Should you shop at the Dollar Store to save money on groceries?

Should you shop at the Dollar Store to save money on groceries?

In addition to using coupons to cut food costs, many families are opting to buy a portion of their groceries at so-called dollar stores, such as the popular Dollar General.
These stores have contracts with manufacturers to take on packaged goods that are near their expiration dates (And sometimes past them!) They sell the goods at a severe discount, saving families often more than 40 percent of the retail costs.

I've been able to get a few good deals at dollar stores, on items such as boxed rice, canned soup, muffin mixes and spices. (If you go to the dollar store for nothing else, go for spices. You can get an 8 oz. bulk bottle of dried seasonings for less than the price of a 2 oz or 3 oz bottle from mainstream grocery stores.)

Not everything is a good buy, though. Dollar stores often have discounts of foods that aren’t necessary to buy anyway, such as candy, Jell-o, and pudding. Families with young children may appreciate these cheap snacks, but I find them a waste of money.

Don't enter a dollar store expecting to find anything fresh. I've never seen fresh vegetables in a dollar store. Occasionally, there might be bags of oranges and other slow-to-spoil fruit. While no fresh meat can obviously be found at dollar stores, I have seen canned meats, hot dogs and some packaged lunch meats.

Use the dollar store solely to stock up on boxed items, canned foods, and frozen goods -- such as pasta, crackers,  pizza or ice cream treats. Variety is limited, however -- as is quantitty. So,the best strategy is to shop at the dollar store first so that you know what’s NOT available. Then, get the remaining items at the regular grocery store.