Why You Probably Shouldn't Buy Food From Family Dollar

Everyone loves a good dollar store. According to Indigo 9 Digital, "there are now more dollar stores in the U.S. than McDonald's and Starbucks locations combined." Dollar General, Dollar Tree, Family Dollar, and Five Below have opened "hundreds of stores" in recent years. They note that these stores tend to do best in areas where grocery stores and "big box chains" are scarce and consumers need somewhere to get their groceries and household items at lower prices.

Enter Family Dollar. According to Our State, as a youth, Leon Levine was "obsessed with a place called Filene's in New York", a basement store with low prices. Eventually, this love of cost savings led him to open "a little store on Central Avenue between Pecan and Thomas Avenues in Charlotte's Plaza-Midwood," aiming to serve customers an array of items, food included, that are somewhere around $1, even if some were slightly pricier. So it makes sense that, if you want to save money, you might be tempted to buy something here — but that may not be the best decision, especially where food is concerned.

Here's what Family Dollar sells

If you've been to a Family Dollar store, you know that they have an extensive collection of merchandise to purchase. Their website boasts pretty much everything, including cleaning supplies, household items, personal care, electronics, toys and games, and more. And they even have a specific section dedicated to food. 

Their food selection is pretty extensive, including quick dishes like mac and cheese, canned foods, snacks (both sweet and salty), juices and sodas, breakfast foods, spices and condiments, and even some beers and wine. They have recently partnered with Instacart as well, selling some food items through the popular site, which helps customers avoid a trip to the store, as they can have it delivered straight to their door. Strong checkmarks there for convenience and cost-effectiveness, right?

You would think so, but Family Dollar's stores may not be as easy on your wallet as you would imagine. 

First things first: Watch that expiration date

There has to be a reason dollar store items are so inexpensive, right? It can't all be savvy buying prowess. Well, WFMY News may have cracked the secret. The Greensboro, North Carolina news station reported in 2019 that Family Dollar and Dollar Tree both "paid a million-dollar settlement for expired over-the-counter drugs," so imagine the food safety issues they likely have. The WFMY reporter actually went into a store to sense check and found items more than a month past expiration. And because, as they point out, selling expired food is actually legal, it's not seen as a problem for the store to handle, so much as customers to be aware and careful of as they shop.

Another story from 2019, by Coupon in the News, noted that "three major dollar store chains have all been selling expired products in" New York state. One of the three sold something that has been expired since 1930. A story in the Times Union in Albany highlighted the same instance, and even though the store promised to keep a closer eye on things, if you do have to get some food from a dollar store, its probably best to keep your eyes peeled! And that's not even the only reason to make sure to keep on your toes when perusing the seemingly deal-forward stores.

What's wrong with buying Family Dollar's food?

If that wasn't enough, you may not even be saving anything by buying at the seemingly less expensive store. As noted before, dollar stores are less expensive for a reason. Many tend to sell their own brand's version of your favorite foods, which, while cost effective, may not be as flavor-forward or familiar as you're used to, and they also tend to cut the sizes so your typical size variation for products may be a bit off at stores like these.

It's also easy to believe that, because the store is called a dollar store, it's selling everything at the lowest price possible, but don't fall into that trap. Many options are actually cheaper at other stores than dollar stores. These often include chips, gum, and soda, which are technically priced lower, but only because of their smaller size. Same goes for cereal, which is often also off-brand. So while it might be tempting to spend your dough on dollar store food, you may be better off going to a regular grocery store instead if you can swing it.