Five Things You Should Always Buy at the Dollar Store
First published in The Toronto Star
Aug. 10, 2011
A few years ago, when I first discovered dollar stores, I bought a four-sided metal cheese grater for a buck at Dollarama. Later that week, I saw the exact same cheese grater in a large department store that was selling for over $3. That did it. If I ever wondered at the wisdom of shopping in what was then considered a “junk store,” my fears were put to rest.
Mind you, not everything you find in a dollar store is going to be a great buy, but I’ve saved hundreds of dollars on everyday needs over the years and you can, too.
Here are my five best buys:
Replacing a watch battery can cost you $10 or more. When you consider that a package of five Sunbeam watch batteries costs a fraction of the price at a dollar store, that seems a high price to pay, even with the year-long warranty thrown in.
The Sunbeam batteries come in two different sizes, 357 and 377. I’ve been replacing my own watch batteries for years. It’s not hard. I use a mini flat screwdriver like the kind found in eye glass repair kits (also sold at dollar stores) and carefully pry the back of the watch off by sticking the screwdriver in the opening by the watch stem and working it around the edges of the backing. Then just replace the battery and snap the backing back into place. It’s easy and takes practically no time at all.
I’ve had the occasional dud in a package of these batteries but mostly they perform just as well as the ones you’d get from a watch repair shop or jewelry store.
Slide Seal Freezer Bags
I’ve always been very happy with the Slide Seal brand freezer bags. Besides protecting food in the freezer, I also use them to store craft supplies or other small items I want to keep from getting lost. I like the easy way they open and close using a zipper pull and there’s enough plastic in them to prevent them from tearing easily.
They come in two sizes, small and medium and cost $1 for each box of 10 and eight bags, respectively. They form an air-tight seal and are microwave safe. If the bags are being reused over and over for non-food items, the plastic zipper pull may come off but you’ll still be able to seal the bag.
I priced Ziploc® freezer bags at Walmart and found that they cost $3.27 for a box of 15 medium or 10 large bags, giving you two more large bags and five more small bags per box. However, the dollar store bags cost just 10 cents a bag for the small ones and about 13 cents a bag for the larger ones, as opposed to about 22 cents and 33 cents, respectively for the Ziploc freezer bags.
The name brand freezer bags boast expandable bottoms but the dollar store bags are a bit larger over all. For example, a medium Slide Seal bag is 20.5cm square, while a medium Ziploc bag is 20.3cm by 14.9cm.
It’s hard to beat dollar store cooking and serving utensils for price. My soup ladle is made of black nylon and has a thick, rubberized handle with an attractive silver-coloured insert in it. It’s dishwasher safe and heat-resistant to 210 degrees Celsius. I paid $1 for it. At a major grocery store, I saw an Oxo brand soup ladle very much like mine that cost $6.99.
The selection of kitchen utensils at the dollar store will change from time to time but you can always find matching spatulas, large spoons and soup ladles.
Dollar store tools have improved immeasurably since the first flimsy pair of pliers was sold for a buck. I have a selection of dollar store tools that I’ve bought over the years for doing odd jobs around the house. They are solidly made of metal and other quality materials and look and feel every bit as good as some of the tools at my local hardware store.
My 25 foot tape measure cost $2 at Dollarama and is similar to the Mastercraft easy grip tape measure with rubberized jacket, nylon-clad blade and lifetime warranty costing $9.99. The only thing my dollar store tape measure lacks is the warranty but for two bucks, I’m not worried and it works great.
A Jobmate 8oz claw hammer costs $3.99. I bought a small all metal claw hammer at Dollarama a few years ago for only $1 and have found nothing wrong with it. Mine has a similar faux leather grip on it.
A Jobmate eight inch adjustable wrench costs $7.99. I paid a buck for my seven and a half inch wrench with a rubber-wrapped handle.
The assortment of tools at a dollar store will vary from time to time and most of the ones at Dollarama are priced at two bucks but they’re still a darn good deal for something so well made.
You can always find good quality glassware at the dollar store and I’ve bought my share of it. Most of the glasses are $1 each, including martini glasses and tumblers. At Walmart, a set of two martini glasses costs 8.97 however, you can get a set of six plain tumblers there for $6. That’s comparable to dollar store prices but at the dollar store you can have your pick of different styles and sizes.
As with most things at the dollar store, the stock available may be different from one month to the next and, occasionally, you’ll even find glasses from manufactures like Libby or Anchor Hocking on the shelves of a dollar store, a very good buy indeed.