10 Groceries You Should Buy At Big Lots And 4 You Shouldn't

If you have a Big Lots store nearby, you've probably visited it for some of the things it's most known for, like furniture, home decor items, and, of course, its beloved DVD collection. But many Big Lots stores have a surprisingly good mix of food on their shelves, too. Although the company has sold food for many years, it announced an expansion of its grocery department in 2014, adding more brands and unique foods to its selection.

On Big Lots' food shelves, you'll find everything from everyday condiments to difficult-to-find snacks and one-of-a-kind foods you may not have ever tried before. To add to the intrigue of the Big Lots grocery section, many items are quite a bit cheaper than at other grocery stores and big-box retailers. Plus, Big Lots offers weekly deals that vary from store to store, but you'll always find at least some items in the grocery section on sale, no matter which day or week you choose to visit.

Still, there are a few grocery items we recommend looking elsewhere for. Keep reading to learn all about the Big Lots grocery section, what you should buy, and what you might want to avoid.

Do: Big Lots' Fresh Finds items

Like many stores, Big Lots has its own brand of products in its grocery section. It's called Fresh Finds, and you'll see the items scattered around on different shelves. The lineup includes an excellent mix of grocery items you probably might frequently buy, like bagged popcorn, bottled water, spices, trail mix, and condiments. It's comparable to Walmart's Great Value brand, which takes some of the most popular items and transforms them into a product that's similar to the original but at a more affordable price.

We've tried several items from the Big Lots Fresh Finds lineup and have been impressed with most, especially the popcorn, nuts, and other snacks. These foods can get rather expensive when buying them from name brands, but at Big Lots, you can find a 30-ounce tub of trail mix for under $10 and a bag of kettle chips for less than $3. We've also found great savings on offbeat items we stock our pantry with, like coconut oil, preserves, and canned fruit. We recommend checking out the Fresh Finds products first for savings if you're new to shopping at Big Lots for groceries.

Do: Vegan, organic, and health-focused foods

Interestingly, the Big Lots grocery aisles aren't just for your typical grocery items. In fact, many people shop at Big Lots mostly for its vast selection of vegan, organic, and health-focused foods. Depending on your store, you might even find keto-friendly items, like low-carb baking mixes, granola bars, and coffee.

When you look for foods at Big Lots that fit your specific dietary needs or preferences, be prepared to find at least a few items you've never seen elsewhere. For example, one Redditor found a jar of beet and leek salad at their local store. A Twitter user also shares that they regularly buy hemp seeds and monk fruit sugar from Big Lots. And YouTuber JustJenJen shared a video highlighting several organic and vegan finds at Big Lots, including homestyle granola, corn chips, and fruit jerky sticks.

We've found everything from organic coconut flour to bagged organic lentils during our hauls, and most of the time, the items are comparably priced or less than similar items we find at other stores. Big Lots should be on your radar if you don't have a health food store nearby or your local supermarkets don't offer a good selection of this type of food.

Do: Seasonal foods

Walk into a Big Lots store when a new season or holiday hits, and you'll likely find at least one aisle in the grocery section stocked with seasonal items. In the fall, it's not uncommon to find several pumpkin spice foods, for example. And, around Thanksgiving and Christmas, you should have no trouble finding holiday baking goodies and special holiday treats to add to stockings or gift to friends.

The best part is that these items often come with excellent savings, too. For instance, we've found seasonal baking ingredients on sale for $1 each and other limited-time foods promoted in two-for-$5 or three-for-$5 specials. And, don't forget to visit Big Lots right after a holiday passes, because you'll be sure to find the best discounts on all leftover foods, especially Halloween candy and treats. In past years, we've been able to score multiple bags of candy for under $25.

Don't: Popular brand-name chips

Big Lots is one of our favorite places to pick up a couple bags of chips or pretzels that other grocery stores don't always carry. The selection at Big Lots varies often, so it's fun browsing the chip and snack aisles to see what's new. For instance, we recently found Lay's Summer BLT chips and Lay's Layers Summer Sour Cream and Onion snacks, which we have yet to spot at other local grocery stores.

With that said, many of the mainstream, popular, brand-name potato chips and related snacks are usually cheaper elsewhere unless you happen to visit during a sale week, so Big Lots is more of our go-to place when we want something different. As an example, many Doritos and Cheetos varieties are several cents cheaper at Walmart. Walmart and other big box retailers sometimes carry larger bags, too, which can save more money per serving. The pricing might seem insignificant to some, but for other budget-conscious shoppers, those small savings can add up during large shopping trips.

Do: Bread

Big Lots isn't only good for its prepackaged snacks and foods with a long shelf life. We also love shopping at Big Lots for bread. While many might visit their local bakery or pick up bread at nearby supermarkets, we usually check Big Lots first for ours. Why? For starters, some Big Lots locations have name-brand loaves of bread in a wide range of varieties, like white, wheat, rye, and organic. Going earlier in the day could get you the best selection, but it really depends on when your store gets its shipments. If you're finding that your store's bread aisle is somewhat skimpy, ask the manager when they stock up.

Second, the bread at Big Lots is often cheaper than at other stores. Crystal from Money Saving Mom highlights her bread haul from Big Lots, noting that three loaves of Arnold and Eureka! bread were only $1.40 each at her local store. We've come across lots of similar deals, although the brands and types of bread tend to vary with each trip. Pro tip: Be sure to check out the expiration dates when you buy, as these breads are sometimes overstocked items from warehouses or other stores nearing expiration.

Do: Dried fruit

If you're a fan of dried fruit, you won't want to pass up the opportunity to browse the Big Lots aisles for dried fruits of all kinds, from crispy mangos to sweet and satisfying pineapple chips. If there's one thing we can count on when we visit Big Lots, it's that there will be an almost overwhelming selection of dried fruits available at any given time — much larger than what we've found at any grocery store.

It's not just our experience, either. Several deal-finding Instagram accounts share photos of their local Big Lots' dried fruit section. One account, Crazy for Deals, shared a whole lineup of dried fruit packages, including typical options like apple slices and dried ginger, plus some more unique fruits, like goji berries and pineapple strawberry combinations. At under $3 a piece, these packages can be perfect for dividing up for school lunches or packing for a family day trip.

Do: Bob's Red Mill products

Bob's Red Mill is a company known for its natural foods and ingredients, like muesli, baking mixes, and granola. The company's products have become more mainstream over the last several years, popping up in online stores and local grocery stores, but we often find ourselves wishing our local stores carried a broader selection of its products. After all, it easily offers hundreds of items across its cereal, grain, protein powder, and baking ingredient lineups.

However, Big Lots often pulls through with an impressive selection of Bob's Red Mill items for similar or lower prices than other stores. We often shop Big Lots for Bob's Red Mill almond flour, coconut flakes, and cereals but are sometimes surprised when other not-as-easily-found items enter the mix, like its oatmeal cups and snack bars. We've found many of the brand's items to be quite comparably priced at Big Lots compared to online discount health food stores, too, so you can feel good about stocking up when your Big Lots has your favorite Bob's Red Mill items on its shelves.

Don't: Soda

When you make a quick stop at Big Lots for specific items, need to cross soda off your list, and don't plan on stopping anywhere else, there's nothing wrong with buying your soda from Big Lots. The store does tend to have a decent selection, including some nontraditional grocery store items, like bottles of Crush and ginger beer. However, if you're looking for the best prices on soda, Big Lots isn't usually the best option.

While 12-packs of soda cans at Big Lots are usually around $8, it's easy to find them elsewhere for closer to $6. And, big box retailers like Walmart and Target have frequent deals on soda that make them even cheaper. For example, Walmart sometimes marks 12-packs down to $5 or less, while Target offers $3 off select 12-packs when you buy a specific amount of soda. If you shop at warehouse clubs like Sam's Club, you could save even more on soda by buying in bulk. For example, a 35-pack of Coca-Cola is about $16 at Sam's Club, whereas that amount of money wouldn't even buy two 12-packs at Big Lots.

Do: International food

In 2014, Big Lots announced that it would be expanding the selection of international and gourmet foods it already offered, renaming it to World Flavors and introducing even more Hispanic, Asian, and other culturally diverse foods and ingredients. Many Big Lots stores now carry items like Mexican rice and taco filling, Asian teas, and marmalades and jams from around the world.

The downside is that the foods you find at your local Big Lots will likely only be available for a limited time, so be sure to pick up what looks good to you while you're there. The international food selection tends to change frequently, and what you find at one store may not be available at your local store. Your best bet is to look at the weekly circular for your store to see what to keep an eye out for when you visit. Once in a while, Big Lots ramps up its offerings and puts out specific deals on internationally inspired foods for a week or two, which are usually highlighted in its circulars.

Do: Unique snacks

Are you having a movie night at home with the family or want some offbeat snacks to bring to a party you're invited to? Big Lots has a lot of snacks to choose from, and many of them are ones you've probably never heard of before. When you're in the mood for something new, you won't be disappointed in Big Lots' aisles.

Although the selection of snacks typically changes frequently at Big Lots stores, there seems to always be something else taking the place of snacks that left the shelves. We've seen unique snacks like sesame oat bran sticks, white cheddar jalapeno chips, and strawberry pizzelle cookies at our local stores. We've also snagged items like pistachio thins, maple cream cookies, brownie brittle, and other goodies we've never tracked down at other grocery stores. If you're like us and sometimes crave tasty, fun snacks to try, consider browsing Big Lots to find new flavors to intrigue your palate.

Do: Herbs and spices

The herbs and spices aisle at Big Lots is often one of the best stocked we've seen. Not only does the Big Lots selection include items people frequently use, like garlic powder, ground black pepper, and onion powder, but it also has less common spices, like chicken seasoning, curry powder, and celery salt. Plus, many of Big Lots' spices are available for just $1.19 or a little higher, with the most affordable ones made by its store brand, Fresh Finds. The sizes are comparable to what you'll get at other grocery stores, but sometimes for several cents — or even dollars — cheaper.

Be on the lookout for limited-time spices that aren't always kept in stock, too. On various shopping trips, we've seen everything from Weber's Chicago Steak Seasoning to Cinnamon Toast Crunch Cinnadust. We've also found seasoning sets with multiple herbs and spices together, which could help you replace old, expired seasonings or keep your pantry stocked up.

Don't: Rice and pasta

The pasta and rice selection at Big Lots isn't usually anything to get too excited about. It offers mostly quick-meal and canned goods, like canned spaghetti and pasta lunches or microwavable noodle and rice bowls, which can be handy to keep in your pantry for easy meals. But if you're looking to restock your boxed pastas, wild grain rice, or other ingredients you typically use to make home-cooked meals, you might be a little disappointed in the Big Lots aisles.

Of course, like many grocery items at Big Lots, the rice and pasta you find can vary from week to week and from store to store. But, as frequent Big Lots shoppers, we've usually found more to choose from and better deals at other stores. For example, Walmart and Stop and Shop have lots of boxed pasta varieties, and we can always find unique rice mixes, boxed pasta salads, and more. Pricing is generally more favorable at traditional grocery stores and big box retailers, too, if you're pricing per serving.

Do: Coffee and tea

Whether you love bottled coffee, canned tea, or prefer to make your own coffee and tea at home, your nearby Big Lots probably has you covered. We've spotted all kinds of coffee and tea products at various Big Lots stores, including Starbucks Frappucino glass bottles, ground coffee from Dunkin' Donuts, instant coffee, and Bigelow herbal tea bags. We've even found 24- and 36-packs of single-use coffee cups at Big Lots, with prices highly comparable to similar products at Walmart, Sam's Club, or even online retailers like Amazon.

We suggest scoping out your Big Lots' coffee and tea aisles for ingredients to put in your drinks, too. For example, Big Lots usually has a few dry creamers to choose from, and keto-friendly creamers are sometimes on the shelves. Packs of single-serve creamers also aren't unusual to find, and if your Big Lots has a refrigerated section, you might see flavored creamers stocked there.

Don't: Condiments

We love a good sale on condiments so we can stock up on mayo, mustard, ketchup, and other must-haves for summer barbecues and around-the-year cooking. Big Lots has these sales occasionally, usually around the 4th of July and Memorial Day. This is usually when Big Lots is the most stocked on these tasty ingredients. However, at other times of the year, the selection might be more drab at your local store.

If you need condiments that stray from the usual lineup, like special hot sauces or Asian-inspired flavors, you might want to try your local grocery stores or discount chains, like Aldi or Walmart. Although you might occasionally score a salsa variety or new stir fry sauce to try on one of your shopping trips, Big Lots doesn't always have the most diverse lineup of condiments to rely on. Plus, condiments in general — unless you catch a sale — are often cheaper at other retailers, especially if you're going by per-ounce pricing.