• Maria APG

Shopping at Dollarama and Dollar Tree

Most of you have shared the fact that your monthly disability income does not cover all of your expenses, especially grocery shopping. You find yourselves shopping in unusual places like Dollarama and Dollar Tree to extend your food budget. Because of this, we decided to test the food products sold at Dollarama and Dollar Tree. Here's what we've found.

Dollarama, inappropriately named these days since most of their products are now about $2.50 each, offers healthier food choices. Canned beans of every kind and a large selection of nuts and dried fruit. You can find sugar, brown sugar, icing sugar, artificial vanilla extract, coconut milk, rice, pastas and pasta sauces to name a few. So we tested every edible product found on their shelves.

Canned beans are obviously packaged for Dollarama because they are less than perfect for general consumption. This doesn't mean they are not edible, just not the picture you expect when opening a can after being accustomed to using brand name goods. a lot more beans are broken and the liquid they are packaged in is not as thick, however, the flavour is the same. I must say that Dollarama offers a nice selection of canned beans of every kind.

Their pasta selections are limited. You can choose from either spaghetti or macaroni and I have occasionally seen spaghettini and angel hair pasta. Pasta sauces either come in original flavour or garlic and herbs and if you don't mind the excessive amount of tomato seeds in your sauce, they are not bad at all. The sauces are by DelMonte, a brand we are familiar with, but the beans are unfamiliar brand names to me.

Dollarama has a good selection of canned fish such as oysters, tuna, sardines and muscles. They are mostly packaged in oil instead of water but taste like any other canned fish or seafood. In my opinion, these are a good deal at $1.25 a can.

Baking goods such as white sugar, brown sugar, baking powder, vanilla and so on, left me somewhat concerned. I tried a ready made graham cracker crust and it was stale, tasted awful and ended up in the garbage can. Waited a few weeks and tried it again, the same thing happened. Do not buy ready made graham cracker crusts from Dollarama.

White sugar is coarser than what you find at grocery stores, but brown sugar and icing sugar are the same as anywhere else and cost a mere $1.25 a bag. Vanilla extracts are all artificial as is the pancake syrup and spreads they offer. But, they do have real maple syrup for almost free at $1.25 a small can.

Their nut and dried fruit selection is pretty good except for one important factor, they are mostly stale. I personally tried the walnuts, cashews, peanuts and trail mixes. The walnuts were mostly stale, the cashews are hit and miss, and peanuts (different flavours) were okay. What I found fantastic are the trail mixes offered at $1.25 a bag and to date, no stale bags of these have hit the shelves at our local store.

Dollarama also carries cooked, peeled chestnuts (they are very yummy and a favourite of mine these days), dried apricots, raisins, banana chips, pumpkin seeds, soy nuts, craisins, and dried mango (also very delicious and always moist in the bag). These are a great snack for carrying in your purse and a real good deal at $1.25 a bag. I have not had any negative experiences buying these products.

Dollarama juices and soda appear to be from Pepsico (Pepsi Company), while Dollar Tree's are Coca Cola products.

Dollar Tree still offers every product at $1.25 or less! They offer the same selection of canned goods, pasta sauces, canned fish and seafood as Dollarama. They offer canned fruit as well, something Dollarama does not, but my experiences show that most of the canned fruit was damaged or overripe before it was canned. I wouldn't eat the fruit out of the can because it looked suspicious, but used pineapple in baking goods and it was fine.

Dollar Tree does not offer a selection of nuts and dried fruit. Trail mixes are not as good as Dollarama's and the only dry fruit they offer are raisins. Each raisin bag I tried was stale.

Dollar Tree offers a wide selection of canned beans, pastas, flour (and it's pretty good), sugar, brown sugar, icing sugar, vanilla, and many more baking necessities. Again, the white sugar is coarser than what you find at grocery stores but otherwise all good to use.

I realize budgets dictate what you'll buy, but as a better option, why not try some of the smaller independent grocers who often have daily and weekly specials when buying canned goods. In other words, I would not recommend using dollar stores as a source for canned goods. They don't look healthy because most of the cans integrity has been compromised during shipping or packaging.

If I had to pick a store, I would say Dollarama simply because of the nuts and dried fruit selection they offer. What's irritating about Dollarama is that most of their products are above $2.50 while Dollar Tree still offers everything in the store for $1.25 or less.

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