ACTION STEP: Get thee to the dollar store!

image by VirtualErn

image by VirtualErn

Sometimes I forget how handy the dollar store can be when I want to stock up on certain items. Recently I found inexpensive can openers, candles, laundry soap, and canned food at the Dollar Tree near  my house. It’s also where I buy inexpensive office supplies.

Take a look at what is on your list of things To Buy (my 3 List strategy), and take the list with you to your nearest dollar store. Just ten bucks can fill up a shopping bag with some great stuff for your stash.

Make a point to visit your dollar store every week or every other week, whichever fits your schedule and budget. Stay focused on what you really need and don’t become distracted by the fun stuff! Spend your money wisely and the dollar store can become your new best prepping friend!

There may be links in the post above that are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission, which does not affect the price you pay for the product. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. 

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I'm the original Survival Mom, and have been helping moms worry less and enjoy their homes and families more for 5 years. Come join me on my journey to becoming more prepared to handle everyday emergencies and worst case scenarios.

(67) Readers Comments

  1. The only caution is things like can openers from the dollar store can be worthless. Even if it’s cheap, it may not be good, so watch for that.

    Case in point, we purchased a couple of can openers from the dollar store to keep in our Car Boxes. When I went to restock the boxes for new needs, I noticed that the part of the opener that cuts through the can was actually bent. It didn’t take much for me to unbend it…and then break it. It was cheap….and not serviceable. So be careful with the $1 tools!

    Otherwise, we definitely use them to grab things and stock up!

    • Yes, you do have to be careful about quality. But I’ve purchased bars of laundry soap at super low prices, and it’s the same brand regular grocery stores carry.

    • I love my neighborhood dollar store for stocking up on staples and everyday necessities, but I’ve had the same experience with their can openers. They were $2 each and looked great, but wouldn’t work for any length of time. Can openers are important to buy quality, I’ve found; in a grid-down situation we can’t get into our cans without them. Also, for the most part, my dollar store’s “store brand” products are as good as name brand items.

      • My father and grandfather were carpenters and always told me to buy the best quality tools you can afford – they’re the cheapest in the long run. Actually, a good quality Boy Scout-type jackknife with a can opener, screwdriver, punch, bottle opener, and 3-inch blade is probably the best survival tool you can have. They last forever (I’m 66 years old and still have my Boy Scout knife!). It takes a little practice to learn to use the can opener, but once you do, you never forget – like riding a bicycle.

  2. Gaze, wraps, and elastic (ace) bandages for the first aid kit are a bargain at the Dollar Tree.

  3. Along with dollar stores, I check out places that buy overstock items from other stores. There are many local chains (Reny’s in northern New England; Ollie’s in the mid-Atlantic states) and a few national chains (Big Lots and Tuesday Mornings). The stock is always changing, but I sometimes find good deals on items for preps. Since the stock is always changing so you have to visit every week or two to see what they have and always check the quality and expiration dates for items you buy.

    • I recently went to Ollies and found a lot of basic medications – aspirin, acetaminophen, naproxen – as well as band-aids and antibiotic ointment at 50% off pharmacy prices. Ollies is great for that kind of thing. Storage containers, canned food, they usually have a good selection of granola/meal bars, too.

  4. Agree that tools at dollar stores can be cheap thus cheaply made. Buyer beware!

    First aid supplies are great: rubbing alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, gauze, etc.

    One of my favorite finds at the dollar store (99 Only here) are the tall Catholic candles in glass. They only cost $1 as to $1.88 at Walmart and are noticeably larger. I buy the white candles and remove the paper or plastic labels. (A touch of Comet or Ajax with water and a nylon scrubber will remove any adhesive.) We tested a candle. It burned for 10 hours and used 1 inch of wax. The average candle has 6 inches of wax. 60 hours of candle light for $1 is awesome! I’ve lost count of how many I have stockpiled, but I know I’m well over 20! As a precaution I plan on setting mine in a disposable foil pie dish with sand. I’ve heard a few of these candles have cracked with long-term use.

    p.s. Don’t forget your fireplace matches, wand lighters, or (if you’re creative like me) light a regular match and use your kitchen tongs to reach the wick!

    • My experience with these candles didnt go as well…I purchased several, thinking with the tall sides it would be a safe candle in an emergency–however the candle wick burned down to the wax and then went out. Not such a good experience for me…

    • You can use spagetti noodles to light candles, fires and ect. also disposeable lighters are a good thing from the dollar store you can get like 10 in a pack for a dollar, hope this helps someone

    • I have found the bandages for my first aid kit are about 75% cheaper at Dollar Tree.

    • Make sure the rubbing alcohol is at least 60%–anything less than that won’t kill germs!

    • That’s a really good tip on the matches and using kitchen tongs to light a candle in a jar. I’ve never thought of that before and I’ve tossed a bunch of jarred candles out for the wick being too low and me not having a way or so I thought of lighting it, until now, boy do I feel dumb! Thanks for the tip as I own several pairs of tongs. Wow, all this time. :-)

  5. I love the Dollar Store. The only problem is by the time I get to the register, it has become the $30 Dollar Store.

    • This made me bust out laughing- the same goes for me! I never get out of there cheaply, but they DO have awesome deals. :)

    • This made me bust out laughing- I too, cannot get out of the Dollar Tree for less than $30-40; they have great deals!

  6. I agree with all, however I have noticed Walmart has alot of the same items as Dollar Tree for .88-.97 cents…and usually a little better quality. As a matter of fact, a can opener was one of those very items, we’ve used it daily for about 6 months now, and it is doing fine.

    • i usually buy in bulk but some months arent the same outcome for me . i used to buy dollar tree toilet paper on those months until 3 months ago when i started taking things a step more serious and budget every single penny and found that walmart has better quality toilet paper for only 88cents . and the dollar sponges tear easily and wear out . walmart has 2 sponges for 97cents and they work great . although still i do appreciate the good deals the dollar store does offer .

    • I have found things like alcohol and peroxide are in bigger containers for cheaper at Walmart. I dont shop at walmart often, but I do get some of my good preps there.

  7. There is a ma & pa outlet store here that buys close outs from the close out stores I went today spent under $20 and had 2 stuff brown paper bags full of supplies. I got small cans (2.5 hour burn time) of cooking fuel heaters (like stereo) for 99cents. Some emergency candles for 10 cents each and 128 matches for 89 cents in 32 count boxes pack of 4 so I can tape them to the cooking fuel cans in our BOBags lots of cheap good first aid supplies and vitamins too at 99 cents each.

  8. I meant 49 cents for the matches, they also had all valentine stuff half off and I grabbed a couple sof warm full size throw blankets for $2 each!
    Don’t ignore these kinds of stores, this one is dusty, cluttered and you really gotta dig sometimes but the whole place is a preppers dream it also sells good furniture, auto and camping stuff even small cast iron melting pans and a cast iron propane grill!

  9. Beware of purchasing used blankets, furniture, stuffed toy and the like. Bed bugs abound.Unless it can be thoroughly washed/cleaned I wouldn’t risk it.

  10. I love our Dollar Tree. I am careful about not spending a dollar on something I can get at walmart for .88
    but for the most part it’s a great place to get decent quality products on the cheap. I will say that the 1.00 can opener has served me much better than the 6.00 one I bought at Walmart. But for cleaning supplies, candles, certain medical supplies, and many other items dollar tree can’t be beat.

  11. The Dollar store can be feast or famine. I check mine for candles, first aid supplies and other stuff. Look for their brand of pedi lyte. Also I have picked up their one dollar paring and small kitchen knives (usually with a bright florescent handle) and turned them into neck knives or tape them to the inside of the lid of the food storage tote for bug out. Careful shopping can show sometimes walmart may have the item for 10 cents cheaper but think of the gas used if the dollar is closer.
    Out dollar store carries the Sunday paper and at a buck it is cheaper than the subscription price. Our dollar will also accept coupons.

  12. Our local army surplus’ have the P53 (military can opener) for $0.50 each. They are easier on my hands compared to the cheapy can opener from Kroger. We use one in the kitchen, since Christmas, and it’s great!

  13. correction, the P-38*

    • Susan,
      My husband has carried a P38 on his key chain for 20 years. We’ve used it more times than I can count. This Christmas I purchase P51 (the larger versions) for myself and our 2 sons. Thrilled with them as well. I think every Survival Mom, Dad and Kid should have one on their key chain and several stashed with their canned goods!

      Word of warning ~
      Make sure you do like Susan and pick up a military grade P38 or P51 made of steel. The aluminum versions, sold by Coleman’s, are worthless!

      • I hear you ..I got my P-38 in 1979 in basic training…best lil can opener ever
        never needed sharpening i used to keep it on my key chain had it till 1992 or so when my #4 son threw out my keys(and the remote) ….kids are great

        • I absolutely love my army surplus can opener which I have carried on my key ring since 1968 (I’m on my third one – lost a key ring once and I got one of the bigger ones-I had had a very small one. None have broken). It opens cans great and is always there. I keep a piece of tape around it so it doesn’t poke me as I move around in my classroom and work with kids. Just take the tape off to use and then replace it. At the dollar store many packages are smaller than for sale at other places. One definately has to be aware of quality. My sister thought she had scored with a dollar wine bottle opener. It broke on the first bottle of wine.

  14. I recently found small bottles of nasal saline in our dollar store. I am an RN and saline freak when it comes to stocking up medical supplies. Eye flush, nasal spray, wound flush, so many uses. The bottles are cheaper than any store and a little on the small side which is great because you’re not going to hang on to the bottle forever especially if used for sinus problems. The expiration date has been miles long as well. I also found an oatmeal soap which is the same as the expensive Aveeno. I love my dollar store and go there to scan the shelves as often as I can. You never know what you’ll find.

  15. I got dishes from a new Dollar Tree in WA about five years ago. Got a full set plates bowls, salad bowls exc. and when I got home found that they were over stalk from a pottery barn and were supposed to sell for $8 each. That was a good deal.

  16. I find some good deals at the Dollar Tree. They now accept manufacturers coupons. I was able to stock up on Crest toothbrushes for $.25 each, Oil of Olay soap that was free, and many other things were $.25 or less. A few months ago I got a great deal on Johnson & Johnson ace bandages, gauze, and bandages. I always look at the weight and size of the items before I buy them. Sometimes its a good deal, sometimes not.

  17. dear jan im trying to learn how to use coupons better . and our dollar store just started to accept them . but where do you get the coupons for the toothbrushes toothpaste ect ? off the internet or newspapers ? please help desperate mother . thank you . and god bless

    • Michelle,
      The best place to get coupons is your Sunday newspaper. You can get them online at coupons.com as well but sometimes they don’t have the same ones as your newspaper. And you can buy as many newspapers as you want but can only print 2 coupons off per computer from online. Until a couple months ago I was a hardcore couponer! I would go to CVS or Walgreens or Dollar General and walk out with $50 worth of stuff for less than $10. So if you need any pointers feel free to contact me. Just know that couponing that way takes A LOT of time. I spent anywhere from 20-40+ hours each week. If you have the time it is well worth it!

    • Michelle,

      I get my coupons from the Sunday papers. The Dollar Tree carries the Sunday paper (not in all areas) and I buy multiple copies if there are good coupons that week. I save all the coupon inserts in a little box so I can refer to them later. I cut out what I know I will use and nothing more. If a good deal comes along, then I can pull out the inserts later on. I check the couponing websites like Krazy Coupon Lady and Money Saving Mom. If you google your town’s name and couponing, you might find a local couponing blog. Couponing blogs help you match up your coupons with the latest sales. I plan out my shopping trips and put the coupons for each store in a different envelope (with the list) or a file folder that I bring shopping a lot. Then I can focus on what I should get a deal on. I *try* not to browse and get other items that I really don’t need. My poor kids have to help me. They help hold the coupons the coupons for items in the shopping cart and keep an eye out for coupons at the store. They are good sports because the money we save on everyday items helps finance trips to disneyland, camping, etc.

  18. The Dollar General has been having a $5 coupon off a $25 purchase, usually printable off their website. I went thru the store and found lots of $1 items, ranging from first aid to cleaners to food and made a list. Even without using any manufacturer’s coupons, their coupon gives you a 20% savings. If you do have manufacturer’s coupons, give the DG store coupon to the cashier first (after the total has come to $25) and then use the manufacturer’s coupons. Coupons that match up to sales are rare here, (some grocery stores don’t even accept internet coupons) so the DG is the best place for me to stock up on basics.

  19. Our Dollar Trees accepts coupons and I find that sometimes they will actually put coupons on items they have overstocked. Also, you can order these items online if you don’t want to go to the store. I find that more convenient when stocking up on things than clearing the shelves. (a practice that I really hate)

  20. Don’t forget about second hand stores either … we have a lot of them here in NJ … also check out garage/yard sales … we have plenty of them as well … I scored a lot of canning supplies for very cheap this way.

    • Here in SC we have a few great flea markets. I have found new toothbrushes 10 for $1.00 as well as freezer bags, aluminum foil and rebottled cleaning products such as Dawn at great prices. As far as Dollar store goes, I find some good deals there but it seems that the size of things, like alcohol and hydrogen peroxide, is shrinking.

  21. Just went to the Dollar General earlier today, stocked up on tampons and pads (Tampax Pearl tampons for $3 a box!!), they are having a clearance sale on feminine hygiene, ladies! I don’t know if it’s a regional thing or not but it was a great deal- I love their clearance aisle, great for preps.

  22. Hit Dollar Tree this afternoon. Picked up some great deals for our 1st Aide kits. Never even thought of looking there. Thanks so much. Deals really help right now, LOL.

  23. Oh yeah, while we were out we went next door to Good Will and picked up 2 mess kits for camping @ $1.99 each! Very worthwhile day.


  25. On the dollar store can openers. I have a GI P38 that I’ve had for years as does my spouse. Love them but be sure to get the shelby ones as they are US made. Ecko used to make can openers when I was a kid and probably long before that. They can still be found in many thrift stores. Yard salesare also a great place to look for useful items, cast iron pots, garden tools, camping gear, etc,

  26. Dollar Tree now allows bulk purcheses online. All items are still $1 per unit.

  27. Our dollar stores don’t seem to stick around for long. I try though!

  28. Some products are good at these discount stores, but some just don’t work and I’ve been disappointed in the quality of discount store items.

    From now on I buy one item at a discount store to test if it works, eg, if pens write or correction tape actually works, before buying more.

  29. Here’s our list 99 ways for a Prepper to Spend a buck at the dollar stores: http://www.happypreppers.com/99-ways.html

  30. I picked up
    Gosner Shelf Stable Milk at my local Dollar Tree! Looked on post and saved over 1.00

  31. Do you make your own laundry soap (and soap in general) yet? I really recommend it for cheapness and quality – so much better than the dollar store quality. Laundry soap you especially can do with just ivory or any cheap soap. Perhaps you already know that…

  32. Totally never thought of the dollar store. I’ll bet it’s a great place to snag bandages, gauze, etc. I’m heading there tomowwow.

  33. Oh I love my Dollar Tree! It’s right by my house and I usually go there for party or holiday decorations. Hadn’t really thought about going to buy some essentials, but will definitely check it out the next time I need to stock up on some items.

  34. I buy coffe at the dollar tree..to stockpile …i don’t drink coffee but my husband and grown kids do…they said it was decent…and would be better then none….so for a buck u get 12oz bags of coffee…

  35. We have a chain here called the 99 Cents Only store. Just scored several 2-packs of Nexcare N95 respirators, collapsible 1 litre water bottles, and 100 pack of Curad alcohol wipes. Also 24 pill packs Super Colon Cleanse, which I understand is pricey otherwise. I like to keep both laxatives and imodium around, because who knows what will happen to our tummies if there is a sudden dietary change.

  36. The dollar store is a great place to find certain products. I did read something tho and it said not to buy toothpaste or toiletries i believe it was something about the quality

    Great post

    Check us out over at http://outlivetheoutbreak.com/

  37. I was at our Dollar Tree the other day and we found little solar powered table lamps. They each have three LED bulbs and an on/off switch. They are bright enough to read by and yet not overpoweringly noticeable. My Dad went back and bought a few more for his storage. They’re white and have a little lampshade. Cute and useful!

  38. you can also use spaghetti noodles to light htose hard to reach wicks in candles and save your fireplace matches

  39. If you see something you like at the dollar store buy it and try it. If you like it go back a get more. I used to get my liquid bath soap there. I liked it so much I wanted to buy a 100 bottles. Wife didn’t like the idea. I felt it would soon go the way of everything else. Less quality for the same price. She did not agree. A couple of months later they came out with the new formulation. Its now in a different bottle for a “new look” with a lot more water in it and a lot less soap. A bottle used to last a month. now it lasts 2 weeks. Oh well.
    I did find a good deal on spaghetti at the dollar store. 24 ounces for a buck. I bought all they had and didn’t see it again for 6 months. They also get elbow macaroni and wide noodles in 24 ounce bags, For the space conscious the spaghetti stores much better.
    We too like the shelf stable milk. They had some rice milk that I wouldn’t recommend.

  40. I try to get a lot of my preps from Costco. Yes it can be expensive, but if you set a budget to maybe just buy one extra case or bag of something each trip, you will have a large supply rather quickly. You can get #10 cans of food, bulk sacks of rice, flour, sugar, and salt.

    Another great place is your local LDS home storage center. first off I want to state that I am not affiliated with the Mormon church and I am not trying to get you to join them. what I am telling you as these people have been prepping for years and are more than willing to share with everyone. You don’t need to be a Mormon to go to theses centers. Below I will post three links so you can check them out for yourself.

    1. Search for LDS Home Storage Centers (that’s the official name).


    2. Here’s the link to the LDS Provident Living webpage:


    3. And the Home Storage Center Order Form:

    Read more at http://www.survivalistboards.com/showthread.php?t=190755#IXfyWeqL1E4Fp5Oq.99

    I hope this helps……

  41. Don’t purchase disposable razors though. I did and ripped up my legs.

  42. A good pair of Needle Nose Pliers are a great thing to have ( even to light candles when they burn too low).

    • I agree, Margaret! Needle nose pliers have come in handy around my house more than once. Some multi-tools come with that option, and now that you mention it, would be well worth the money.

  43. Like Dollar Tree and like to buy in bulk plus see items your Dollar Tree doesn’t stock or runs out too quickly? Then go to the Dollar Tree Online! http://www.dollartree.com. Everything is still $1. The catch? Some items you must buy in great quantities – from a minimum of 4 units to up to 60. They do ship to you. I cannot remember the shipping terms. I am still trying to save for my 1+pages of items I want to stock up on!

  44. Might want to think about have a couple of dozen “John Waynes” (P-38’s or larger sized P-51’s). These are the old Military can opener that can in the C-Rats. I bought 10 for less than 5 dollars. Works everytime. Just a thought.

  45. Don’t forget to check out your local second hand store for kitchen gadgets, like can openers, and also I’ve found all kinds of candles. In my area, the second hand stores have a few days out of each month where everything is 50% off. I’ve even purchased a few bent candles in order to replenish my buddy burners when the wax gets low.

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