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99 Cent Store, Not 99 Percent Happy

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The devil is in the details: Homeschool Mom lists the 10 things her family is not completely happy about at the 99 Cent Only Store.

99 Cent Store Day Three

1. Weird Canned Goods
There are more processed canned goods of an extremely distasteful nature than we could ever have imagined.

2. Stingy Cheese
You would think that cheese was made out of precious gems rather than aged milk. For 99 cents, you get all of three pieces of string cheese or three ounces of cheddar. The other choices involve imitation cheese-flavored food. Anything that needs to be defined as food for me is not a viable choice.

3. Crappy Toys
My shopping trips are inevitably delayed by the begging for and choosing of crappy toys that break as they are taken out of the package or are made in China and probably painted with toxic waste.

4. Competitive Aggression
I found myself coveting the Newman's Peanut Butter Cookies that an elderly man had the good fortune to find. My Christian resolve was being severely tested, because I wanted to snatch those cookies from his trembling hands. We left cookieless. Perhaps the devil is in the 99 Cent Only Store.

5. The Baked Goods

I have not been able to buy any trans-fat-free cookies or baked goods. All of the cake batters, etc., have trans fat, and there are no chocolate chips or Baker's chocolate. I could try to bake something from scratch, but without chocolate there is really no point. I took pity on us all and bought some Hershey's bars. I wonder if you could bake with Hershey's bars?

6. Where's the Animal Protein?
You can easily find beans and rice and barley for the vegetarian, although no tofu. However, finding non-processed animal protein is difficult. Not only is it nonexistent most of the time, it is tiny when you do find it. I found some salmon fillets, and they were about three ounces. To feed my family, I would have had to buy seven, at least, so the price would have been about $7.00 and then I might as well just purchase good salmon from a fresh fish grocer. The same is true for chicken. I found some tiny breasts so I bought enough to make tortilla soup. I did find some chicken patties as well, but they may be gross; I haven't opened them yet. Foster Farms chicken hot dogs were there as well, but I don't think I would count them as good nutrition, just yummy. I did find canned wild salmon that, while it is a little unattractive, works great in sandwiches or in casseroles. They also have eggs.

7. No Nuts

I love nuts and so does my husband. There are not any nuts that are not salted or roasted in oil at the 99 Cent Only Store. That is too bad because they are a good source of protein for those who don't eat meat. I found some Bora Bora organic bars which have seeds and nuts in them, so my husband has been taking them in his lunch.

8. Yucky Cereal
I have not found any oatmeal and the cold cereals are either bad for you or very unattractive. I was surprised by the poor choices because I thought those items would be a shoo-in.

9. Milk Rip-Off
Milk is not a good deal at the 99 Cent store. A quart is 99 cents, but you would need to buy four of them to make a gallon. $4.00 is about what you pay for a gallon of organic milk with a much later expiration date at Trader Joe's.

10. Finding Out I Am a Snob
Because the truth is that the 99 Cent store has many great deals, and a lot of us who avoid it are actually wasting money and missing out on some very good produce. By the way, my kids love the peanut butter.

See Also:

next: My Vacation With My Friend Was a Nightmare!
17 comments so far | Post a comment now
joe May 21, 2009, 5:51 PM

go shop at the 2 dollar store you types make me sick.

Heather May 21, 2009, 6:09 PM

You should really look into couponing. Shopping smart through the system I teach on my website results in your own, personal name-brand dollar store! I tracked receipts for awhile and averaged $1/item for several months. It’s not as hard as it sounds.

Jennifer Taggart, TheSmartMama May 21, 2009, 6:18 PM

Many good deals exist at the discount stores similar to 99cent store. And I do shop at them. Craft and party supplies are frequent favorites. But, I have also found a very high percentage of consumer products with detectable lead - I have XRF tested countless products from discount stores. Everything from the vinyl easy grip handles on kitchen stuff to toys. So I think it is just important to consider what you are purchasing …

Jim May 21, 2009, 7:35 PM

Some of these are legitimate complaints, but most of it seems like the rantings of an overly cautious mother.

First off, are you really surprised that the toys purchased at the dollar store are made in China, break easily, and “probably” contain lead? Hasn’t this been common knowledge for years now? You could always just not buy the toys in the first place.

Come to think of it, just avoid everything you complained about, and then there’s no reason to complain, right? Instead of whining that you cannot find cookies and cakes without trans fat, why not just not let your kids eat them to begin with? It’s not like the trans fat free pastries are “good” for you anyway.

It’s also become obvious that Pam is the type to fall prey to nonsense marketing gimmicks such as “organic” labels. I’d like to direct dissenters to that comment to the following link:

This writer is ridiculous. I cannot take any columnist serious that use phrases such as “yucky” or “ick.”

Anonymous May 21, 2009, 11:11 PM

I can’t stand the dollar store peanut butter, ketchup or cake icing. I guess the cake mix is ok, but the icing is horrible! I wouldn’t use it on a cake for my enemy!

frugal mom May 22, 2009, 1:06 AM

I’m really enjoying these articles from you, Homeschool Mom. Of course you know the toys will break and that there will be far less nutritious options for your family. It’s plain to see that you wanted to experiemnt and see if you could come close to what you may be used to, but with more “Washington’s” in your wallet.
I get the whole thing you’re trying to bring to the readers. Shop smart, shop healthy and see if it’s possible to be done at one of these stores that some might think are below them.
It appears you’ve taken some creative liberty (and how dry would a story about the .99 Only store be!) and it makes for fun reading.
I’m intelligent enough to see that you are a conscientious mom who is well aware of the good and bad points of shopping these stores.
I’m still curious if they sell “chill pills” and, if so, please inform reader Jim. He seems to be in need of them!

Nicole May 22, 2009, 1:37 AM

I feel very bad about how you must be used to only shopping in high dollar stores and buying organic foods for outrageous prices. I am happy that you buy healthy foods for your family. However, I cannot afford those fancy stores. I spend about $30 in groceries every week in Dollar General. I am able to get things like skim milk and whole wheat bread. I also get ready to bake meals and whole grain rice and such. It may not be the best, but I get food as healthy as I can and I feed my family for a week (or more) on $20-$30. Give us a break…you just need to give it an unbiased chance. When it is all you can really afford, you learn to not look down your nose at dollar stores.

Betty May 22, 2009, 11:03 AM

I love this article. You have confirmed to me what I thought I already knew…. you get what you pay for. And I like your words.. “icky and yucky”… that’s what your used to hearing and using with kids. It makes me know exactly what you mean. Food at these types of places are GROSS!! Bad for you, overprocessed, unhealthy, and they lie about the expiration dates. This crap is probably so old! I would never shop for anything edible there… ever!

Jim May 22, 2009, 7:44 PM

Hey, everybody has different tastes. As for the chill pills comment (besides being tired and overused), do you have any actual arguments to present to me, frugal mom? Did you even read the link I provided evidencing that organic foods do more harm than good?

Also, anybody notice the comments section closed on the day 4 article?

I wanted to mention that the 99 cent stores in California sounds pretty awesome. Locally grown produce and organic cookies? The dollar stores here in Missouri are awful. Only a few sell actual groceries, and even then, they are usually just smaller portioned, knock-off snack foods and questionable frozen meals…

aerialla May 23, 2009, 8:27 PM

Nicole - I’m right there with you. $30 a week is about what I spend for my family of four. We may not eat the best and yes some of it is undoubtedly processed, but no one in the house goes hungry. Right now in our nation there are so many people going hungry yet the author of this article whines and complains about trans-fats and yucky cereal. The author of this article is a SNOB. Her opinions should only be for those who feel themselves too good for the rest of us out here trying to feed our families on next to nothing.

Meg May 24, 2009, 11:47 AM

For those ripping on the lead paint comment:

Em June 1, 2009, 2:20 AM

Previously living in Southern California and now living in Japan, I miss the 99 Cent only Stores. Yes, there were undoubtedly canned foods made from crap, but their canned veggies were cheaper than a normal grocery stores when they had them 3 for 99 cents and it’s the same thing as in the grocery stores just different brands. Eggs for 99 Cents would be great as they are almost $2.00 here. I loved that I could get office supplies, children’s books, batteries, candles, snack foods, children’s chairs, pregnancy tests(LOL)and much much more there. I had the opportunity as a military wife to be able to shop in the commissaries and exchanges on base and I preferred the 99 Cent Only Stores because they were much more affordable for some things. Granted not everything was cheaper but the things that were made shopping there far outweigh the couple things that were bad about the store. In Japan, they have stores called Daiso and they are the closest thing to a 99 cent only store yet they are more than a dollar because of the exchange rate. Oh how I miss the 99 Cent Only stores! As for the author of this article, I don’t assume to know her or how well off her family is, but when talking about looking for organic foods and trans fat free foods and that the store is horrible because they don’t carry an abundance of it if any is ridiculous. If you are shopping for those types of food in Southern California, there are specific stores that carry those products and I would never think or imagine that the 99 Cent Only Store is where I’d look first. I might look there if I was in there but I wouldn’t base my opinion of that type of store on not carrying organic type foods, unsalted nuts and brand name cereals. Try Trader Joes, Boney’s or Henry’s Markets. Those places carry what you’re looking for and learn to look for sales and coupons. As for the 99 Cent Only Store, it is clean, fairly large, well stocked and affordable for people who need to shop there. I know I had to shop for a family of 5 and it was definitely a money saver for us. It can’t be that bad of a store if I walked out paying over $100 for my bill when nothing is more than $1.00. There are plenty of great deals!

Roxy June 30, 2009, 1:05 PM

Like I said in response to one of her other posts- kids with health issues like hers have MUST avoid a lot of processed food, trans fats, etc. My kids have serious health issues too and there are a lot of foods that I have to avoid for them…simply “letting them eat it” is not a viable option.

CALEB January 26, 2010, 11:12 AM

Hello, this place sells things that are 99 cents. Are you expecting a mansion with a butler??????

Jesus christ. Go fetch me a bottle of champagne!!!!

Oh, so you want compensation??? here’s 99 cents.

You can’t get fresh meat for 99 cents!

The 99 cent store however has things that can cost WAY more than 99 cents. The exact brand and EVERYTHING. Old spice cologne, whitening mouth wash that tastes better and WORKS better than crests!!! great socks. Energy drinks that I used to regularly spend 3$ a piece on. Because I used to buy so much, I have already saved 20$ just in the past 4 days on that alone!

Sheesh! Why don’t they have freshly butchered salmon or more animal products. Ever heard of supply side economics??? Take an economics class.

And someone should really through in a porsche for writing this. I could have been doing my nails.

Tiara January 26, 2010, 11:18 AM

What do you expect from the dollar store, caviar with a clean finish and strong bouquet???

Tiara January 26, 2010, 11:20 AM

What do you expect from the dollar store, caviar with a clean finish and strong bouquet???

erinxduh March 24, 2010, 1:23 AM

I love your pessimistic remarks. Yes. the devil MUST be in a 99 cent only store! Coming from a true Christian here?? I happen to shop at the 99 cent store. Sometimes you find something great, sometimes ya don’t. But never in my life have i tried to steal cookies from an old man.

What the heck is your problem lady??

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