PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Dollar stores outnumber Starbucks and McDonald's combined and more are coming with four of 10 store openings this year are expected to be dollar stores.
And consumers are not shying away. According to a recent Consumer Reports survey , 88% of Americans shop at dollar stores at least sometimes. The most common reason? They're inexpensive and convenient.
But are the savings real? An investigative reporter from Consumer Reports says yes, but there's a caveat. When compared with nearby grocery stores, dollar stores were indeed cheapest for an entire purchase for each of our shoppers. But even though you might save more money at a dollar store, your options for items could be pretty limited.
Because of those limited options, CR says don't bother with a shopping list when you go to a dollar store. Instead go in with a strategy and be flexible.
Not many dollar stores carry fresh fruit and vegetables, but they often stock frozen versions of each, which can be just as nutritious.
If you're in need of some over-the-counter medicine, skip the name brands like Advil and Tylenol and opt for the generics, which are chemically identical and often much cheaper. But remember to always check the expiration date no matter where you shop.
It's also important to remember that you may be able to get many of these items cheaper in bulk at big-box stores. But in an emergency, or if you just need a little, dollar store offerings are usually a good bet.
And these discount stores are evolving. Dollar General said it is adding up to 10,000 more stores that will carry fresh produce. It's also started a program in which a registered dietitian creates meal suggestions and recipes for items you can buy at its stores.
Finally, Dollar stores aren't immune to the ongoing supply problems, so don't be surprised if you see more empty shelves or a more limited selection of certain products.