HOME > Chowhound > Chains >


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?


  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  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: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/411382 ]

            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.

                  1. I have no problem buying food at Dollar Tree - as long as it's a brand I know. They often get items that are close to their date in, or discontinued items. I simply go home with it and write the expiration date on the package with a sharpie and it gets used up.

                    We used to try their strange branded snack foods but they were pretty darn bland.

                    1. I often buy food items at Dollar Tree and have had great luck. I usually buy the jars of roasted red peppers. At $1 a jar, they are less than half the price that I can get them for anywhere else---and they are delicious! I've also bought the shelf-stable "gruyere" cheese that comes individually wrapped in wedges, 8 to a package. Not gourmet, but tasty enough, and handy for plane trips. Some of the candy is good, too. There is a packaged kind of cashew brittle with sesame seeds that is addictive!

                      1. I haven't bought anything except confectionary there, but I noticed that our Dollar Tree has VASTLY expanded their food aisle... they don't sell fresh produce or frozen stuff, but aside from that you could probably do most of your grocery shopping there!
                        Also, don't count on buying the same product twice... if you get something and it's Really Good, go back immediately and buy more, because you probably won't ever see it again. Ours got in a stock of old-fashioned all-natural candies and I bought a couple of bags to try - man those things were good, but alas I didn't get back in time to buy more before they all disappeared!

                        1. Some hilarious reviews of dollar store foods that have been done over time by the Onion's AV Club writers --


                          Obviously YMMV, but some of this off brand food is hilariously scary. with fun to read nutritional info.

                          1. The 99 Cents Only stores in Houston sell food but I wouldn't touch most of it. Very little of it is from a known brand name, and if it is, it's probably old or some really awful product that went into test market somewhere and bombed. I have occasionally bought produce there (red, orange and yellow bell peppers at .99 a package is hard to beat, even if the produce is a day or two past ripe and needs to be used right away). But the canned goods and no-name spices? Forget it.

                            Oh I forgot, one time I did find Muir Glen Fire-Roasted Tomatoes there and boy did I stock up.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: jim1126

                              The 99 Cents store in my neighborhood, in Houston, has a lot of name brand lunchmeats, canned goods, seasonings, crackers and snacks, etc. And the produce is usually pretty good. But it is a new store so I wonder how long it will be good. It's like a treasure hunt, and you really do have to know pricing, because sometimes you are thinking it only a dollar, but at Walmart it is only 85ยข!

                              The only things I will not buy are items that are loose in boxes, like candy. If it is in a sealed inner bag, it's okay, but if it is not, you should avoid it. I had an allergic reaction to some Mike 'n Ike candy that I got, and the only thing we could figure out was that the candy may have been stored in a warehouse that may have also had something toxic in it.

                            2. I will buy some items from dollar tree, but you do have to be careful to check dates and really look at the products. Vinegar, tea bags to take to work, ketchup, cake mixes after checking expiration dates, olives, simple stuff. I've never gotten canned veggies there, though I did buy jarred mandarin oranges that were quite tasty in salad and I've never seen them there again. Several of our local dollar trees now have freezer cases, but I've not bought anything cold there other than a bottle of soda.

                              1. did the op have any luck at the local shops?

                                1. I tried the former-supermarket-turned-Dollar Tree nearest me recently after reading this post. Outside a sign proclaimed "we now have frozen food". So they definitely were carrying more food than the last time I went in about two years ago...

                                  Unfortunately I was really disappointed. The frozen food was pizza rolls, egg rolls, mozzarella sticks, "luncheon loaf" and Banquet dinners, and the regular food aisles had the same crap... I did find some pierogies though and couldn't resist picking up some of those nasty mozzarella sticks!

                                  1. I've been to two of the Dollar stores in L.A. County (one in Duarte, one in Carson) and they both were a total mess and everything looked like junk in there. They look like 3rd class run-down Newberry's (if you remember that place). In Carson, there is a 99 Cents store right across the street and it is much much cleaner and has much better stuff. There are a lot more 99 Cent stores in the area than Dollar Tree stores so I don't have much to go by, but the two Dollar stores I have visited have been worse than any 99 Cent store I've ever been to.

                                    4 Replies
                                    1. re: monkuboy

                                      The Southern California stores called "99 Cent Only" with the purple and pink motifs have a more consistent inventory- all stores have the same items- and quality control/level of cleanliness.

                                      The buyer has potential suppliers every Tuesday without appointments and they must have enough inventory to supply all of the stores in the chain (which are at least in LA and San Diego; advertised in LA Times and SD Union). The foods sold are either a test market that did not go well, either for taste or for the look of label or size of packaging, or with incorrect labeling of ingredient or nutrition or cooking instructions (with a corrected label slapped over the incorrect info).

                                      1. re: Cathy

                                        Thanks for the clarification. Do they also sell food past their expiration date? I notice that Big Lots and Dollar Tree do that, although maybe they don't review their merchandise to get rid of the expired items. Is it legal to sell expired food?

                                        1. re: monkuboy

                                          You have to keep an eye on the expiration dates. I have seen past dated merchandise at 99 cent store. I buy brand names and only if I can find the date on the package, as well as the fresh stuff. Some of the name brands I've found recently are Muir Glen, Wolfgang Puck soups, Oregon Chai, Breyers, and Dulcinea melons. The 99 Cent store on Sepulveda in Harbor City (not Carson) is one of the better ones for the produce. Some of the stores get nasty, but that one is pretty good. I've been in the Dollar Tree stores a few times and haven't found much.

                                          1. re: mlgb

                                            Thanks.. also, I stand corrected on the location of the Dollar Tree and 99 Cent store in my previous post - it was indeed the one on Sepulveda in Harbor City. I kept thinking it was Carson. I noticed that the 99 Cent store at that location did have quite a good selection of produce. The Dollar Tree across the street - yuk.

                                    2. I love Dollar Tree. I don't buy a lot of food there, but I stock up on roasted red peppers. I just bought some sugar-free candy that sells for $1.99 a bag in the grocery store. I have bought Dove Chocolate candy.

                                      1. Last year I bought my own place with my boyfriend and to be honest, make a lot less money than what I used to. For people on a budget or people who do not care about name brand, Dollar Tree food is great! I actually go there weekly and look at the inventory. They have luigi's italian ice, Pillsbury, those individual corn things that are new. They do have banquet meals, Good Cookin' chicken nuggets and popcorn chicken, poppy's pirogies, seapak seafood. I have also bought stuffed clams (two large one to a package) and they were GREAT! They also have these purdue chicken nuggets stuffed with cheese which I thought were pretty good. I've also gotten garlic toast or garlic bread that was decent as well as name brand apple and orange juice, herr's snacks, and Kellogg's fruit snacks too. I love the mozzarella sticks. The local food store sells the same brand for more money! I do buy the pizza rolls and shrimp rolls because they are good and are good for a quick lunch or dinner plus they are name brand.

                                        I have bought a few no nonsense no name brand food items. I once got this green beans and spaetzel frozen thing and it was one of the best I have had! I wouldnt buy the cheese there, it's IMITATION! The italian bread there is great and has always been fresh when I have gone and at the supermarket it would cost 2 bucks. They sometimes have ice cream filled cannolis, cheesecake slices, hotdogs (same brand they sell in the supermarker), Ssip's drinks, Iced Tea, onion and ranch dips, ice cream, and oh, once I got these name brand ice pops that were AMAZING!

                                        Needless to say, without Dollar Tree Foods I would be spending more money at the store for the same thing. I get the staples from the supermarket... fresh meats- chicken, turkey, steak, etc, milk, cheese, pasta. Although recently the local Dollar tree Frozen section has barely been stocked, almost like they aren't getting anything in or are fazing the frozen foods out of the store because of rising food costs.

                                        Either way, I will continue to go to dollar tree.

                                        1. I have a Dollar Tree near me (NJ) and I have bought jars of sundriend tomatoes packed in oil, pepperoncini & roasted red peppers with no problem. I also bought some organic breakfast tea that wasn't half bad. My DH usually goes for those Atkinson's Chic-O-Stix, which he scarfs down. They also sell Little Debbie snack cakes, etc. Nothing is ever expired and I figure if it's no good, I only wasted a dollar.

                                          1. in ny dollar tree stores seem to be the best resource for mexican canned goods, i buiy em all the time, and theyre great

                                            theyre also the only place that carries the snickerdoodles i grew up on,

                                            as someone who used to be completely against the dollar store concept, who believed big time in you get what you pay for, well, clearly i was wrong

                                            1. We have several in my area. I usually stay away from boxed items such as cereal or rice. I have tried a couple of frozen items..... I try to stick to name brands overstock. One of the stores by me had Freschetta artichoke bowl appetizers, I bought one box it was so good I went back and bought what was left (about 5 boxes). But I did have a bad experience with frozen mash potatoes, non name brand that were horrible. Jar items can be pretty decent.