Do You Shop Discount Stores for Groceries?
A friend of mine, who doesn’t share my enthusiasm when it comes to thrifty shopping, asked about laundry detergent the other day. I told her what I use and the maximum amount I’ll pay (to which she laughed, since she hadn’t heard of setting a maximum amount on the items she bought).
I mentioned a particular detergent I use was on sale at a certain store in town. The store, which I won’t mention by name, was one similar to Dollar General, Family Dollar, Freds, and a variety of other lower-cost stores.
With a coupon, my detergent was $3.00 at this store.
Her response: Yeah, but aren’t you afraid to purchase things from that store? Isn’t it all really old and almost expired?
I’d never considered that. I always check expiration dates. If I’m purchasing an item that is ‘fresh’ I make sure it looks fresh: no bruises, not mold, no clumping if it’s dairy. I feel most items I find in these stores will be similar to those found in other stores, like Target. It just so happens I have one of these stores closer to my house, so dropping in for detergent when I can get it at such a steal works well for me.
A few days later, I stopped at a bread store on the way home. This is a ‘last stop’ bread store, and I know it sells bread that is near its expiration date. I bought buns because we were having a cookout that night. I also bought a package of snack cakes for husband man, because I know he likes them and hadn’t had them in a long time.
The buns were fine; the snack cakes didn’t get opened for about four days, and when they did, they were covered in mold, something I couldn’t see prior to opening the container.
So, the detergent was fine, but the bakery items from the day-old store had to get tossed.
I thought about what my friend said. Maybe I shouldn’t spend money at these stores, particularly those that sell fresh items that can go bad. After all, I didn’t save anything when I had to throw out a pack of snack cakes.
Which led me to this question: What is ‘safe’ to purchase at a ‘lower-cost’ store such as these, and what should best be avoided?
Since I don’t know the answers, I’ve turned to a few pros, but I won’t have their responses in time for this article. Instead, I made up some new rules in my head until I do, and I’d like to know what you feel about shopping in the lower-cost stores.
Here’s what I think so far:
- Things that expired get purchased at the regular store. Yes, I know everything expires at some point. I mean items like bread, cookies, and other shelf-foods that might have been out for a while already before being shipped to discount stores. I still pick up milk at the local discount store if I’m in there and we need it. I can check the expiration date and see the product prior to buying.
- Bread gets purchased at the bakery aisle unless it is loaf bread. This is a new one for me, but lately I’m paying more for bread because I want it to be completely fresh. (Of course I’m a bread fanatic, so there you go.) My one exception: Sandwich bread. I buy whatever is on sale and on the shelves instead.
- Cleaning products are good to go at discount stores. I usually clean with items like baking soda and vinegar to keep things environmentally friendly, but I do love bleach and perfume-free detergent. I feel these are fine to buy at discount stores because they have a long shelf life.
- Cards and paper products. I buy cards wherever they are cheapest (though usually we make these), which is usually the dollar store. (One exception: The cute store downtown that has some awesomely hysterical birthday cards that I get for my mom!) Things like wrapping paper, notebook paper and school supplies I buy wherever it is cheapest.
What about you? What are your rules about shopping discount stores? Do you or don’t you? Do you trust in what you buy at these stores?
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