Thursday, February 5, 2009

The Mighty Dollar Store

I've become a fan of Dollar Tree, a chain of dollar stores with branches around the Boston area. And the items there are actually $1 or less, unlike some chains that call themselves dollar stores but in fact have items that are mostly above $1.

I have to pause for a moment and amend what I said earlier about shopping with a grocery list. You can't really be strictly sticking to a list at a dollar store, nor a place like HomeGoods/T.J. Maxx/Marshalls (yes, they have a few food items there too, and I'll talk more about that later). I would recommend keeping in mind a general idea of what you need. For example, pasta, sauce, canned vegetables, soup, etc.

I had been shy about buying food from the dollar store until a few months ago when I finally took a look at the variety they have and the dates on the cans. So far, all the dates I've seen are indeed guaranteeing the cans to be fresh. The more surprising, however, are the name brand products I found on the shelves. Among them were Swiss Miss hot chocolate, Healthy Choice soups (which can cost around $2 when not on sale at a regular supermarket). The VanCamp's Chicken of the Sea smoked sardines were actually priced at $.79. I even bought a pack of artist brushes (that's my only taxable item, as all food items are non-taxable in Massachusetts) for a dollar there. Excluding the paint brushes, the bill was under $15. That's 4 cans of soup, 3 cans of smoked sardines, 3 cans of smoked oysters, 1 can of chili, 1 can of beef stew, 1 package of thin spaghetti, 1 can of meat sauce and 1 box of hot chocolate.

Just the spaghetti and the meat sauce alone can provide 2-4 meals for one. Each can of soup, chili and stew can be supplemented with bread (6 meals), Each can of sardine/smoked oysters can be supplemented with rice and vegetables (6 meals). I always try to make fresh green leafy vegetables to add to dinner. Nutrition is important, and we need to be mindful of that. Fresh vegetables can be purchased cheaply as well. More on that in a later entry.

So, I just counted 14-16 meals from the purchases above from our purchases for under $15. Oh, and the hot chocolate, of course, is a little bit of luxury.

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