Dollar stores that stock groceries are ideal for RV travel

25
A trove of fresh fruit and vegetables

By Barry Zander
When my wife and I discovered the grocery section in dollar stores, it was an “AHA!” moment. “These folks are selling food packaged for RV-size storage and refrigerators… And it’s $1!”

Costco and Sam’s Club were forbidden shopping stops for us when we started full-timing. Only the biggest rigs can fit a 48-roll package of toilet paper in the storage bins, and we know of owners who gave away rolls rather than sacrifice under-the-floor space. Even standard food stores mainly sell packages that present storage problems, particularly for Class B and trailer refrigerators with mini-freezers.

When we swallowed our pride along the road to wander into a dollar store just to explore, we ventured into the back and, to our surprise, found an extensive grocery section. We had never experienced that before … but now, it seems every dollar store is giving over more and more precious space to foodstuffs.

What quickly caught our attention were the sizes of boxes, particularly in the frozen and cold units. They were relatively small, a sales gimmick I’m sure to appeal to budget-minded customers. But wait, isn’t small good if you’re making do with a 3- to 5-cubic-foot refrigerator?

There are, of course, suspicions that the food is on the verge of the expiration date, and that may have often been true 10 years ago, but it’s probably less likely now that food sales appear to be expanding. While we find unfamiliar store brands, national brands seem to make up a larger percentage of the products offered.

And what about cost? Since almost everything in most of the national dollar store chains is priced at $1.00, it’s obvious that there are winners and losers here. That’s when size may be the deciding factor.

What has really become impressive are the bins teeming with glistening fresh fruit and vegetables, obviously shined up to compete with supermarkets. In the early days of dollar-store food, if there was any produce, it was a meager selection. Last week, however, I went into a 99-Cents Only store to pick up kitchen sponges and walked out with two bags of fruit. Too cheap not to buy at a dollar each!

Frozen food & snacks — everything from soup to nuts

Canned goods are similar to the big-guys’ stores and are what you’d expect in a grocery that caters to those with limited resources. If you haven’t already been thinking “outside the grocery box,” it’s time to give it a try. In some rural communities, a dollar store (such as Dollar General) might just be your only option for groceries anyway.

##RVT965

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Kathleen
18 days ago

I’m not trying to defend “swallowed my pride,” but…there are two sides to every story. I live in a large suburb and have three Dollar Trees within five or six miles. Two of the three are well managed, clean, nice employees, etc.. The third is horrible. It’s a mess inside, the floors are dirty, merch is not stocked, the clientele can be sketchy and the employees are rude and disgusting. I guess I would be called on the carpet as well because I refuse to shop there. If ‘swallowed my pride’ shopped in this store, they wouldn’t be back and justifiably so.
None of the DTs in my area carry any fresh or frozen grocery items probably because they can’t put the grocery stores out of business like they do in small towns.

Silas Longshot
18 days ago

Dollar stores do have an expanding ‘grocery department’….BUT, you should check the can / box labels because you will find some of these products are imported from interesting places like Pakistan, India, China, etc where food processing standards may be a little slack compared to US standards.

WEB
18 days ago
Reply to  Silas Longshot

Maybe you could check the latest slew of salmonella recalls tied to red onions grown in the SW? How about the hundreds of vegetable recalls that happened in the last few years. Few were tied to any imported veggies…

Jim
19 days ago

Grocery Shopping, Etc.: Check out a Menard’s Home Improvement Complex – mostly in the Midwest – check store locations https://www.menards.com/main/storeLocator.html. No fresh veggies and no fresh meat, some frozen, dairy, but almost anything else one would want – ice cream to mouse traps:). Example: check out there Parade (USA) brand of veggie canned goods – 303(15oz) cans 50 cents a little more for organic. A nice RV and automotive section of fast moving items Huge parking lots, I’d estimate at least a 500 hundred car parking. Plenty of RV parking for even the 45′ footers towing a toad and a 20 foot boat at least in my Kansas City area 🙂 Plus almost weekly a 11% discount on everything you purchase and mail in the form with your receipt and you get and in a couple weeks receive a store credit – no expire date for the next time you shop. They even have “as seen on TV section”:) Enjoy,
Be Safe and travel Safe,
Jim

Diane M
19 days ago

Why would you have to swallow your pride before going into a Dollar Store?

Jann
19 days ago

I usually always liked to go in to Dollar Stores and browse. Sometimes I found gems but after the Pandemic started guess what. They refused to protect people by not requiring that you wear masks. None of the employees and most of the customers had no masks on. There was no social distancing. I checked out 3 different stores – all the same. Well guess what I am no longer interested in going there. I am sure they won’t miss me. Risking your life to save money is just not worth it.

Vanessa Simmons
17 days ago
Reply to  Jann

At the beginning when many stores weren’t requiring them neither were Dollar Tree. Now everyone I have been to does. In fact in one town in NV you will be accosted by customers and employees to wear masks

Susan Smith
19 days ago

I don’t want to knock dollar stores because my husband and I do purchase a few things like plastic storage baskets; cleaning tools like sponges and scrubbers; office and school supplies; a few party supplies; and some books, coloring books, craft and arts supplies, etc for our grandchildren. Unfortunately, my husband and I can’t eat much of the food nor use most of cleaning and personal care items found at dollar stores so we frequent Aldi where we are at least able to purchase organic produce and grass-fed meats and organic poultry at a cheaper price than what we find at our favorite health food store or big box store. (We’d prefer to purchase food items that are produced in the USA but with both of us on Social Security we have to watch our pennies. That’s a story for another day.)

Ann
19 days ago

Small town Dollar Generals, Family Dollar, etc, are driving local grocery stores out of business and creating food deserts in small towns. They undercut the local store on a few popular items, which is often the difference between the local store being profitable or not. I would be very sad if I lived in a place where a dollar store was my only local option for groceries.

But sure, let’s all do our part to accelerate that trend.

Personally, I find the local stores more quirky and interesting. And they usually have better parking.

wanderer
18 days ago
Reply to  Ann

Thanks for saying this. So sick of travelers wanting to see the ‘real America’ but shoveling all their dollars to the giant chains because it’s ‘convenient’.

Chris Kittilson
19 days ago

The only downside I have is the size of the parking lot. With a large rig and one drive way, no way.

Jann
19 days ago

Also ours have the carts fixed so that you cannot take them out of the store. I had to make them actually disable the cart so I could take it out to my car. I told them if they won’t do that then I am returning my purchases to them now for a credit. They did it. Between this and no protection from Covid – I am done with them.

WEB
18 days ago
Reply to  Jann

After they went “the extra mile” for you, you still are going to ban them? I am sure they will be happy to hear that too.

Douglas C Rutz
19 days ago

I like dollar general and shop there when I can. The problem is Dollar General has built their stores to be unfriendly for Class A with tow cars to turn around. Bottom line if you are in your motor home don’t pull in unless you are prepared to unhook your tow car.

wanderer
19 days ago
Reply to  Douglas C Rutz

Most are so small and narrow there are almost no RVs that can get in and out. I notice lately a few have expanded their lots or built a pullover lane on the road. But, mostly I skip them on the road. Regular grocery store parking lots are so much easier to park in and even grab a quick lunch break at the end of the lot, and if you chose a local store you’re supporting the local economy.

Larry Sockwell
19 days ago

As a fulltimer I have been using Dollartree for most of my needs, my only concern is that frozen foods are sometimes turned over so fast(one day after delivery) that anytime your near one, you better check) I stop at all Dollartrees, sometimes they may have something you need that you didn’t know you needed, My Class B stops at all DollarTrees, besides give your body a rest from driving! I love DTs.

Pat
19 days ago

I must say, your line about “swallowing your pride” to enter a Dollar store saddens me. How totally arrogant does one have to be, to be too “proud” to even enter a Dollar store? Wow!!!! I hope this eye opening adventure has broadened your future shopping trips. The Dollar stores here in central NY have had dry, canned, cold and frozen foods for years. I often find many are the same price or cheaper in a normal store, but I digress.
Don’t stop at the food section. There are MANY smaller and lighter weight items PERFECT for RV use, such as brooms etc. Keeping the weight of items down is, as you well know, a top priority for RVers. Take time and wander the isles, next time you are able to “swallow your pride” again, and you will find a treasure trove of RV worthy items and even decor.

steve
19 days ago
Reply to  Pat

“Swallowed our pride”, get over yourself. Amen Pat, you hit the nail on the head.

Steve Foth
19 days ago
Reply to  Pat

Well said Pat. I immediately got angry at the writers elitist attitude. Looks to be a new writer, hopefully won’t last long.

Admin
RV Staff (@rvstaff)
19 days ago
Reply to  Steve Foth

Wow, Steve. That’s kind of an “elitist attitude” on your part, I would say. —Diane at RVtravel.com

Steve Foth
18 days ago
Reply to  RV Staff

Ok Diane, surprised you didn’t block me from posting too. I am almost done with this site. Too bad, I supported you all by purchasing items you had linked to Amazon.

Admin
RV Staff (@rvstaff)
18 days ago
Reply to  Steve Foth

Hi, Steve. You “called” Barry on a comment he made (which was his right to have his opinion, you have a right to your opinion, and I have a right to my opinion). But to me that looked like you were doing the same thing you were accusing him of, especially when you assumed he’s a “new writer” and hoped he wouldn’t last long. Barry is a very-long-time published writer, but is new to writing for us. We hope he stays with us for a long time. Except for that one comment which received negative remarks from several readers, his posts have been very popular. BTW — Thank you for your support by purchasing through our links at Amazon. And I’m sincerely sorry to see that I caused you to unsubscribe from our newsletters this morning. –Diane at RVtravel.com

Cheryl Bacon
19 days ago
Reply to  Pat

Wow so they say “swallowing their pride” and you took offence at that, but it was ok for you to call them names?

BadWolfe
18 days ago
Reply to  Pat

Wow! A great writer humbly and humorously writes about their first visit to a “budget” store chain and people take offense?
Great story Mr. Zander! Thank you for your writing style and stories. Keep up the good work!

Stu Neilson
19 days ago

On our inaugural cross country trip on Route 20 last fall we determined if we were in “civilization” by the presence of a Dollar Store (or similar name) in town. Our base town away from home has two – Family Dollar and Dollar Store – similar but different and they carry things we cannot get at the major food store in town. We love them both!