Dollar Tree Meat Isn't As Sketch As It Sounds, Trust Us

I've been buying frozen meat from Dollar Tree for years, and no, I don't feel any shame whatsoever. Why should I? Although I grew up middle class, I've been livin' la vida broka ever since (liberal arts major + single parenthood can do that to a person), and frankly I'm pretty proud of my ability to make do on a dollar store budget. While I was none too happy at first when Dollar Tree made the transition into Buck-and-a-Quarter Tree and then added premium items priced even higher, I'll admit that I'm pleased with the expansion of my local store's frozen meat section.

But, even dedicated Dollar Tree shoppers, are still dubious about the idea of buying the chain's frozen meat. While the idea of dollar-store meat might seem kind of sketchy, it hasn't featured prominently in any reports of widespread food-borne illnesses. Even a report about Dollar Tree employees warning shoppers away from the frozen meat section (via the U.S. Sun) wasn't based on any insider knowledge about unsafe food handling practices, but rather, on nothing more than a belief that cheap meats are unlikely to be as good as pricier ones. Well, duh, but quality only beats quantity when you've got the bucks to afford it.

Dollar Tree meats are just as safe as anywhere else

While Dollar Tree has moved many of its meat offerings over to the higher-priced premium section, some of my favorites are still priced just a buck and a quarter. If the price point alone is what gives you pause, stop and think about it. No matter whether any food item is being sold for $1 or $100, it still has to abide by the same state-mandated food safety regulations, and if Dollar Tree were constantly violating these, it would not stay in business for long.

So, what can you get for $1.25 at Dollar Tree? I like the hot links and smoked sausage, myself, and frequently use the latter to make jambalaya with other Dollar Tree ingredients (my store also sells the necessary rice, beans, tomatoes, hot sauce, and even Cajun seasoning). My favorite thing, though, is the country ham slices I found there just this year. I thought country ham was mostly an east coast thing and haven't seen much of it here in Wisconsin, so at $1.25, trying it was a no-brainer. It turns out to be as salty and delicious as any other country ham I've eaten, so now I'm stopping by Dollar Tree on a regular basis to purchase multiple packages of the stuff.

Those famous dollar steaks are still worth it

When I first tried Dollar Tree steaks, they really did cost just one dollar, and at that price I'd say they were definitely worth it. While others undoubtedly agreed — according to Cincinnati news station WCPO, local Dollar Trees regularly used to sell out of the stuff — the steaks didn't necessarily compare favorably to higher priced cuts. Still, we can't all afford wagyu, and the taste was decent enough. These days, though, the steaks are up to $3. They are bigger, at least, but not exactly triple (or even double) in size as they now weigh 5.5 ounces. The 2.0 Dollar Tree steaks do seem a bit tastier, though. I recently fried one up for breakfast and it was actually pretty good. Not like a steakhouse ribeye, true, but on par with what you'd get if you ordered steak and eggs at a diner.

I was also pleased to see $3 boxes of Steak-Umms, too. These are perfect for homemade Philly cheese steaks, plus I have a certain nostalgic fondness for the brand since my mom used to make Steak-umm sandwiches for my sisters and me when we were kids. In case you're wondering, the Steak-Umms I bought at Dollar Tree tasted exactly like the ones I've paid nearly double for at the grocery store, so there's no reason I won't be buying them here again.

I've been eating their fish for years

My favorite $5 find is something that some may find off-putting: Dollar Tree fish. While Redditors seem skeptical about the chain's frozen salmon in particular, I've been eating it for years. Usually what I do is throw it on my stovetop smoker and the results, I've got to say, are pretty amazing. I haven't tried it baked or pan-fried and imagine that it probably doesn't compare to the taste of fresh fish, but then, what long-frozen fish does? As to any fears of Dollar Tree fish making you sick, all I can say is, I've eaten multiple pounds of the stuff over the past decade or so with no ill effects.

I can't really speak to Dollar Tree's family-sized boxes of fish sticks or dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets since I haven't tried them, but they're the same brands found at mainstream supermarkets and no, they were not past (or even near) the sell-by date. I did try the ground beef and found it quite tasty — at 70/30, it's a bit high in fat, but when it comes to meat, fat = flavor. The ground beef patties from the 2-pound box weren't quite as enjoyable since they include quite a bit of filler, but I tried these, too, and they tasted okay with some condiments and toppings. Not quite a fast food burger, but maybe like a better-than-average one that you'd get from a school cafeteria.

I'll definitely keep buying meat at Dollar Tree

Yes, there are some downsides to Dollar Tree's meat selection. None of what it offers is fresh and most of it is processed to a certain extent. If the store were to expand its offerings to include non-processed, fresh meats, it would likely need to enlarge and revamp the display area. There would probably also be transportation and storage complications that would necessitate major price hikes, thus turning the chain into a Two (or Three) Dollar Tree.

Still, what meat Dollar Tree does offer is perfectly acceptable at worst, and at best — as in the case of the country ham and salmon fillets — is something I'll make a special trip to buy. While I'm lucky enough to have the necessary transportation to make it to an actual supermarket and sufficient funds to purchase a wider range of groceries, I still appreciate a good bargain and see no reason to spend a few bucks more to purchase similar items at a more prestigious store.