Is It A Good Or Weird Thing That Some Dollar General Stores Offer Groceries?

Just the words “dollar store” evoke images of aisle upon aisle of discount merchandise — housewares, light bulbs, bright green flip flops — but if Dollar General has anything to do with it, those words will also make you think of buying groceries.

The Wall Street Journal says Dollar General is making a move into the grocery business with 40 new Dollar General Market stores opening over the next year. Those locations will offer fresh food and more refrigerated products in midsize stores, in the hopes that shoppers will come by more often and skip those trips to Walmart and other big box chains.

Dollar General’s CEO sees the competition from Walmart, Target and others as a race to become “the new general store.” He sees it as a place where thrifty shoppers can stock up on the essentials for bargain prices, without having to navigate ginormous supercenters.

Dollar General Markets are around 16,000 square feet — twice the size of a typical dollar store but smaller than a big box store.

It could be pretty handy to buy neon beach towels and grab some fresh fruit for the beach at the same time. Or it could feel weird, but then okay, but maybe weird again, then fine and convenient, and who cares? You’re saving money.

A General-Store Race Is On [Wall Street Journal]

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  1. catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

    i’m cool with it. some things cost more there, some less. i have a weird liking for deviled ham. $2.29 at the grocery store, $1.09 at dollar general. same size can.
    they do have some weird variations on soup though. a can of campbell’s soup at the dollar general is around 15 oz but at the regular grocery store it’s 10.75 oz. and the price is a little lower at dollar general.

    • Kate says:

      I don’t trust food at the dollar stores. I have no idea where it came from and whether it was stored under bad conditions. I’ve had a few things that were national brands and tasted dreadful, so I stopped.

      • RecordStoreToughGuy_RidesTheWarpOfSpaceIntoTheWombOfNight says:

        Wimp. I’ve been eating dollar store deviled krill for years, and I’ve suffered no ill effects.

        That reminds me, I should see a doctor about this weird scaly skin condition I seem to have developed. Started right about the last time I went to Innsmouth.

        • cash_da_pibble says:

          Yeah, I don’t think it’s the Krill.
          You… uh, don’t happen to be a Marsh, do ye?

          • RecordStoreToughGuy_RidesTheWarpOfSpaceIntoTheWombOfNight says:

            No, but… wait… My mother was a Marsh…

      • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

        i don’t know where the canned soup and canned deviled ham was stored when i buy it anywhere else either. cereal sealed in a bag inside a box and canned items that aren’t dented don’t scare me. there are some dollar general food items i avoid, mostly cookies in waxed paper bags and the refrigerated stuff. especially since it never feels cold when i stick my hand in the cooler

        • alana0j says:

          I’ve bought all kinds of food both from my local Dollar General Market and Dollar Tree and have never had any issues at all with it. But maybe being poor makes your belly tough :)

      • frodolives35 says:

        Some of their store brands are nasty but the name brand stuff is fine. The prices are much better then the only 2 grocery stores in my town.

      • Mambru says:

        Yeah this reminds me of a Simpson’s episode where they buy Plancton at the 33 cent store, so they cans save money for a trip.

        I don’t trust the food in those places either

      • chefboyardee says:

        I don’t trust food from my local grocery store. I have no idea where it came from or how it was stored. Once, I got questionable Tyson chicken there so the entire chain must be horrible and dangerous.

        See what I did there?

  2. crispyduck13 says:

    This is why I’ll never buy a food product from a Dollar Store, Dollar Tree, Dollar General, etc.

    • Barry Bunch O'Krunch says:

      But how about this?

      Actually, that blog has a pretty funny, recurring, food-from-dollar-stores thing going, if you have an hour or so to kill.

    • maxamus2 says:

      Yeah, because no other stores out there ever sell tainted goods or knockoffs from China.

      • crispyduck13 says:

        Never said that, but you didn’t find the tainted toothpaste in regular grocery stores.

    • consumed says:

      Dollar General and the folks that run Dollar Tree, 99 Cent Only, etc (Greenbriar International) are two totally different operations. Dollar General isn’t a “dollar store” – Their merchandise varies in prices and is better quality than the Greenbriar warez.

    • Cat says:

      There’s your problem. I wouldn’t buy “Shir Fresh” toothpaste no matter where it was sold.

  3. acknight says:

    Given that stores like Dollar General have penetration into inner cities that are otherwise frequently food deserts, it’s not a bad thing.

    (Stores in CNY are generally almost 1/4 grocery items anyways, now)

    • TheMansfieldMauler says:

      Food deserts are a myth, but keep drinking that kool-aid and eventually something will stick.

      From the NY Times no less:
      http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/18/health/research/pairing-of-food-deserts-and-obesity-challenged-in-studies.html?_r=3

      • acknight says:

        It’s entirely true that there are neighborhoods with poor access to grocery stores. I can name a half dozen neighborhoods around here that are underserved or not served at all for groceries (beyond the staples available in things like 7-11).

        You can certainly argue whether or not that matters in terms of nutrition, but lack of access or at least easy access is certainly the case. And widening to more than a mile or two from a poor neighborhood’s boundaries is a copout – in many cases, unless it’s on a bus line to those locations, that’s not necessarily tenable anyways.

        • Pastry Minion says:

          I don’t know if you want to call it a food desert or not, but my former neighborhood had one supermarket. That “supermarket” (really a giant convenience store) was filthy and overpriced, and I refused to buy produce there because it was obviously poorly treated and on the brink of rot. I got tired of paying inflated prices to throw out spoiled food. During the summer, there was a farmer’s market in the next neighborhood, which was accessible by bus, so that got us by. Generally, the best option was to spend $2.25 on a bus to the next town (and then $15 for a cab home) that had a proper supermarket that did not do things like sell near-expired food and actually accepted coupons. I was a decent couponer and probably broke even on the transit costs. But anyone in my neighborhood who was elderly, flat broke, or otherwise lacked the stamina to deal with the trek got stuck at the crappy local market. If my dollar store had a selection of basic name-brand pantry staples, heck, yes, I would buy my groceries at the dollar store.

      • crispyduck13 says:

        It’s a myth huh? You’re sure about that? I mean super duper sure? Been in the ghetto lately? Yeah I’m sure you’re driving through utterly impoverished neighborhoods all the time so you would totally know.

        My god you piss me off to no end, the annoying asshole who always advertises your opinion that anyone who hasn’t managed to do as well as you must be a liar, cheater, welfare queen, etc. Very few people on the internet have this effect on me, you should be proud.

    • xyzzyman says:

      You’re right about that in CNY. Only a few coolers but dry goods at DG have good prices.

  4. aerodawg says:

    DG has found a nice little niche marketing to those of us who don’t live in a big city ie close to a full supermarket. They put stores in places that big supermarkets and Wal-Mart can’t operate because of the lower volume. Basically they cash in on the people that don’t want to drive 15-20 minutes both ways to go to a supermarket. Last I heard they were making pretty good money doing it…

    • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

      all the dollar general stores near me are in shopping centers next to large grocery stores

      • aerodawg says:

        There’s a lot of those around here too but in the last 5 years or so, they’ve started moving out into more rural areas and building stand alone stores…

    • hmburgers says:

      Where do you like that you have to go to a “big city” to find a supermarket? I’m being serious, it’s a very curious statement…

      I’ve never been anywhere that there were not supermarkets within a single-digit number of miles… and if there were no supermarkets, there certainly weren’t Dollar General stores….

      • LadySiren is murdering her kids with HFCS and processed cheese says:

        I’ll tell you where – BFE, North Carolina. I’m fairly out in the country and it takes me 15 minutes to reach the nearest grocery store. Others in our community that live further out can easily have to drive 10+ miles to get to a “real” grocery store.

        It’s a tradeoff, yes – I love living out here where it’s peaceful and relatively crime-free but I do have to drive to hell and gone to get my shopping done. And heaven help us when we have to “go to town”. I try to limit that to no more than once a week, since it’s a 30-minute drive to get to the closest urban area.

      • aerodawg says:

        I say “big city” but it doesn’t necessarily have to be big, just a town of size in general. In particular for me it’s N. Alabama. There are several places I can drive 20 minutes into and back for a loaf of bread, gallon of milk or box of cereal if I want to, but why would I when there’s a DG that sells groceries 5 minutes from me.

        Like the person above said, it’s a tradeoff. I like the quiet and the ability to have a significant piece of land to play on but I have to drive in to buy groceries..

  5. Not Given says:

    It’s a good thing in some towns. At least there’s a place to buy milk without driving 30 miles.

  6. dicobalt says:

    Not weird at all. The dollar store near me sell lots of basics like soup, cereal, bread, etc. It’s handy because they sell for less than the supermarkets, including Walmart.

  7. This Dude Abides says:

    Meh, Dollar Tree has been doing this for a while. I guess I’m a little surprised that DG didn’t jump on the bandwagon sooner…

  8. Mark says:

    Yeah, to those saying, “Ewww food from the dollar store?!”, Dollar General is not a dollar store. It, Family Dollar, ALCO, and similar are smaller stores more in line with what Wal-Mart was in the ’70′s and early ’80′s, serving towns and communities too small for a Wal-Mart or Target (although they are also in areas that have those stores, as well). Their appeal is either availability (for the towns with nothing else) or small with ease of access (2 or 3 checkouts instead of dozens, fairly quick in and out). Adding groceries seems like a natural progression for them.

  9. There's room to move as a fry cook says:

    Choice is good.

  10. ktetch says:

    I remember going to a Dollar General Market Halloween 2007 to find pumkpins, because they were the only place that still had some (went to the one in Jackson, Ga, opposite an Ingles). The Dollar Generals in Monticello has had dried/packaged food for a while though. As has Dollar Tree. In fact the big Dollar Trees (in places like Conyers, Athens, and Macon) have had big freezer sections for years now. The only thing they’ve not had is fresh stuff.

  11. mbz32190 says:

    Doesn’t really bother me….it’s no different than the selection you would find at a “Sav-A-Lot”….In fact, Rite Aid is testing out some Rite Aid/Sav-A-Lot combo stores. And I wish I had a Dollar General closer…every day things like socks, air fresheners, body wash, etc…are a little bit cheaper than Walmart for the same name-brand items.

  12. nicstarling says:

    I get sweetener from DG– cheap and tasty. Also, they offer Clover Valley brand cookies that taste just like all the flavors of girl scout cookies (maybe even better), but lots cheaper.

  13. brinks says:

    There’s a dollar store in damn near every strip mall around here. While supermarkets are plentiful in my area, they’re not THAT plentiful. If it’s as convenient as the overpriced gas station shop on almost every corner, but it has a few healthy-ish choices that are cheaper, it’ll definitely work in a pinch. Dollar store food can be sketchy, but if I can save a buck and I’m in a hurry, I ‘d risk it.

  14. NumberSix says:

    Produce and meat? Weird and yuck.

  15. Hoss says:

    No, but it’s weird that pharmacies offer grocery items.

  16. Southern says:

    Dollar General isn’t really a “Dollar” store, though, it’s just a name. Very few items are “$1.00″, but are multiples of “$1.00″.. I.E., $2.00, $3.00, $4.00, $5.00, etc. 8 Rolls of Paper Towels for $6.00. Dr Pepper 12-Packs, 3 for $10.00. Charmin Basic, 32 rolls for $8.00..

    etc.

    They have some good deals on some stuff (like the Charmin), so it’s worth glancing through their Sunday ads once a week.

    But when it comes to beating Walmart, we have plenty of options for that in Houston – Food Town, Joe-V’s (owned by HEB), Fiesta..

    But I have yet to find anyone to beat Walmart on *some* things, like Progresso Soups ($1.50 a can).. everywhere else it’s $2.50-$3.00 a can..

    *Shrug*.. That’s why you don’t do *all* your shopping at 1 single store.. But then again, I’m not going to drive 10 miles to save a nickle on milk, etc. :)

  17. Kat says:

    I actually went to one of these recently while visiting a friend who lives about an hour from Panama City and 45 minutes from Walmart. It was really clean, the produce looked awesome, and they had a decent variety (can’t remember if they have fresh meat though). It was a far better alternative to the run down Piggly Wiggly in town.

    I don’t have a problem buying food items from Dollar General. Unlike most dollar stores, they seem to keep a consistent stock. This gives me, the possibly false, feeling that they don’t just buy off damaged/unwanted goods from other stores.

  18. Stickdude says:

    One of those 40 stores opened up fewer* than a mile from us. I went there once to pick up some stuff for my wife, and went in expecting it to be the typical dreary dollar-store experience.

    I was pleasantly surprised – the store was well-lit, the products were the same products you’d find in a “real” grocery store, and the prices were good. I would definitely go there again.

    (*grammar mistake intentional – I don’t want MB to feel bad about her inability to distinguish between less and fewer)

  19. chatterboxwriting says:

    I just can’t bring myself to buy food from Dollar Tree. Candy or a soda at the checkout, maybe (although every soda I’ve ever seen there has been expired). Frozen or refrigerated food? Never. A friend of mine is the cheapest person ever and insists on buying “manager’s special” meat and refrigerated items from the dollar store. I got food poisoning from her manager’s special hamburger, so I won’t eat at her house anymore. I’m sure some of the food is fine, but I don’t know how long it sits out in the back before they stock it or how well it was packaged or anything like that.

  20. RiverStyX says:

    99CentsOnly stores has been doing it for years – Very big chain here in california, they sell produce and everything. And they just started selling gallons of milk for $3 also..Which is an improvement, their old method was a quart for .99 which came out to a rotten $4 a gallon, and there was no way of knowing if it was rbst-free or not.

  21. The Brad says:

    Can’t it be both weird and good?

  22. daemonaquila says:

    Forget it – I’m not buying any (stale) food at a Dollar Store. It’s not “convenient” to buy extremely discounted but damaged/old food. I’ve lived many years in the inner city, and have many horror stories to tell about what gets sold in “respectable” groceries, much less what gets sold in discount food stores.

  23. patjk73 says:

    As previously stated, Dollar General and also Family Dollar are not “dollar” stores in the traditional sense. Dollar Tree is the only national franchise I am aware of where everything costs a dollar or less and some of them do have produce and frozen foods. “Oh, look! Banquet frozen meals, and they are only one dollar! Look at all the money I’m saving. Where else can I get them at such a low price?” Answer, everywhere. There are many deals to be had in these types of stores but often the quality is sub-par. I’ll would rather have one roll of Scott toilet paper than a four roll pack of the stuff they sell in the dollar stores. That one roll Scott will outlast the cheap stuff.

  24. Weekilter says:

    Dollar Tree is now selling some refrigerated grocery items including some frozen entrees and meat as well as the canned goods they’ve always sold.

  25. nicoleintrovert says:

    I wasted 2 years of my life as an assistant manager at Dollar General in around ’02/’03. It’s not a “dollar store” nor has it ever been. It’s supposed to be like the “general store” of yore. 10 years ago we sold groceries. Lots of them. Mainly dry goods, but during my stint there we had two coolers installed and we carried milk, eggs, cheese and a couple other small items. All perfectly fresh and delivered by Marva Maid or whatever vendor.

    Dollar General is actually a great place to stock up on cereal, medicine (like your aspirins or cold medicine), and laundry detergent.

  26. hmburgers says:

    The first and last few times I went to a “dollar store” were when they first started opening up around here, I guess it was the mid-90s… back then they were literally “every individual item costs $1″ stores.

    I have no idea what the current iterations are like, but the fact that they now sell things for more than a single dollar means that they are just stores.

    I have no more problem with these stores selling food items then I do other discount stores… and I would also never, ever, ever, ever, shop for food in one… I won’t even buy food at Walmart or Target tho…

    • hmburgers says:

      BTW, please don’t think I’m being elitist or something, it’s just that I have zero faith in the producers, company or employees to provide decent & safe food. All I can think of is the stores of chinese babies dying from drinking powdered formula with melamine (i.e. dry erase board material) mixed in to make it appear whiter…

      If I were in a financial position where I could not shop at a standard supermarket, I’d be growing vegetables in random buckets around my home and losing a lot of weight.

      • webweazel says:

        Okay, so, a local distributor buys a skid of, let’s say, dry spaghetti or Heinz ketchup from the manufacturer. The distributor delivers it to the stores on their route, namely, the supermarket, WalMart, Target, and Dollar General. Same item, different price points. The supermarket has it priced at $3.00, WM and Target has it for $2.50, and DG has it for $2.25. You’ll actually go out of your way to pay more?
        For example, my local supermarket has Breyer’s ice cream for $7.00. WM had it for $3.50. Same brand, and probably the same lot from the factory. The Tastykake rollout- our supermarket has them for $4.75. WM and now DG has them for $3.00 How does this make a product “tainted” just because it’s sold at a different store?
        Dollar General (which is NOT a dollar store) has all national-brand products, and some of their own branded products. They don’t sell knock-off tainted Chinese crap, although some locally-owned actual dollar stores sure do. Dollar Tree sells some weird brand stuff, but it is a lot better than a locally-owned dollar store, as they purchase in bulk and distribute to their own stores only. They carry national-branded items, too, albeit often in smaller package sizes to lower the price point.
        When I have a big list, I shop at the DG first, hit the supermarket next for only BOGO sale meat, then hit WM last for the leftovers. I have done the price comparisons, and I save over 50 percent off our food bill a month, every month, by doing this, compared to buying everything only from the supermarket. Do a comparison yourself (per ounce) and see what I mean. A box of General Mills “Lucky Charms” cereal is the same no matter what store you buy it from.

  27. Preyfar says:

    When I was in college we lived off the Dollar General in Suburban Station in Philly. They had tons of lunchmeats, sausages, breads, etc. None were expiring/about to go bad. You could get a massive amount of groceries for $20.

    Mind you, none of this food was really healthy… but on a budget, it worked.

  28. Shorebreak says:

    The proliferation of these “Dollar” stores is an economic indicator that people are no longer earning good wages. Frozen pizzas and packs of hot dogs for a dollar are the preferred items when food shopping at these stores.

  29. scoopie77 says:

    I visited one of these stores when I was in KY last summer … the biggest benefit other dollar stores don’t have is FRESH food. Sometimes you just need milk and apples, and you can run in and get them here. It’s not classy, but it’s handy.

  30. Cat says:

    99 only – how I miss you and your fresh produce.

  31. Snip says:

    You kind of expect an establishment with “General Store” in the name to have some nonperishable foods in stock. Dollar stores have been selling food for years though. It’s off brand stuff and honestly not as good a deal as you can get on food at Sav A Lot, but convenient when you had to go in there anyway and don’t feel like traveling.

  32. HowardRoarksTSquare says:

    I’ll stick to Whole Food for my weekly shopping and Harris Teeter or Wegmans if I’m in a tight spot

  33. LastError says:

    Dollar General and Family Dollar are not “dollar” stores.

    They’re just mini-department stores not that different than the old McCrory or Woolworth’s chains, but perhaps these stores are smaller and lack the lunch counter.

    So what if they want to sell grocery items? Who does it hurt? The over-priced neighborhood corner stores, maybe. It does not hurt the big groceries, but often the neighborhood with a Family Dollar of Dolgen don’t have a big grocery store anyway.

    On the downside, one of the problems with smaller stores like Dolgen, Family Dollar and even drug stores like CVS, Rite-aid, and Walgreens (all of whom have some grocery items) is that there is often only one checkout person. A quick run in for one item can turn into waiting in line longer than if you’d gone to a real grocery store with multiple lines or self checkout. I’ve stood in line at a CVS behind somebody apparently buying a year’s supply of toilet paper, slowly, and there was nothing to do about it but wait. This kind of thing undermines the value of using such stores.

  34. momtimestwo says:

    We have a Dollar General Market Fresh up the road, across from the Walmart and Publix. I’ve always been too afraid to try any food from there. It’s like Big Lots selling food, it’s just weird. I should go in, I guess it can’t hurt. Behind my house, Food Lion pulled up anchor and sailed away in February after being in that spot for over 15 years. Now the building sits empty and people use the parkling lot behind it to dump trash:( I hope someone, even a Dollar store that sells food, will move in there.

  35. Moongirl55 says:

    All I will say is if you buy food in these places, check the expiration dates. I have found expired stuff on the shelves.

  36. TrinityLast says:

    Seems fine to me – but then I’ve had a dollar store near me that looks and feels just like a normal supermarket for quite a while. We do plenty of our shopping there just because some of the ‘off’ brands taste better than the name ones do.

  37. scifiguy1228 says:

    They’re playing catch up… 99 Cents Only stores have been doing this for years. Dollar Tree has a frozen food & refrigerated area in their stores… only problem with Dollar General is that it’s not a true “Dollar Store”, as a lot of the items cost more than a dollar.

  38. iesika says:

    If one of these opens near me, I’d check it out.

    This actually makes me think of Walmart’s move to open smaller, “Neighborhood Market” stores. Most of the predominantly-grocery stores I’ve ever been in have been really overpriced, but the Neighborhood Market stores have fresh produce at great prices (kale is a buck a bunch).