Have you ever had one of those weekends where you overindulge a bit too much and wake up Monday morning shocked at your depleted bank account? Well I have, and it’s what landed me trolling the well-stocked shelves of a 99-cent store by my house – you know the type – where everything’s under a buck.
Because of my reckless spending the previous weekend, I went to buy a few items that I’d normally pay four times the amount for at a grocery or drug store and thus, get me through to my next pay day. However, the tricky thing with most discount stores is that some of their inventory is, well, not so good. In order to complete a successful haul, you need to be able to navigate which items are okay to save on and what items you actually need to spend more on elsewhere. And always remember to check and respect expiration dates.
- Butter: As someone who loves butter I am always shocked at how much it costs at most grocery stores. It’s such a commonly used household item for baking, meal preparation, and as a spread. However, at this particular 99 cent store, I found a 7 oz tub of Smart Balance butter that isn’t set to expire until January 2015 and saved myself about $4.
- Coffee: I wouldn’t call myself a “coffee snob” as much as I would call myself someone who, “drinks coffee daily and prefers it not to taste like dirt.” But I found a great brand of Nestle Cafe Bonka Italian Dark Roast in an 8oz bag that tastes great. Compare that to the Italian Roast I get from Trader Joes at $8.99 for 13 oz.
- Toys: I wasn’t even planning to get a present for my nephew’s third birthday on this shopping trip but I came across a ton of children’s toys, books, and activities all for 99¢ each that I know he’d love. I was able to purchase about four different items (2 books, crayons, toy cars) to make an awesome birthday basket, saving me about 20-plus dollars.
- Beans: Beans are a great source of protein. I got a bag of dry lentils for 99¢, cooked them and added them to a few of my lunches that week. They last up to a year in storage so they’re great to buy and have for whenever you need them.
- Condiments: Most discount stores carry many name brand condiments with slightly shorter shelf lives. Most ketchup’s last for 1-2 years and I found a Heinz brand ketchup that wasn’t set to expire for a year and two months. Also, if you’re having a cook out or BBQ, it’s a great way to get all those condiments your party-goers will crave for less.
- Baking Supplies: The other night I wanted to bake cookies from scratch but realized I had zero of the necessary ingredients. I went to the grocery store and ended up spending over 20 bucks on baking soda, flour, brown sugar, etc. Had I known you can get all those name brand items at most discount stores, I would have saved myself a lot of dough, no pun intended.
- Cleaning Supplies: It’s already bad enough having to clean your bathroom, so why someone would ever pay full price for cleaning supplies is beyond me. I picked up Comet, Window, and a bathroom cleaner for $3.
Other Notable “Save Ons”:
- Canned Soup
- Microwave Popcorn
- Cell phone accessories
- Candy: I was as shocked as anyone upon opening my 59¢ Aba-Zaba bar and discovering it was dried out and strenuous to eat. Then I started to feel sick about 20 minutes after ingesting it. From my experience, I suggest spending the extra 50¢ at a drug or grocery store.
- Fruit, Veggies, Produce: This is an area I would suggest you NEVER skimp on. Getting fresh, organic, and local fruits, veggies, and produce will always pay off in the long run for your health.
- Potato Chips: I love chips but I do not love chips from 99 cent stores. Their bags are one-quarter chips and three-quarters air. No name brands. And no other redeeming qualities. PASS.
- Toiletries: I once bought body lotion from a 99 cent store and spend the rest of the month hating myself for it. Most of their products are off-brand and not worth the $3-6 you’ll save. It’s your skin/hair/body – spend the extra money on it.
Other Notable “Spend Ons”:
- Underwear (yes, underwear)
Whitney Teubner is a writer based out of Los Angeles. She has written for the Adult Swim network and enjoys outdoor activities, preferably with dogs and/or babies. Follow her on Twitter @Whitneyteubs