15 Foods to Buy (and 10 to Avoid) at the Dollar Store

By Christina Lorey
February 15, 2023

Don’t sleep on the dollar store! With food prices up 10% from last spring, Wisconsin shoppers are getting creative about where they go for groceries. 

DID YOU KNOW? More than one in five Americans buys groceries at their local dollar store!

According to this study, dollar stores are the fastest-growing food retailers, expanding at an unmatched pace, especially in rural areas. To lure shoppers, Dollar General and Dollar Tree (which also owns Family Dollar) have been adding more refrigeration units and expanding their grocery options to include healthier foods and fresh produce.

While it’s important to point out that most products no longer cost just a dollar (yes, even at the “dollar store”), you can still save between $200-$300/month by shopping there if you know what to buy.

The key, according to the personal finance site GoBankingRates, is to compare unit prices. Dollar store products almost always cost less because you’re getting less. Sometimes, it’s a better deal, but sometimes it is not.

15 Foods to Buy at the Dollar Store

  • Baking Mixes
  • Candy
  • Canned Beans
  • Chicken Broth
  • Coffee
  • Condiments
  • Frozen Fruits 
  • Frozen Vegetables
  • Quick-Cooking Oats
  • Pasta
  • Ramen Noodles
  • Rice
  • Snacks (Chips, Popcorn, Pretzels, etc.)
  • Spices
  • Tea

But sometimes, $1 is too much to spend, even at the dollar store!

TIP: Name brands or individually-packaged products are usually not a better deal at the dollar store. 

For example, while a package of 6 instant oatmeal packets only costs $1.25 at Dollar Tree, you can get 10 for $1.57 at Walmart– paying 10 cents/ounce compared to 20 cents at the dollar store. (It sounds like spare change, but the savings quickly add up!)

10 Things to Never Buy at the Dollar Store

  • Canned Tuna
  • Canned Vegetables (besides beans)
  • Cereal
  • Cleaning Products (especially brand-name)
  • Laundry Detergent (especially brand-name)
  • Pain Relievers (Tylenol/Motrin)
  • Salt
  • Seasoned or Long-Grain Rice
  • Soap (bars and liquid)
  • Toothpaste

Find a Dollar Store Near You

The Dollar Tree store is seen in Chantilly Virginia on January 2 2015 AFP PhotoPAUL J RICHARDS Photo credit should read PAUL J RICHARDSAFP via Getty Images

Many dollar stores, but Dollar Generals specifically, have focused on opening new stores in “food deserts”– rural areas where grocery stores are not as accessible. This is also true in Wisconsin.

Right now, the Badger State is home to hundreds of Dollar General, Dollar Tree, and Family Dollar locations, at least one in each of the state’s 72 counties.

Dollar General Store Locations in Wisconsin

Dollar Tree Store Locations in Wisconsin

Family Dollar Store Locations in Wisconsin

FUN FACT: Madison is home to the state’s first DGX location [pictured below.] A smaller, urban version of Dollar General, the 5,700-square-foot store sells fresh fruits and vegetables, frozen and refrigerated food, pet supplies, health and beauty products, school supplies, and more. It opened in late 2020 on the UW-Madison campus.


  • Christina Lorey

    Christina is an Edward R. Murrow-winning journalist and former producer, reporter, and anchor for TV stations in Madison and Moline. When she’s not writing or asking questions, you can find her volunteering with Girls on the Run, the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, and various mental health organizations.

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