For better or worse, we tend to believe that a higher price tag means better quality—that $40 bottle of wine will be better than the $20 option, and “real” Cheerios are bound to be tastier than store-brand—but science says there’s no reason not to save money on fruit.
Researchers from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, investigated 40 grocery stores and 14 dollar stores in and around Las Vegas and found that a whopping 84 percent of produce items were cheaper at the discount stores than at standard supermarkets. Oranges, for instance, were four times more expensive at large grocery stores, and shoppers would be paying three times as much for strawberries. Try these other 19 secrets that will help you save money on groceries.
Low prices in a store where you never pay more than $1 aren’t so surprising, but the real question is: How does the quality stand up? Pretty well, it turns out. In terms of condition color, freshness, firmness, and cleanness, the dollar-store fruits and veggies were right on par with the grocery store produce. Quite the welcome news in the wake of Whole Foods raising prices on 550 items!
Before you head over to the dollar store for your weekly groceries, there are a few things you should know, however. For one thing, there tend to be fewer options in dollar stores (the stores themselves are smaller, plus they have to devote space to non-food items), meaning you might not be able to find what you’re looking for every time—even something as seemingly basic as pears were hard to come by at the dollar store, found the study’s authors. And that’s if your local dollar store sells fresh produce in the first place. But you might soon see more options hitting the shelves of your local discount shop, as businesses are catching on to the fact that buyers want healthier options. For instance, Dollar General is planning to convert 500 locations to Traditional Plus stores, which have more coolers than its other stores, and add produce to another 200 locations. Just don’t be fooled by these 21 items you shouldn’t buy from dollar stores.
Apart from selection, dollar-store produce also tends to be riper, meaning it’s closer to expiring and won’t last as long as the items you’d get at the supermarket, says lead researcher Courtney Coughenour, PhD, in a news release. (That’s fine, as long as you’re planning on eating it or cooking with it in a day or so.) It’s also worth double-checking your local prices. Although 84 percent of produce compared in the UNLV study was significantly less expensive at the dollar store, bananas were marginally cheaper at grocery stores, and lettuce and cucumbers were virtually the same prices at both types of stores. But if you and your family get through fruits and veggies quickly (as you should!) or if you have to load up for a big event, the dollar store should probably be your new go-to. While you’re there, pick up some of these 11 things you should have been buying from the dollar store this whole time.