dolla dolla bill y'all
June 30, 2009 7:38 AM   Subscribe

What's actually worth it to buy from a dollar store?

While on the successful hunt for some pool noodles from my local dollar store, I noticed there is a LOT of stuff to be found in there. Some of it is obviously cheap and sub-par, but I found some surprisingly nice glassware and some decent wrapping paper. My question is: what do you regularly buy from a dollar store? Are the cleaning products just as good as name brand? How about the toothpaste? Any products you've learned to avoid (I don't think I'd buy the underwear.)?
posted by kidsleepy to Shopping (65 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
Cleaning supplies. Cheap sponges, mops, brooms. Yeah, the stuff falls a part after a few uses, but if you're doing some heavy duty cleaning in which you want to trash the stuff anyway you can't go wrong. Cheap garbage bags too.

I think for disposable items (think of things you need in a pinch: Styrofoam ice chest for impromptu pick nicks) they are great.
posted by wfrgms at 7:41 AM on June 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

birthday/holiday decorations
posted by Eicats at 7:43 AM on June 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

It depends on the specific dollar store: some are great, some are meh.

Things I remember buying at dollar stores: Cutlery, the very plain restaurant kind: it's nice having fifty forks. Everyday glassware, tupperware, hand towels, cleaning products... lots of kitchen stuff in general. Candles. Dish soap.

Some surprising and useful things I have found: USB, RCA, and Ethernet cables, cable ties, velcro, flashlights.

Lots of the no-name or odd-name brand products are exactly the same as name-brand ones, with different labels. I've hear from a few factory workers who worked in places making bleach, vinegar, windex and so on that just stop the assembly line, change the labels, and start it up again. I don't know how to tell for sure without experimenting, but I'll just guess this applies to some toothpaste, mouthwash, and other such things.
posted by rokusan at 7:51 AM on June 30, 2009

Gift bags and wrapping paper, for sure. The food always kind of skeezes me out though, and I would not trust the condoms. I also remember dollar store Chinese toothpaste getting recalled as being unsafe a few years back.

Dollar stores used to have a lot more name brand stuff that had just been discontinued, these days it seems like they have more crappy stuff made just for the dollar market.
posted by JoanArkham at 7:51 AM on June 30, 2009 [2 favorites]

Avoid the cleaning chemicals. Stuff like the 409, Pinesol, or Windex knock-offs always seem to have a weird chemical smell, leave a sticky residue, etc.

Tools. A dollar store hammer will be inferior to the $25 hammer from Home Depot, but unless you use hammers a lot this won't matter. I just cut a bunch of dead branches off a tree in my back yard with a $1 handsaw.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 7:53 AM on June 30, 2009

Anything disposable - wrapping paper, picnic plates, cups and cutlery,

Basic stationary like staples, paper clips and what not are okay too in my experience.

I've had good luck with craft supplies too. Really, a dollar bag of pom poms at a cheapie shop is going to differ little from a bag of five dollar pom poms from a craft store.
posted by Jilder at 7:57 AM on June 30, 2009

The finacee thinks the garlic salt she got there is the best ever. I think it tastes like all the other garlic salt. We're both happy about that.

My brother once got a $2 card in a pack of baseball cards. I think that's a pretty good return on his investment.

Any kitchen thing I'm planning on having on a short term basis is fine as well. Silverware, plates, cups, that sort of thing.

Cheap toys for when you need to buy a lot or you know the kid won't be playing with them pretty soon. Same with books.
posted by theichibun at 7:58 AM on June 30, 2009

It really depends on the store.

My finds include:
- some really nice op-art tea mugs (most dollar shop designs are fugly, but there are some gems)
- bungee cords with hooks of relatively thin metal that are actually quite strong
- a variety of plastic baskets for stuff
- stationary: pads, clipboards, paper clips, staples, rulers, rubber cement, onionskin
- name brand Halloween candy
- some kitchen stuff: melamine serving utensils, basic metal cutlery

Junk includes:
- a rattly olive oil bottle with spout that never fit properly, then broke into component pieces
- scissors

If you can find name brand cleaning products, they're worth it, but I haven't tried any off the off-brand stuff.
posted by maudlin at 8:00 AM on June 30, 2009

Party Supplies.
Crafty stuff.
Some toys.
Toys for kids favor bags
posted by beccaj at 8:01 AM on June 30, 2009

Ah! Also junk: a pepper mill. Just avoid anything with moving parts or fiddly component parts: they fall apart in no time.
posted by maudlin at 8:02 AM on June 30, 2009

Heartily thirding gift stuff - my dollar store often has gift bags that are 3 or 4 for a dollar, with really nice ones costing a whole $1 - the huge ones that would be $4.99 at Target. Also, greeting cards! Those things are $3 now! They are usually 1 or 2 for a buck, and no cheesier than Hallmark ones.

I totally avoid any small toys or "jewelry" for kids. I just assume they have small chokable parts or lead.
posted by peep at 8:11 AM on June 30, 2009

The packs of thank you notes or blank note cards. They are pretty generic, but very useful for those times where you just want to drop someone a line or say thank you for helping you out, etc.
posted by jerseygirl at 8:13 AM on June 30, 2009

Would/do buy: Wrapping supplies, bubbles and glow sticks for kids (or other simple toys not intended for babies & toddlers), cleaning products (such as the Mr. Clean eraser knockoff, window cleaner, floor cleaner), air fresheners, incense, candles/candleholders, kitchen towels, hand soap, lotion, hair products when they have a national brand I like, notebooks/pads, faux flowers, picnic or party items

Wouldn't/don't buy: electronics (often the UL seal is counterfeit, and items are fire hazards, altogether nonfunctional, or you could pay minimally more for significantly better quality) -- exception: FM radios for kids which you expect to be lost/broken quickly anyway, stuffed animals (shoddy), toys for infants/toddlers (choking hazards, etc.), most pet products, most food, clothing, makeup, metal cutlery and most kitchen tools (inferior quality, they bend/break/melt), anything you rely on being fresh, strong, or high quality
posted by notashroom at 8:14 AM on June 30, 2009

Cleaning semi-durables - I can't even find wash basins for less than $5 in other stores, and I like using the cheap orange one to wash my stockings, the green one for produce rinsing, another separate one for making bluing, etc. Also, in the same aisle, shower curtain liners. They last just as briefly as the more expensive ones in our humid apartment.

Seconding wrapping paper. We usually look at the cards, because our friends will appreciate some of the absolutely ridiculous ones you can occasionally find.

We're geocachers, so we buy pencils, notebooks, erasers, etc for giveaways. I've also bought coloring books for work there.

We do buy snacks there. In fact, part of my website was devoted to food from the dollar store. It's generally gross (off-brand candy), stale (tea/cookies), but the 'movie size' candy boxes (real brands) are fine.
posted by cobaltnine at 8:17 AM on June 30, 2009

It's more about what not to trust. For example, I once saw a home pregnancy test in a dollar store. That still floors me. I also avoid all food -- even the name brand chocolate bars are usually old and gross. Name brand soda's pretty good tho and cheaper than the corner store. What's good has pretty much been listed above -- decorations, cards, gift bags, anything you only want to use once (the pregnancy test and condoms not included here), and anything cool you see you like -- it only costs a buck! Candles, funky mugs, picture frames, etc. Some of the random dishes I've bought turned out to be surprisingly good buys. Oh, and if you have cats, laser pointers. These are the best feline entertainment per dollar value around. I look at the whole dollar store experience as "you get what you pay for" and then am pleasantly surprised if something works out better than expected.
posted by cgg at 8:22 AM on June 30, 2009

I buy brand name toiletries such as conditioner, toothpaste, deoderant, feminine hygiene supplies etc. I've never had any of these appear different in quality such that I suspected a fake. Why pay full price for these elsewhere? I also sometimes buy brand name chocolate or drinks, which is generally a month or 2 from its sell buy date and have been very satisfied with these too.
posted by alicegoldie at 8:23 AM on June 30, 2009

This doesn't speak to the quality of the items per se, but we once took my 4 year old nephew to the dollar store to let him pick out his birthday present. We presented the trip as though he was on a "shopping spree" where anything he put in the cart he could have. We acted like there was a timer going but really just counted the stuff that went in and clicked off our stopwatch when he hit 25 items. He thought it was the greatest day of his life in that he could just pull items from the shelves and they were his. He ended up with some fun stuff too: inflatable giant hammers, army men, some balls, a deck of cards, a coloring book, etc.
posted by AgentRocket at 8:23 AM on June 30, 2009 [27 favorites]

My dad finds name-brand chocolate sometimes -- Hershey's or Dove -- that's only a month or two away from its sell-by date, so I guess the grocery stores want to unload it. They're always OK, though. He eats it pretty soon afterward anyways.

Also, plastic toys (as gag gifts for grownups) with amusingly translated phrases on the packaging. ("Doll can sing and dace with six blinking lights!")
posted by Ladybug Parade at 8:30 AM on June 30, 2009

Pregnancy tests!

I see that this is mentioned above, but the reality is they are just as good as the ones that cost $15 and for those who compulsively test a million times or who have a hard time getting pregnant due to irregular cycles and what not, they really can save a bundle using the Dollar Store ones.

(Though my husband and his crowd like to joke that if you're buying a pregnancy test at the Dollar Store, you're already pregnant.)
posted by zizzle at 8:32 AM on June 30, 2009 [4 favorites]

My dollar store has a huge section for food. 90% is gross. But I cruise through every week, because they inevitably end up with name brand stuff that's either close to expiration, being discontinued, or packaged wrong. I stock up on that stuff and freeze what I can. Over the last year I've bought: Pillsbury Peanut Butter Cookie dough in the tube (retails for $6), big boxes of Cheez-its, Chex Corn Cereal (retails for $5 a box), Nestea Green Tea (3 1.5 bottles for $1), Dannon La Creme Yogurt (four containers for $1), and Linda McCartney Vegan Pizza that ended up being delicious, making me wish I'd bought more. They also have quarts of milk and cartons of eggs that are perfectly fine.

I've also bought Lion's Brand Yarn (eyelash, chenille and funfetti). Two weeks ago they had several rack of live house plants (pathos, ivy, and other things I don't know they name of). I bought 4, and they are growing like crazy
posted by kimdog at 8:37 AM on June 30, 2009

We have a couple of chains near me that stock name-brand items. i bought a brand of hairdye that I had used before from there, and it didn't look right - could have been that the colour wasn't quite right for me, but it didn't come out as I imagined. Many branded items seem to come from overseas, but this doesn't worry me - we had a chocolate stall where I grew up that had Arabic Mars Bars and they were the same products in different packaging.

Things like home pregnancy tests and reading glasses are things you would want to pay money for. Things like sanpro I prefer to get as cheaply as possible. I also go there if I want 'disposable' items - utensils used for dying fabric, tablecloth for painting, that kind of thing.

The ornaments are amusing. My mum always buys things from pound shops (as they are here) for silly prizes for Christmas games.
posted by mippy at 8:43 AM on June 30, 2009

It really depends on the store. I got most of my glassware there and it's held up to my usage fine, though my roommate has broken a few glasses, I suspect when drunk. In any case the price is such that a broken $1 glass isn't an issue. Sometimes you can find name brand things, like Aim toothpaste, if not Crest or Colgate.

In my experience Dollar Trees are usually good stores. Family Dollar routinely and seriously sucks.
posted by 6550 at 8:48 AM on June 30, 2009

Here's my approach:

Worth buying:
- Birthday/holiday/wedding cards
- Anything name brand (beware of counterfeits, see below)
- Disposable plates, cutlery, etc.
- Non-metal kitchen utensils (wood spoons, spatula, etc.)
- Towels, washcloths
- Dishes & glassware
- Very basic kids toys (over 3 yrs old)
- Spices

Stay away from:
- Baby toys (don't trust the plastic/paint or parts breaking off)
- Non-junk food
- Anything with moving parts, especially metal (ie: can opener)
- Personal care / hygiene products (even brand names -- they may be couterfeit)
posted by Simon Barclay at 8:54 AM on June 30, 2009

Craft supplies (paper, wood dowels, strene balls, paint, construction paper, glitter, markers), yarn and googly eyes. Stick glue. Hot glue sticks. 5 minute epoxy, Super glue and gel super glue. Plastic eggs. Pens. Pencils. Erasers. Crayons (both types).

Birthday and other cards. Wrapping paper and bags.


Bar soap. One of my local stores carries an Ivory knock off that I really like. Bubble bath for my daughter.

Toys: Army men and plastic dinosaurs/animals. Water guns. Stickers. Temp tattoos. Glow sticks, arm bands and necklaces.

Raw materials for warhammer 40K kit bashing: Laser pointers, plastic wall anchors. Toy cars have horrible body castings in plastic but their wheels are fairly detailed and often two pieces and they all have metal axles (and lately they've all been pull backs so yay! gears and springs for cybork bodies). Clear balls used in ?wedding? decorations. Anklets (for chain). Fake jewels for Eldar terrain. Aquarium plants.

Expired name brand chocolate and soft drinks.

Pet supplies like collars, leashes and toys.

Rope/cord for projects.

1" dice.

Cover plates for electrical outlets.
posted by Mitheral at 9:00 AM on June 30, 2009

Anything except toiletries and makeup. I'm skeptical the Jordache mascara the dollar stores around me sell won't give me an eye infection.
posted by twins named Lugubrious and Salubrious at 9:04 AM on June 30, 2009

I buy reading glasses at the dollar store. That way I can keep a pair in the kitchen, a pair by my reading chair, a pair in my purse, a pair in my backpack, a pair in my glove box... you get the idea. They magnify just as good as the $15 drugstore ones, and I'm not upset if they get broken (like they tend to do in my backpack).
posted by rabbitrabbit at 9:14 AM on June 30, 2009

Pregnancy tests! They are more sensitive than many of the ones you buy in the drugstore for 10 times as much. They're usually behind the counter. Best dollar store purchase ever.
posted by agent99 at 9:16 AM on June 30, 2009

Be aware that the glassware isn't microwave safe, meaning that it may crack if you micowave stuff in the glasses or glass bowls too long. But it's otherwise useful if you don't stick it in the microwave. And it doesn't always crack even if you do.
posted by That takes balls. at 9:18 AM on June 30, 2009

It all depends on the item, the purposes to which you'll put it, and your taste. Frieda Kahlo was apparently loved a good five and dime (inflation made them dollar stores) and would go through one like a whirlwind, picking out that one perfect item. Basically, if the items seem to meet basic health and safety criteria and will stand up to the use I plan to make of it, it's okay.

So I don't tend to buy make up there, but I do buy nail polish. I probably wouldn't buy baby toys there, but I do buy trinkets for my nieces and nephews since they are past the putting-things-in-their-mouths stage. Cheap acrylic worsted yarn sometimes. Stationery. The food is the worst kind of icky prepared crap, so no, except for candy and chocolate.

I bought plastic mixing bowls at the dollar store a dozen years ago and they're still in good shape. The plastic colander I bought there got gross and I replaced it, but I did use it for ten years or so. And you can find aesthetically pleasing stuff. I bought a cool green glass apple knick knack there and put it on a decorative shelf in my bathroom. Everyone who used my bathroom commented on it, until I accidentally knocked it off the shelf and it got smashed, sigh. I bought a set of tumblers there and everyone says what a perfect shape they have. I bought a pair of cat figurines for a friend of mine who has her place decorated with cat stuff because the sight of the fat, smug expressioned cats made me laugh, and I knew they'd make my friend laugh.
posted by orange swan at 9:27 AM on June 30, 2009

- Ziploc type bags of all shapes and sizes.
- Luggage tags (the robust kind) are really good value and last a while.
- Silver foil trays for cooking in.
- Jars for keeping spices and the like in.
- Cheap stuff you don't mind losing for the gym - flipflops, towels, soap covers.
- Those foil things you put under the elements on your stove.
posted by jamesonandwater at 9:30 AM on June 30, 2009

My question is, which type of dollar store are you talking about? The actual "everything's $1" kind (here it's Dollar Tree) or the "kinda like a sub-par Rite-Aid without the pharmacy" (here we have Dollar General and Family Dollar).
posted by radioamy at 9:34 AM on June 30, 2009

Ziploc bags
Clear packing tape.
Flip flops
posted by OmieWise at 9:35 AM on June 30, 2009

Candles. Socks (most of the Dollar stores around here still sell those 80s-style slouch socks; they're warm and comfy and last as long as department store socks). Rubbing alcohol. My Mom gets most of her cleaning supplies at the Dollar store.

I also bought a wide, silver-colored bracelet with some interesting scrollwork once from the display at the Dollar Store while I was waiting in the check-out line. Years later I happened to be wearing it when I went to get an MRI. The male nurse who was giving me instructions and prepping me paused as I removed my jewelry. He picked up that Dollar Store bracelet and examined it and admired it. He gently fingered the scrollwork and then told me that antique jewelry was a hobby of his, and he considered himself to be something of an expert, and asked me where I'd gotten this beautiful piece. I lied and said it had been a gift.
posted by Oriole Adams at 9:36 AM on June 30, 2009 [2 favorites]

I bought a ton of Kensington Locks (y'know, those that fit into the little "hole" in your computers/monitors/etc) for £1 each at a "pound store" (the British equivalent) recently. That's an absolute bargain and they work great.
posted by wackybrit at 9:40 AM on June 30, 2009

Here's what I get on my regular Dollar Store runs:

-- Great, sturdy water glasses.
-- Plasticware for carrying food to work.
-- Tissues for work in boxes with these awesome decorative patterns.
-- My Dollar Store carries individual bottles of Honest Tea for 69 cents each. Deal!
-- Cheap cooking spices. I live in Phoenix and my store is in a largely Mexican neighborhood so I find great individual bags of spices for cheap.
-- Cleaning supplies for the house.
-- Candles ... the kind with the saints on'em and stuff and the little votive ones for around the house.
-- Liquid soap for the guest bathroom.

Stay away from the aluminum foil.
posted by notjustfoxybrown at 9:54 AM on June 30, 2009

99-cent Only store FTW!! No complaints with Dollar Tree, either, though the ones near me seem understaffed, have hellacious lines.

I've bought tons of stuff, had no problems. My favorite thing seen there, bottled water from a brothel.

Stuff: cleaver, dish towels, pot holders, cleaning supplies, Balance Bars (half Target's price), name-brand sunblock, candy, a book, gift bags, a plant, tea, candy, keychain LED lights (which lasted for eons).
posted by ambient2 at 9:55 AM on June 30, 2009

My local pound store is great for tools, particularly for a job where I know I'm only going to use the thing once (e.g. paintbrushes). I also look out for one-off bargains which is usually stuff from a bankrupt store sale - I bought a metal crowbar for a pound that was worth its weight in gold when a neighbour needed to get a manhole cover off. Also a hammer, plastic goggles, a disposable paper coverall suit for painting in ...

There's a pound store near me that sells those vacuum-packed vegetarian Indian curries and side dishes for a pound each, and I always stock up on a few to supplement my meagre repertoire of Indian cooking.

Also, paper plates, plastic cutlery, party supplies, Christmas decorations (tacky, yes, but I don't hold with 'more is less' at Christmas) are usually good value in the pound shop. Even better value in a dollar store.
posted by essexjan at 9:56 AM on June 30, 2009

I will third the pregnancy test suggestion. We've been having trouble trying to conceive and they have saved us a bundle. As mentioned above, most of the ones available in dollar stores are as good or better than other, more expensive brands. See for proof.
posted by siclik at 10:33 AM on June 30, 2009

Dollar stores are great for those things where, when you buy them at a regular store, you think to yourself "what a ripoff, no way is this worth it!" especially disposable things.

Gift wrap and bags and boxes. Holiday and party decorations. Coloring books. Gag gifts and similar trinkets. Sometimes actual books, if you're lucky. Dishrags and shop rags. Plastic bins, dishpans, etc. Paper plates, plastic silverware.

I generally don't trust the dollar store for jewelry, toiletries, makeup, or food (except for certain candy/soda options.)

Also, some dollar stores are good and some are not. It varies pretty widely.
posted by oblique red at 10:40 AM on June 30, 2009

Light bulbs. Many municipalities subsidize much of the cost of CFL light bulbs and distribute through dollar stores as the shoppers there are their 'target' market.
posted by QuakerMel at 10:55 AM on June 30, 2009

My last trip to Dollar Tree yeilded the first CD I've bought in years: Bjork's Volta. Worth a dollar. Also tons of other CD's from fairly mainstream artists in the bins.

I like the dvds, too. They usually stock some cool, old time tv shows with abysmal quality image. I've found the Beverly Hillbillies and Lee Van Cleef's ninja show "The Master". Again, crummy image-quality, but the kids enjoyed them.
posted by Barry B. Palindromer at 11:00 AM on June 30, 2009

I go for anything brand name. Unless they're knock offs (you can usually tell) you can get brand name soap, shampoo, coffee, artificial sweetener all for huge discounts. Also glassware and cooking utensils - theyve held up pretty well over the past year or two.

Pretty much never buy anything off brand (except for the aforementioned cook/eat ware.)

Strangest thing I ever saw was in Jacks 99c store in NYC (its a big chain of 99c stores) huge pile of no name diet pills people were fighting over. It's pills don't work in the first place - and you're fighting over the ones that didn't sell well...
posted by jourman2 at 11:07 AM on June 30, 2009

I love dollar stores! I love the more mainstream dollar stores like Dollar Tree for just about anything of item, but I also love the bizarre non-chain dollar stores for just weird random crap. I've found things like Pepsodent toothpaste that was made in Indonesia. Dollar stores are also great if you like cheesy old horror and sci-fi movies.
posted by cropshy at 11:28 AM on June 30, 2009

Cheap-o pictures frames (a friend bought a bunch for table numbers at her wedding), gift bags, storage containers, toilet brush, stuff you'd find at a party store (I went to a party store to get stuff for a bachelorette and found the exact same stuff at the dollar store for about a dollar cheaper), candy, small side plates.
posted by pised at 11:44 AM on June 30, 2009

audio & computer cables, fraction of the cost elsewhere & work fine
posted by canoehead at 11:46 AM on June 30, 2009

3 words

Turkey. Roasting. Pans.
posted by sandra_s at 11:46 AM on June 30, 2009 [2 favorites]

I used to be a big fan of dollar store cutlery and dishware, but learning about the standards for glazing and lead content in China (where most of the items are manufactured) undermined my trust. Here's an [Australian government] alert on this with specific regard to "cheap, imported china." The Straight Dope backs that up: "Especially risky are imported dishes with brightly-colored glazes."

I'm not a big hysteric but I just can't look at the dishes the same way again. Too many of these imports are uninspected, and after all, they're manufactured to be super cheap, leading me to think they are not using the latest, high-quality, food-safe grades. Just a thought to consider.

What I buy:

Hair accessories
Travel items like small hairbrushes, soap cases
Cards, giftwrap, decorations
Notepads, envelopes, rubber bands, etc
Stocking stuffers (small toys and the like) for Christmas stockings
That spongy stuff that you can put on cabinet shelves to protect the dishes you stack there
Storage containers
Sewing gewgaws, little clear flat-sided marbles, floral supplies, other craft supplies
posted by Miko at 12:26 PM on June 30, 2009

I haven't thoroughly investigated this, but it seems like a lot of the name brand stuff you get at a dollar store is in a slightly smaller package than what you'd see at the grocery store. Even for stuff that looks like a good deal, you may want to watch out for unit price - unless all you need is a few tall kitchen bags, in which case, it's probably worth it.

That being said, our local Dollar Tree is a great place to get those little disposable flossers.
posted by anthom at 1:01 PM on June 30, 2009

Dollar stores are a goldmine for props, sets, and costumes. I've found colorful fans, flags, tiaras, bunting, police hats, plastic handcuffs, vases, frames, fake flowers, etc, etc, etc.
posted by ourobouros at 1:05 PM on June 30, 2009

lot of the name brand stuff you get at a dollar store is in a slightly smaller package than what you'd see at the grocery store

A lot of times, it seems that the name brand stuff in the dollar store is packaged for sale overseas. I've seen stuff like Ivory Soap and Noxzema with Spanish and other foreign-language labelling, and units in metric rather than standard.
posted by Miko at 2:00 PM on June 30, 2009

I buy everything but electronics. As I was doing my taxes a few years back, my receipts for the 99¢ store added up to $1500. Yep. I buy office supplies, 3M packaging tape, tools, bungees, food (name brand only) socks, party supplies, packaging, cards, plants, batteries, paper towels.
Damn, that list goes on.

I just got myself a very cool cowboy hat with skulls all over it. (yes, I needed that)

caveat: I do think the 99¢ stores are a bit better than most other dollar stores. I find Bristol Farms/Whole Foods products in there. A lot of name brand items on tools, haircare, etc. The one in Highland Park used to be known for bringing in good Chilean wines on occasion. (definitely a hit or miss, but if you score, you score!)
posted by Vaike at 2:26 PM on June 30, 2009

Things not to buy: cutlery and pots and pans. The versions sold in dollar stores are often brought in from countries that don't have the same safety standards we do, and can contain harmful metals that can leach into your food during cooking and eating.
I also tend to avoid food as it my be expired and/or recalled.

Things I do buy: cleaning implements, storage items (baskets. boxes etc.), craftsy things, hairclips, wrapping paper/gift bags/tissue paper. Cheap gum by the cash. Lighters.
posted by Billegible at 3:08 PM on June 30, 2009

I used to work at a Dollar Tree. Here are some of my opinions:

The brooms we sold were absolutely no worse than any sold at a Wal-Mart for $10 or so. Also dustpans and, to an extent, mops.
Cheap paper towels.
Raid bug spray.
Comet and bleach.
We once had a pallet of Ocean Spray cranberry juice.
The 2/$1 bottled water tastes better to me than other bottled waters.
A girl I worked with was constantly amazed at how the pregnancy test was right. I would go there first for that.
Cheap bubble bath and blowing bubbles.
Playing cards.
Candy bars and movie theater candy.
posted by Night_owl at 4:01 PM on June 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

Clear or blue recycling bags.
posted by hooray at 4:37 PM on June 30, 2009

Just bought:

2 different earplug-type headsets (if one or both had crappy sound, at $1, who cares?). Both were fine for my listening-at-work casually needs.

2 drinking glasses (extra thick, so they'll last)

3-pack of chip-bag clips

posted by IAmBroom at 8:14 PM on June 30, 2009

I can only find clothes pins and popsicle molds at the dollar store, nowhere else. I buy 10-packs of foam paintbrushes to have on hand. When I was a Cub Scout den leader I always headed to a couple of dollar stores first for craft supplies. I buy a lot of wrapping paper there, especially for large gifts. And I found my favorite nail polish ever at a Dollar Tree. I wish I could get more.
posted by zinfandel at 9:14 PM on June 30, 2009

I've stocked up on masks and disposable gloves for the next plague (SARS city, here.)
Nthing all the paper esp tissue paper in large packs, construction paper and bristol board which no one else seems to have, plastic bags, gift wrap, craft supplies and cleaning things. I love the plastic dish washing scrubbers that come in a huge pack and aren't as scratchy as the more expensive supermarket ones.
- fake flowers to fill in between the expensive ones in a basket or in bunches on a Xmas tree
- Christmas tree ornaments, esp for mini trees: small balls and things, but not lights
- scarves with small patterns to make mini doll clothes
- telephone extension, plug in bits that work just as well as the stuff I buy elsewhere
- odd bits of glassware if I'm making bath bombs or the like for gifts and need containers
- hair gel, hair rollers, hair nets, hair pins and barrettes (for my vintage dolls - don't ask)
- envelopes and tons of little pads to write lists or give to kids

What I don't buy:
- colouring pencils as they never sharpen properly and the colours aren't bright
- wearables other than little stretchy gloves for wearing under mitts
- food other than the choc bars which are always fresh in the one store I go to
- thread
posted by x46 at 10:56 PM on June 30, 2009

Look here for all the Daiso stores in the U.S. (only in the Bay Area and the Seattle area). Better than any other dollar store on the planet!
posted by Napoleonic Terrier at 11:34 PM on June 30, 2009

If you're a musician, you can buy a couple of those springy plastic microphone toys and build yourself a spring reverb.
posted by Karlos the Jackal at 12:44 AM on July 1, 2009

Rubbing alcohol and hydrogen peroxide are both cheaper than anywhere else (that is, at the local Family Dollar, where they are actually 70 cents or so).
posted by Deathalicious at 7:45 AM on July 1, 2009

At my Dollar Tree, they actually sold rubbing alcohol and hydrogen peroxide 2/$1. I also realized that I neglected to mention last night:

2-packs of bars of Dove soap
Set of Jacks
Super balls (those high bounce balls)
Silly Putty
Cheap headphones, since I break them often. I actually have had worse luck with $10 name brand 'phones from Best Buy. The el cheapo Dollar Tree ones lasted longer.
Frozen personal pizzas
Bags of chips from brands like Utz
Cheap socks with cute embroidery
Cheap gloves
Nail clippers (I get the guy's manicure kit)
Non acetone nail polish remover
Wrapping paper
Scotch tape
Ice cube trays
Zip top bags
Vacuum cleaner bags
I once got a 24 pack pf batteries. Granted, they didn't last as long as a 24 pack of Duracells, but for less than a nickel apiece I was happy with them.
Tealight candles
Cheap small emergency extension cords
Packs of refrigerated Hormel pepperoni
posted by Night_owl at 11:07 AM on July 1, 2009

Lint rollers, batteries (since I always put in new ones and then stop using the gadget a week later, it doesn't seem like a waste to go with cheaper batteries), extension chords, outlet multiplier things, dish towels and sponges, loofas, cute notebooks, brand name candy is fine if it's only expired by a few months, and as people said above - most stores have dove soap and suave shampoo, which I like. And definitely gift bags, gift wrap, and that stuff to fill easter baskets with. Oh oh, and packs of mini one-time-use krazy glue (so useful!!), and packs of tissues to go into your purse. Not the highest quality tissues, but since I always use one and then end up throwing the rest away because they get all bent and dusty in my purse, it's a better deal than buying the softer ones.

Go into the dollar store and walk through there and make a mental note of stuff they have. Next time you need any of those things go there first - try it out, if it works then you know never to go for the more expensive stuff ever again, and if it doesn't, then it's only a dollar lost.
posted by KateHasQuestions at 7:26 PM on July 1, 2009

I'd really argue against the batteries for anything that takes a lot of juice. For a clock they are fine, but I once put four into my digital camera looking for just one shot, and I didn't even get it.
posted by OmieWise at 10:25 AM on July 3, 2009

I just dropped in to a dollar store today and remembered that they usually carry Yardley's Lavender and Oatmeal soaps, both of which are nice.
posted by Miko at 12:44 PM on July 3, 2009

Dollar Store's hypoallergenic (Dial?) soap is great. Whenever I get lazy and use something else I get all pimpley.

Barbasol shaving cream.

Hand sanitizer.
posted by Skwirl at 8:17 PM on July 28, 2009

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