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How to Whip Up Tasty Meals Out of Dollar Store Food

Don't give us that look. It is possible to make delicious, nutritious meals out of (mostly) dollar-store items -- if you know a few tricks.


  • Step 1: Scour the stores Shop at several dollar stores. Merchandise in these shops is hit-or-miss, so you'll have a better chance of getting ingredients that work together if you frequent multiple stores.
  • Step 2: Stock up on bargains When you see something good, stock up! You might not see that item again for a while. Or ever.
  • TIP: Always check expiration dates. Dollar-store items sometimes have a short shelf life.
  • Step 3: Be adventurous Keep an open mind. Products that tend to put people off, like canned meat, often are not as bad as you imagine. It's worth risking a dollar to see.
  • TIP: Read ingredient labels. Chicken in a tin is just chicken packed in water -- nothing scary about that.
  • Step 4: Load up on canned vegetables Load up on canned vegetables. Believe it or not, because they're canned right after they're harvested, they're often more nutritious than supposedly "fresh" produce in some grocery stores that has spent more time traveling and sitting on the shelves.
  • TIP: Rinse canned vegetables before cooking to reduce the sodium, and look for canned fruits packed in juice instead of syrup to reduce the sugar. If syrup-packed fruit is the only choice, rinse three times before serving.
  • Step 5: Stock up on canned salmon Stock up on salmon in cans and pouches. Because it's usually fresh-caught in Alaska, it's better for you and the environment than canned tuna or farm-raised fresh salmon.
  • Step 6: Go wild with spices Take advantage of the dollar spices; they're invaluable for doctoring up inexpensive ingredients.
  • TIP: Keep your pantry stocked with staples that are not always available in dollar stores, like butter.
  • Step 7: Be creative in the kitchen Be creative with your bargains. Fry some sardines in olive oil and serve over pasta. Wrap Vienna sausages in dough to make pigs-in-blankets and serve with a honey-mustard sauce. Make a crudite dip from canned artichoke hearts and tinned spinach.
  • Step 8: Learn how to substitute Make do with substitutions. No milk in your dollar store? Water down evaporated milk. Want onions? Reconstitute them out of dried ones from the spice rack. Need flour? Use that bargain pancake mix.
  • Step 9: Find recipes online Don't know what to do with the canned calamari, capers, and capellini you just lugged home? Plug your ingredients into a website like and it will spit out some delicious concoctions.
  • FACT: The five best dollar-store buys are cleaning supplies, gift wrap, snacks, shampoo, and kitchen accessories.

You Will Need

  • An open mind
  • Lots of spices
  • Pantry staples
  • A little ingenuity

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