Fun Food Discoveries at the Dollar Store

31May09

dollar store logoWith the economy in the crapper, all kinds of folks have found themselves wandering the aisles at the dollar store these days. I know this because I actually heard the English language the last time I was there. Weird, huh? Anyway, I’m a huge fan of cheap crap so I’m all over the dollar store phenomena, and consider myself a pioneer, being one of the original whities to master the art of pilfering through the shelves looking for the good stuff. Hell, it’s practically a hobby.

These days the dollar store sells more than just mercury-leaking batteries and lead-paint-coated children’s toys, now they carry food, and more than just expired Fiddle Faddle. We’re talking one-of-a-kind treats you simply won’t find anywhere else. It’s not because the immigrants have discovered some new market for unique products, but instead they have snagged the line on acquiring merchandise resulting from failed initiatives and failed deliveries (formally known as surplus, salvage or discontinued merch). It’s not uncommon to find Spanish-labeled Cheerios that were originally destined for Mexico or Hellman’s mayonnaise sold only in their eastern US markets (out west we call it Best Foods). And if you expected all the food to either be white labeled “BEER” or dented cans of Del-Monte Beans that have been suspiciously thrown off the back of a moving truck, you’re wrong. The selection widely varies from off-brand, no-name, never-heard-of-it, borderline trademark infringement (Frilitos, YackerJacks), to popular really, truly name brand, foreign-worded, normal and even fancy food stuff you’d find at any ol’ Safeway. Here’s just a few of the fun foods I’ve discovered over the last few months.

mac n cheese pringlesMacaroni and Cheese Pringles: With my obvious love for the mac, these are easily worth a buck. And with all the various country-specific Pringle flavors, I suspect mis-deliveries frequently end up dropped at the local dollar store. And just maybe a can of Curry Pringles will help you forget that you can’t afford any vacation that doesn’t involve shitting in the woods and sleeping on a pile of dirt. Do remember this warning about Pringles – never buy the fat free varieties, unless anal leakage is part of your normal daily routine.

burger king onion ring chipsBurger Kind Onion Rings (Flavored Snacks): Similar to Funyons, which have already been identified as a Fatty Favourite, the BK Onion Rings have a more BBQ inspired zest, and are a little darker in colour, but you’ll find you have the same tendency to chow down far more than the suggested serving size in one sitting. I definitely hope I can find these again.

tgi mozz sticksTGI Friday’s Mozzarrella Snack Sticks: For starters, they look a bit like naked Cheetos. Fortunately they taste a bit better than they look, but its pretty clear these never made it to the regular grocery store shelves because they’re a bit dull, like plain potato chips or plain ice cream. Really, if you’re going to fat it up, why bother with tasteless crap like that?

So obviously if you’ve got that adventurous spirit and a hankering for snacky morsels there are bound to be some good food finds waiting for you at your local dollar store. And while there’s plenty of advice out there on how to successfully navigate the trip, here’s just a couple hints on how I think you can get the best out of the ghetto grocery store.

  1. Do try and pay attention to those expiration labels – it’s not unusual to find stuff from years past. And while crackers, chips, canned and other dry goods are pretty fair game, watch out for freezer items or anything you normally expect to be reasonably clean and fresh.

  2. Look for a busy location. Turnover is your best friend to fighting the expiration dates.

  3. The nose knows. Don’t be afraid to sniff an item. After all, you are considering putting it in your mouth.

  4. Choose Asian or Mexican owned locations over henky Middle-Eastern joints. Sure it’s racist, but it’s better than funding another 9/11.

  5. Don’t hesitate or skip an item thinking that you’ll pick it up on the next trip. There’s no layaway and there’s no time for consideration here because these products are typically discontinued items and chances are it’ll be gone when you return. So if it looks good, get 2. Or 10. Besides, it’s a dollar. Live a little.

And while I’m no germ-a-phobe, it’d probably be a good idea to wash your hands when you get home from the dollar store. It’s not that the place isn’t sanitary, some of the newer stores are quite nice, but after considering the other patrons, it’s a reasonable precaution, because no matter how much you save, it will no longer be a fun food find when you pick up a case of Hepatitis.

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