Foods you should never buy at the dollar store

When it comes to bargain shopping, the dollar store may sound like a one-stop shop for inexpensive food. But is it? Purchasing otherwise expensive food products for merely a buck doesn't come without a catch. There are a few things to consider before you make your purchase. If you're a concerned thrifty shopper, here are some products you should skip buying from the dollar store.

Canned goods

One dollar a can? That sounds like an easy way to pinch pennies, but really, it's not. Grocery stores often have canned goods on sale for less — like these black beans for 79 cents. In this case, you may actually spending a lot more if you're buying your canned goods from the dollar store. 

Steak

If there is one food item that sounds like a sketchy dollar store purchase, it's steak. A quality steak is going to cost around $20 per pound. With average prices like that, one has to wonder what the dollar store steak is really made from. According to one news station who tested it out, dollar store steak is USA beef, but it's the utility cut (or low-grade beef) that's often served in institutions like school cafeterias. And anyone who has eaten in a school cafeteria will probably tell you the food is not the créme de la créme. So while the price may be right, the quality is definitely lacking.

Chips

Some items at the dollar store give you more bang for your buck, but chips are not one of them. To make up for a cheaper price, the net weight of a bag of chips is often much smaller. For example, one blogger who investigated the matter determined that Aldi's brand of chips does cost a little more at $1.49 per bag, but they're double the weight, so a much better value. By checking the net weight and doing a little math, you can determine what stores have the better deal.

Soda

Not all dollar store products are priced competitively, like soda for instance. A liter of soda could cost you more at the dollar store than a two-liter would at your average grocery chain. If you're a soda drinker, it's best to shop around. Grocery stores will often feature sales on soda pricing them much lower than the dollar store.

Cereal

With cereal prices expected to increase up to four percent in 2018, buying a box for $1 sounds like a deal that's too good to pass up. However, you should be cautious when you see off-brand cereal boxes on dollar store shelves. According to Reader's Digest, generic brands at the dollar store are likely there because other stores had a hard time moving the product. Not only that, but the boxes tend to be smaller than what you typically buy at the grocery store. Smaller boxes with less flavor? Not exactly a bargain.

Gum

Have you ever noticed how gum is conveniently placed by the checkout counter for a last minute impulse buy? With that impulse buy only costing $1, it may seem like a good deal. Unfortunately, you may actually be getting ripped off. Packs of gum at the dollar store are often smaller than what you would buy at the average grocery chain. 

Condiments

Not all condiments are a steal at dollar store chains. When it comes to ketchup, you can get a better deal at Aldi than the dollar store. Aldi sells a 24-ounce ketchup bottle (the same size as the dollar store) for 89 cents. Mustard is a similar bargain at Aldi, meaning where you buy your condiments should be a no-brainer.

Baking soda

If you've been loading up on $1 boxes of baking soda, I'm sorry to tell you you've been wasting your money. Baking soda can be found at various chain stores for less than that. Your best bet is to shop at warehouse stores where a box of the popular brand Arm & Hammer will only cost you about 85 cents a box. And if you don't need a lifetime supply? A store like Target will sell the same size box as the dollar store for a cheaper price. It's all about price comparison, not about spending only a buck.

Spices

Spending money on quality spices at the grocery store can easily put a dent in your budget. According to Business Insider, name-brand spices can be marked up as much as 97 percent. While those high markups make the dollar store sound like a good idea, dollar store spices aren't always the better bang for your buck. To make up for lower prices, the net weight of a spice container is often lowered to less than what you would get at the grocery store. If you really want to save on spices, buy in bulk.

Vitamins

Eating right is expensive, and so are vitamins. That doesn't mean, however, that you should be shopping for a bargain when it comes to dietary supplements. Dollar store vitamins don't adhere to the same rigorous standards as vitamins sold at your average store. According to Consumer Reports, off-brand vitamins were missing nutrients that were listed on labels. So take caution, because what you think you're buying may not actually be what you're getting.

Pet food

Eating cheap, unhealthy food all the time would probably make you sick. The same thing goes for your pet. If you're going to feed your animal cheap food from the dollar store, be wary about ingredients. Always check labels, and when in doubt, buy name-brand items from regular chain stores. The Food and Drug Administration does not require pet food to have pre-market approval. In that case, it's probably a better idea to stick with chains that follow stricter safety procedures.