (apparently that might encourage eating at the same time as drinking, and that would make too much sense), so i can't help you with the specific stores, sorry :-(

              maybe you've got better dollar stores that carry some good stuff!

            2. re: soupkitten

              I have to agree with soupkitten. I've had to do some drastic cutting back in the last couple of years so I checked out the dollar tree food section because I already go there for various school items. (btw, they also have amazingly cheap gift wrap) However, I don't buy any food because I can get better stuff cheaper at the supermarket when there's a sale. Also, it's mostly packaged foods, junk foods, and stuff like pancake mix I can make cheaper and better myself. I wouldn't even get bread or frozen foods there since the supermarket often has sales on those and at the supermarket they're fresher. I will admit to buying 2 large boxes of Toffifay candies from Dollar Tree one time. It's one of my all time favorite candies. They were great! However, that's junk food. I think the Dollar Trees in Northern California are better than the ones in OC, at least so far as I've seen.

              Further, I agree that buying more than a tiny bag of spices is generally a big waste of money. I now buy my spices at a store that has them in bulk and usually only spend a few cents and I no longer have to throw out mostly unused big jars of old spices. Lesson learned.

            3. rworange, I have always had good luck with snack type foods at Dollar Tree ---- cookies, crackers, nuts, pretzels, chips, etc. I especially hit the candy aisle for filling Christmas stockings and Easter baskets. I haven't bought any of the other canned or bagged foods, though.

              4 Replies
              1. re: Sister Sue

                Thanks. I was thinking this would be a good stop at Halloween. Any particlar snack you'd recommend? I've been eyeing the Mexican cookies, but the brand escapes me. How about the fig bars?

                Are they temporary things with always changing brands?

                1. re: rworange

                  They do change brands a good bit. Also, here in Mississippi, different Dollar Trees carry different brands. I have had some Mexican cookies from DT that were pretty good. Recently I found some macadamia cookies that were very good. Sometime I can find sesame sticks at our local DT that my husband loves. I have not tried the fig bars.

                2. re: Sister Sue

                  I definitely don't touch the candy at Dollar Tree unless its your standard Hershey's or Nestles... I wouldn't give that Palmers or Franklins crap that is in abundance around the holidays to my worst enemy!

                  1. re: summeranne

                    I don't buy that stuff either. In fact, if I am buying chocolate, I don't get Hershey's or Nestle's even --- I go for the really good stuff. At DT I do buy the movie theater sized boxes of Mike & Ike, Nerds, Sugar Babies, Goobers, and such. The kids LOVE those big boxes. I also like to get Gummy Bears or Worms, Life Savers, Lemon Heads, and Now-or-Laters for me to eat when I am driving on long trips. The tartness helps me to stay awake when I get sleepy.

                3. I love Dollar Tree but I am cautious especially with candy coming from Mexico, quite a big problem with lead in popular Mexican candies. I don't know if the lead filled ones have been stopped coming across the border yet.