Ever wondered what it would be like to eat Dollar Tree food for a whole week? Here’s what I learned shopping at Dollar Tree for a week and my thoughts on this particular challenge!
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My Dollar Tree grocery challenge is over, and I have to say I’m pretty impressed with ourselves. We ate (Mostly) Dollar Tree food the entire week and survived with minimal fuss, and I’ve truly learned to appreciate the abundance of grocery stores around us.
I documented what we ate and how I felt the whole time, and I’ve managed to get all of my thoughts written down here for you. Here’s what I learned shopping at Dollar Tree for a whole week:
I planned dinner and breakfast more easily than snacks
For some reason, dinner was pretty easy to plan. Just buy a few ingredients and throw them together, and we had food to feed the 3 of us for a couple days. It helped that Dollar Tree sells frozen veggies, so I felt like we got at least a little nutrition.
Breakfast kind of worked out. I planned oatmeal, pancakes, and scrambled eggs. Allison didn’t want any of it, and John finished up the breakfast that was cooked from the previous week. So it was pretty much just me eating the breakfasts. And then I found mold on my scrambled eggs so that was one less breakfast I could eat.
Snacks, though, were another matter. First of all, I had to balance cost vs. nutrition, because I only allowed myself $50-ish for the week. So while beef sticks and Larabars were a good choice nutrition-wise, a box of granola bars simply cost less. I could pay $1.00 for each beef stick, or $1.00 for 6 granola bars. Unfortunately, the granola bars won out.
Those granola bars were super small, too. They were 110 calories, when my snacks are usually 200. And they still left me hungry, which led to eating more of the sugary snacks I bought. Isn’t it crazy how the more added sugar you eat, the more likely you are to make poorer choices throughout the day?
I didn’t feel like myself all week
So here’s the thing. Our bodies all work differently. Some people sit at a desk for their job, don’t exercise, and therefore don’t need a whole lot.
On the other side of the spectrum, I’m super active. I work out 6 days a week (Twice a day if I’m teaching PiYo), and I always get in my 10,000 steps. I need calories that come from good sources, and that means aiming for at least 5-6 servings of vegetables a day and 2-4 fruits.
Unfortunately, Dollar Tree doesn’t sell fresh produce so I did my best eating healthy, but it wasn’t quite enough. I reached for the cookies, the sugary trail mix, and anything just to get rid of the hunger. But it left me feeling like there was a big weight in my stomach all week.
Now, I was recovering from a cold that week so maybe that had something to do with it. But I knew that I wasn’t giving my body everything it needed at that time.
Dollar Tree is good for (some) pantry staples
When it comes to budget food, Dollar Tree is really good at selling the staples at a low price. I bought a 2-pound bag of white rice and a 24-ounce bag of dried pinto beans for a dollar each, which isn’t that bad at all. I’ve gone there multiple times to stock up on brown rice when it was available.
Spices are another good one, as all spices are pretty much the same. And Dollar Tree sells them in bigger containers so I get most of my spices there.
The biggest thing you have to look out for is the price-per-ounce. Everything may be a dollar, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good price! Peanut butter only comes in 9-ounce jars, and you can find the 16-ounce jars for 99 cents at Kroger when it’s on sale. As long as you know how to calculate price-per-ounce, you can figure out what’s a good deal:
Total price divided by ounces = Price per ounce
Dollar Tree can/should only be used in emergency situations
Ultimately, my answer is this: Dollar Tree is good for feeding your family when you absolutely can’t go or afford anywhere else. But I wouldn’t recommend eating only Dollar Tree food week in and week out. Your body needs fresh fruits and vegetables at some point.
Even though I spent $52, I feel like I didn’t get the best value. Like I said above, the price-per-ounce wasn’t perfect and I had to forgo some of the healthier snacks to get the ones that could feed all of us for less money. I could do much better at Aldi; but again, this challenge was also about making do with the stores around you, not just finding the best price.
Would I do it again? I’d totally be up for Dollar Tree Dinner challenges, where I take Dollar Tree ingredients and turn them into delicious, “gourmet” dinners. That would be a once every week or two kind of deal, not every day. But I still think it’d be fun to showcase them here, especially for those that shop at Dollar Tree on a regular basis.
Items I recommend/don’t recommend from Dollar Tree
So out of everything I bought at Dollar Tree, here are the foods we liked, and the ones I’m steering clear of from now on:
- Dried rice and beans– You get a pretty good value for your money, plus they’re healthy staples.
- Pizza crust– It’s a thin crust, but it actually tasted pretty good as a pizza!
- Tortillas– They were nice and soft and worked well as burritos and quesadillas.
- Quick oats
- Frozen Texas Toast– You get 6 in a box, which is great!
- Frozen meatballs– Not the best ingredients, but they were really good.
- Yogurt and cheese sticks– Both of these were name brands but were cheap.
- Frozen fruit– In the off season, these 12-ounce bags are a good deal, and the only ingredient is fruit.
- Pizza sauce
- Popcorn kernels– You can’t find kernels for a dollar anywhere else!
- Pasta– Although you can find them cheaper on sale, a dollar per box isn’t a bad deal.
- Ocean Spray Craisins– The blueberry infused ones were delicious! And Allison loved them too, so big win.
- Prego Alfredo sauce– Not a bad deal for a dollar.
- Frozen chicken sausages– Although the ingredients are good, these sausages just didn’t smell or taste right. I honestly couldn’t eat them.
- Eggs– I may have had a bad batch, but I found blue mold on my scrambled eggs after I cooked them.
- Frozen stir fry veggies– I bought 4 bags, and with each one the broccoli had a strange texture and taste, and the carrot coins were freaking huge. The mixed veggies were fine, and Dollar Tree didn’t have any other kinds so I can’t review those at the moment.
- “Snak Time” round crackers– They tasted pretty okay to me, but for some reason Allison didn’t like them. She said they tasted weird.
- Granola bars– At 110 calories, they’re small and not very filling. Six for a dollar is a good deal, but just not the greatest nutrition and filling-wise.
- Canned tuna– There was nothing wrong with the tuna, but you can find them cheaper than a dollar per can. I’m used to paying 65 cents when they’re on sale.
So overall, I’m glad I did this challenge. It opened my eyes to what some people are going through when they either can’t afford or can’t travel anywhere else to get groceries. You can definitely eat Dollar Tree food on a budget; but if at all possible, I recommend using Dollar Tree as a supplement to your grocery shopping, and not as your only store.
I’d love to know your thoughts: Did you learn anything new during this challenge? Do you want to see unique and healthy Dollar Tree recipes? Leave me a comment and let me know!
Jaime is a Nutrition Coach and professional writer. She enjoys cooking easy meals, running, and learning more about food.
Jaime specializes in helping women with ADHD learn to meal plan and cook healthier meals without getting overwhelmed.