13 Groceries You Should Buy At Dollar Tree

In the early part of the 2020s, inflation, particularly food inflation, smacked Americans' wallets hard. While some recent 2023 reports, including one from the White House, suggest that food inflation is on a downward slope, finally, many Americans are only just now reinflating their wallets after the severe budgetary smackdown they took during the COVID-19 years and beyond. Money-conscious shoppers have taken myriad steps to decrease the burden they feel when they head to the grocery store. These steps include buying food in bulk, cooking from scratch more often, and even clipping coupons. Some of those who have been hardest hit by inflation have even given up their weekly restaurant trips, which can cost double, triple, or more than eating at home does, per CNN.


However, some of the savviest grocery shoppers have taken their extreme budgeting to the next level by hitting their local Dollar Tree. Although the food items in the Dollar Tree no longer cost just a dollar – they're now a buck twenty-five in most cases – grocery shopping at the local dollar store offers serious cash savings to those who know where to look for bargains. In this piece, we'll look at 13 of the best food items to buy at the Dollar Tree when inflation has hit your wallet in the nose one too many times. Buying these items at the Dollar Tree can save you double, triple, and even quadruple the amount you'd spend if you bought the same items at your local grocery store.

1. Sports drinks

If you've gotten serious about working out, then we do not doubt that you've looked into the benefits of sports drinks. When you sweat, your body loses electrolytes, such as magnesium, sodium, calcium, and potassium. But you don't just lose electrolytes when you work out. Your body gets taxed in other ways, too. You also lose vitamins and minerals. While some hard-core workout lovers recommend drinking straight water after a workout, others suggest adding a sports drink after a workout if the workout lasts an hour or longer. The challenge for many sports-minded individuals is that the cost of sports drinks adds up. If this concerns you, then you may want to stop in at your local Dollar Tree post-workout to pick up some Gatorade or other kinds of sports drinks. At a buck twenty-five, you'll replenish those missing electrolytes without putting a big dent in your wallet.


It's also worth noting that the Dollar Tree doesn't just carry sports drinks. It also keeps energy drinks on hand, making it a handy stop on those days when you feel just a bit too long in the tooth. You'll get a surge of energy that makes you feel like a teen again. And you'll get the energy surge at a price that's way cheaper than it would be if you bought it at the local grocery store. You'll save more than a dollar if you buy your energy drinks at the Dollar Tree instead of your local supermarket. 

2. Spices

If you love to cook, and given that you're here, we assume you do, then you'll need to stock at least some basic spices. Aside from stocking your spice rack with salt and pepper, the well-prepped home cook usually keeps spices, such as cumin, chili powder, oregano, curry, cinnamon, and garlic powder, to name but a few. If you're starting from scratch, you're probably thinking about purchasing a minimum of 12 different spices that will cost you between $4.99 and $15 each, depending on which grocery store you shop at. That will cost you somewhere between $59 and some change on the low end and $180 on the high end.


Or it'll cost you between $12 and $15 at the Dollar Tree. If you're stocking up on spices, stop at your neighborhood dollar store first to save yourself some serious cash. Going this route allows you to pick up more than one container of each spice, allowing you to keep extras on hand. That is, you can buy three or four containers of the same spice at the dollar store, and those three or four containers will often cost you the same price as buying just one at the supermarket.

3. Canned meat

People who take a lunch each day to work (or who have school-aged kids who do the same) rely on staples like canned meats. Keeping Spam, tuna, chicken, corned beef, and Vienna sausages stocked up in the cupboard means that you only need a few minutes to go from canned Spam (or whatever) to packed lunch. Canned meat also counts as a "stormy day" pantry staple. That is, keeping foods like canned tuna, bread, mayo packets, and more in the cupboard means you always have a meal if the power goes out.


Buying canned meat at a local store, like Albertson's, costs up to $5.99 a can for some kinds of meat. Dollar Tree carries major brands, like Armour, for about $1.25 per can of meat. In addition to canned tuna and chicken, you'll find canned ham, Vienna sausages, pork, kippered snacks, and oysters. It'll cost you between $30 and $50 to stock up on canned meats for a month or more, depending on how often you use them and how many people you need to feed.

4. Pantry staples

Frugal home gourmands have learned to "shop the pantry" to make tasty, budget meals. If you haven't heard of shopping your pantry, it's a technique where you build your monthly menu around the groceries you already have in your pantry, like dried pasta, beans, rice, and canned vegetables. Some savvy shoppers save $100 or more by doing a pantry challenge. If you're ready to save some cash on your regular meals, then you'll want to stock up on pantry staples like the ones we just mentioned, and when it comes time to do the stocking, Dollar Tree is a good place to start.


Most packages of dried pasta, rice, beans, and canned vegetables cost $1.25 or less, and some Dollar Trees will take manufacturers' coupons. So a two-for-one coupon for Kraft mac and cheese, Columbia spaghetti, or Omega rice brand could cost you about $.63 a pack, allowing you to fill up your pantry for less money. Finally, stocking up your pantry doesn't have to happen in one shot. If you buy one or two extra packages of pasta, rice, or beans every time you go to the dollar store, you'll eventually have a fully stocked pantry without breaking your budget. You'll only spend around $5 extra each time you shop. That's definitely doable for most budget-conscious shoppers.

5. Specialty side dishes

If you eat the same two or three meals for lunch and dinner week in and week out, you know how quickly this routine turns monotonous, particularly if you like the basic protein plus vegetable plus side meal formula. For example, you may eat chicken with baked potatoes and green beans several times a week.


One way to change things up a bit without busting your budget is to add specialty side dishes to your meals, like pasta with cheese and broccoli or pasta salad with veggies. At the Dollar Tree, such side dishes run only a buck twenty-five per package and will contain at least two servings per package. If you're feeding a family of four, two packages of a Dollar Tree side dish will only set you back $2.50. Those same boxed or packaged meals at a larger grocery store chain may cost you more than double the price for the same size, making these meals economical and delicious additions to lunch or dinner.

6. Bread

If you've perused the bread aisle of your local supermarket lately, you know that a cheap loaf of plain, and we do mean plain, bread costs about $3 a loaf. If you want the really, really seven-grain-in-addition-to-the-kitchen-sink kind, you're looking at shelling out between $6 and $7 a loaf. If sandwiches count among your lunchtime staple meals, you know that the $7 loaf probably won't last more than a week, and by extension, your lunches won't be economical.


Fortunately, smart bread shoppers know to stop at the Dollar Tree first. While the Dollar Tree also has a simple white loaf of bread, just as the regular grocery store does, it costs less than half for the same loaf. Instead of being $3 a loaf, it's only one twenty-five. Additionally, some local dollar stores even carry the fancy schmancy seven-grain breads. Those also cost $1.25 per loaf. At those prices, you can buy more than enough bread to get you through lunch for the entire week, and more importantly, you can even buy the tastier seven-grain kind if you want. 

7. Condiments

Condiments are the kinds of things you don't really think about until you run out of them. Making hamburgers? You can't. You're out of ketchup and mustard. How about some ramen noodles? Nah. You have no soy sauce. And what about pasta salad? You can't make your famous recipe without dill pickles and olives, which you don't have at the moment. Fortunately for you, if your errand trip includes a stop at the Dollar Tree, you'll replace all those missing condiments and then some for about $10 or less. At major supermarkets, you'll sometimes spend way more to replace staples like vinegar, spices, condiments, pickles, olives, and more. While some items, like ketchup, may only cost you $.50 more at the grocery store, you'll really notice the savings on other items, like vinegar, olives, and pickles. More importantly, buying all these items at the Dollar Tree means you don't have to make multiple stops to save money.


Buying condiments at the Dollar Tree is an especially good option if you live alone and don't need to buy the convenient economy size of any of these items. Although the dollar store often carries these items in regular sizes, you'll find smaller sizes there, too, which makes stocking a single person's apartment, or even your summer camper with all the necessary condiments, much easier and cheaper.

8. Canned coconut milk

Many cuisines around the world, including Chinese, Filipino, Indian, Vietnamese, and Thai, call for coconut milk as a key ingredient for many of their recipes. And while it's hard to beat coconut milk's creamy texture, its price tag often makes budget-conscious shoppers question their dining choices. Their hesitation is understandable. If you buy a can of coconut milk at the friendly neighborhood, non-dollar-store store, you can pay up to $10 to take home its creamy goodness.


However, a trip to the Dollar Tree puts a can of coconut milk back on your table for just over a dollar. In fact, its price at the dollar store is so tasty you can buy a dozen cans of it for around $15, compared to the $10 price you'd pay for a single can of some brands at the local grocery store. Incidentally, if your recipes also call for coconut oil, you can find that at the Dollar Tree for just $1.25 as well. 

9. Cake and cookie mixes

Here's an interesting statistic from GFK. Twenty-five percent of people around the world welcome guests into their homes at least once a week, though some invite people over daily. Another 34% of them roll out the red carpet at least once a month. For us foodies, we know what the unspoken subtext in all of this is. That's a lot of coffee and pastries to keep on hand because who invites people over for a visit and serves just water?


Fortunately, the Dollar Tree makes it cheap and easy to keep baked goods on the ready for your next home entertainment stint. At the Dollar Tree, you'll find cake and cookie mixes in a variety of flavors, including strawberry, all for about $1.25 each. Additionally, if you want to give your guests the full meal deal, so to speak, you'll also find frosting, vanilla, graham cracker crusts, baking pans, frosting guns, plus a whole lot more. At your local grocery store, you'll sometimes pay double, triple, or more for the same mixes. If you have guests over for coffee and pastries on the regular, you'll do your wallet a favor by shopping for cake and cookie mixes at the Dollar Tree.

10. Spring rolls

Those who shop at the Dollar Tree have probably discovered the store's refrigerator/ freezer section. It's filled with all sorts of snacky goodies, like personal pizzas, frozen popcicles, and one of our favorites, spring rolls. At the Big Box stores, a box of 10 to 12 spring rolls will cost you around $4.50 or more. Given how small the spring rolls tend to be, this isn't always an economical splurge. However, at just $1.25 a package, the Dollar Tree offers a comparable brand at a significantly lower price.


However, we don't just love the spring rolls at the Dollar Tree because of their price, though admittedly, that's a huge draw. We also love them because the store usually carries several different kinds, including a vegetarian option. For those who try to stick to a vegetarian or vegan diet, finding economically-priced food items of the non-meat persuasion makes it easier to stick to a meatless diet plan. And here's a bonus tip. A quick perusal of the condiment aisle turns up dipping sauce ingredients, like soy sauce, and even dips, such as teriyaki sauce for your spring rolls.

11. Popcorn

The problem with most snacks, aside from being just plain bad for you, is that they take a big bite out of your budget. But that doesn't hold true for one of our favorite snacks: popcorn. Unlike snacks like rice crackers, which come in at 146 calories per cup, or potato chips, which contain 160 calories per cup, three cups of air-popped popcorn only have 93 calories. Basically, when you eat popcorn, you get more bang for your buck come snack time while still eating fewer calories than you would if you'd indulged in other types of snacks. You also get an important source of fiber, folate, Vitamin A, Vitamin E, and Vitamin K. In other words, your favorite movie-time snack, if prepared in the right way, is actually quite good for you.


But when you're a regular Dollar Tree shopper, you get even more benefits when you buy popcorn there. For a buck and some change, you'll get 20 ounces of plain kernel Jolly Time popcorn. At the local supermarket, a 30-ounce bag of the same popcorn brand will cost you more than double the Dollar Tree price. But you can't appreciate the savings until you look a little deeper. That is, the 30-ounce popcorn costs $.09 an ounce, whereas the Dollar Tree popcorn costs just over $.06 an ounce. Incidentally, you'll also find other types of popcorn at the Dollar Tree, including caramel- and cheese-flavored popcorn and microwave popcorn.

12. Cookies

For cookie lovers, the winter holidays don't seem like the winter holidays until those blue cookie tins filled with Danish butter cookies hit the shelves. They're sweet, crunchy, and often twisted in the shape of pretzels and stars to make them feel extra holiday-ish. The most famous brand of them all is the Royal Dansk brand. As it turns out, the tastiness of cookies, plus the beauty of the tins, make them an excellent gift item to give friends and colleagues. If it weren't for the price tag, they'd pretty much be the perfect foodie gift. The largest tins of those cookies can cost up to $25 or $30 (or more). Even if you opt for the smaller tins of fancy cookies, you'll still pay $5 or $6 a piece for them.


Here's where the Dollar Tree can rescue your wallet and gift-giving ventures, not just during the winter holidays. While it's true that the Dollar Tree does often carry the Royal Dansk brand of cookies, complete with those gorgeous royal-blue tins, it also carries a lot of other brands of cookies, including chocolate chip, Fig Newtons, peanut butter, oatmeal, vanilla wafers, and more. If you have a serious cookie habit, it's best to get your fix at the Dollar Tree, where you'll only shell out a dollar and some change rather than the $5 or $6 minimum you'll pay for the same size and type of cookie at some Big Box store or even online on Amazon.

13. Plant milks

According to Boston Children's Hospital, around 30 to 50 million people have a dairy intolerance. For them, eating a simple bowl of cereal in the morning isn't such an easy feat. Within 30 minutes of consuming the offending dairy product, those with this intolerance will experience tummy upset. Fortunately for them, there are a variety of companies that put out non-dairy alternatives to their favorite dairy products, including milk. A quick look at the local grocery store shelf reveals a cornucopia of different plant-based milk types and flavors. This includes plant milks made of soy, almonds, coconuts, cashews, oats, and even rice. Potato, avocado, chia seed, and even banana plant milk are also stocked on some store shelves. 


At many big-name grocery stores like Albertson's and Walmart, you'll pay up to $7.00 for a carton of your favorite plant-based beverage. Even the cheaper brands of plant milks cost almost $3 per carton. At the Dollar Tree, you'll pay just a little over a buck for many of the same brands in the same sizes. This is good news not only for those who are dairy intolerant but also for those who have decided to adopt a more plant-forward diet in general. And given that the plant-based milk industry is expected to grow into a 30-billion-dollar industry by 2030, per Custom Market Insights, it's likely that stores like the Dollar Tree will continue to stock this and other important non-dairy food commodities in the years to come.