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18 Dollar Store Foods You’ll Definitely Want to Add to Your Cart

Discount stores offer much more than greeting cards and cleaning supplies. Take a look.

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Money saved = time saved

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. 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. Here’s the real explanation for why dollar stores are so cheap.

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Baking mixes

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. Our experts did a taste test and found the best pancake mix around. Did your favorite make the list? 

Open Baked Bean TinAdam Lister/Getty Images

Canned beans

A thrifty shopper never met a can of beans they didn’t like. Not only are beans one of humanity’s staple foods, but they also work in a variety of recipes and pack a lot of protein and fiber, so they’re popular with carnivores and non-meat eaters alike. Try them in soups, chilis, casseroles, enchiladas, or tacos. Here are 15 delicious meals that start with a can of baked beans.

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Ramen noodles

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. Check out these amazing ramen recipes for inspiration.

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Chicken broth

Chicken broth or stock 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 for the hours it requires is not always a busy cook’s reality. Rely on store-bought broth as a handy standby when time is tight. Do you know the difference between stock and broth?

Cropped shot of boy pouring tin of tomato soup into saucepanPeter Muller/Getty Images

Canned soups

One of the healthiest meals you can whip up is a nourishing soup, and with a pantry full of canned soups on hand it can become one of the fastest too. Try and buy the reduced-sodium and BPA-free versions if possible, and aim for a mix of veggies and grains for a more filling and nutritious soup experience. Of course, we love a nice tomato soup on a cold winter’s night too. We’ve done the research, and this is the best canned chicken soup around.

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Frozen fruits and veggies

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. These are the frozen fruits and veggies you should always have on hand.

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Cooking spray

It’s probably not the best idea to buy your favorite cooking oil from the dollar store, as they are often blends, but cooking spray saves so much time it’s definitely worth throwing a few in your cart next time you’re prowling the aisles. Here are the other things to avoid buying at the dollar store.

Various pasta and cereal grains in plastic jars for a long storage.Edalin/Getty Images

Pasta, rice, and dried goods

Pasta, rice, grains: 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, and rice casseroles are crazy delicious. So why not stock up on these staples at crazy-low prices? Find out the things that aren’t a deal at the dollar store.

Oatmeal porridge with raspberries and bananaArx0nt/Getty Images

Instant oatmeal

Oatmeal is one of the healthiest breakfasts around, but the natural fiber-heavy goodness of rolled oats doesn’t have to come at a high price. Although we love oatmeal, we don’t recommend buying cereal from the dollar store. Those big packages probably cost more per ounce than at a regular grocery store, and the taste of the off-brand ones just isn’t worth the cost savings. Here’s how to make sure you have delicious oatmeal ready every day.

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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 teas. And don’t pass up instant coffee even if it’s not your thing; it adds amazing flavor to baked goods and desserts.

Making filter coffee. Overhead view of ground coffee, paper filter and sugar lumps.Mint Images/Getty Images

Coffee filters

Coffee hounds know that having an inexhaustible supply of filters on hand for home and office (and sometimes vacation) is a must. Sure, a paper towel will do in a pinch, but who wants to risk it? Throwing a couple of packs of coffee filters in your cart each time you’re at the dollar store ensures you’re prepared. Of course, coffee filters have some other amazing uses too.

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Sugar, sweetener, and creamer

If your daily caffeine boost simply has to include a bit of sugar or cream, you can find everything you need right here in the same store. These shelf-stable ingredients are much cheaper at the dollar store, and they’re great to keep on hand for those caffeine emergencies.

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Condiments

Condiments can transform a plain-Jane dish into something extraordinary. From ketchup to barbecue sauce, gravy, mustard, pickles, and relish, it’s never been easier to add flavor…or stock up your pantry with the basics. Do you know the difference between regular and fancy ketchup?

Pork ribsEugene Mymrin/Getty Images

Spices

Not just salt and pepper, although your local dollar haven definitely has those too. We’re talking cayenne pepper, parsley, garlic powder, paprika, cinnamon, and nutmeg—basically, everything you need to make your plain chicken breast delicious, curry memorable, or cake pops pop. Spices can vary in price a lot at the regular grocery store, so stocking up at the dollar store is definitely a good idea.

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Juice and juice boxes

Whether you have a small child or just love your morning glass of OJ, the dollar store has some surprisingly decent juices and juice boxes available. Some are even organic! The prepackaged juice boxes are great to throw in a lunchbox or backpack, which makes them yet another dollar store purchase that’s perfect for busy people. These easy and nutritious school lunch recipes will help you save time in the morning.

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Snacks

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.

PRODUCTION LINE OF DRINKING WATER BOTTLESPeter Dazeley/Getty Images

Water and ice

Now you know where to go to stock up for your next party and the next water shutoff. It’s always a good idea to have a decent supply of bottled water on hand in case of emergencies, and the dollar store price makes it easy. Ice can run surprisingly expensive in some grocery stores, but knowing you can pick it up from the dollar store means you can show up at your next BBQ with a bag and be hailed as a thrifty hero (party hosts always need ice!). Some dollar stores even have fancy sparkling water. Learn which sparkling water won best in show in our taste test.

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Candy

Cutting costs doesn’t mean giving up your favorite guilty pleasure—candy. Skip the fancy gourmet confectionery 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 a piece. 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! Next, don’t miss more things you should have been buying at the dollar store this whole time.

Originally Published on Taste of Home

Amy Glander
Amy is a small-town Wisconsin writer, editor and aspiring photographer. Her favorite things include tacos, puppies and the golden hour.