Meals from a Dollar Store

August 14, 2023 | Christine Hradek

grocery store aisle

In my home state of Iowa, there are a lot of us who have a significant drive to get to a big grocery store with a wide variety of food. Trips into larger cities take time and money for transportation. In small towns and certain areas of larger cities, we are more likely to find a dollar store that sells a variety of items including some food. Most dollar stores have shelf-stable foods and some have refrigerated or frozen foods too. I gave some thought to what I could make with the shelf-stable foods my local dollar store carries. Here are some of the products that stood out to me as particularly useful and how I would make them into a meal.

  • Microwaveable rice pouches save time and dishes. They create a nice base for a meal. Add in your favorite spices along with canned products like beans, corn, and tomatoes or salsa and you have a balanced, tasty meal.
  • Pasta is always a winner in my book and my dollar store carries a nice variety. They have spaghetti, macaroni, and lasagna. They even have the macaroni in a whole-grain version. I would mix this with a can of mixed vegetables and a can of chicken and let that simmer for a minute or two with some jarred Alfredo sauce and garlic powder.
  • Spices are plentiful at my dollar store. I was impressed with all of the different spices and blends like barbeque, Sauzon, Creole, and lemon pepper seasoning. It might sound strange to build a meal around spices, but it was inspiring to me to see all that was available. I would use these spices to make the most of basic ingredients, like tuna and mayonnaise. With the addition of a seasoning, I could make a tasty tuna salad. My store offers bread and tortillas for a sandwich or wrap. I could also choose from canned peaches, pears or pineapple for a fruit side dish.
  • Pancake mix and oatmeal combine to make our Oatmeal Pancakes. These are a delicious and hearty breakfast. I like them topped with peanut butter, but you could also make a tasty topping using canned fruit, like pineapple.

If the grocery store is a long drive for you and a dollar store is convenient, I hope you find some inspiration in these meal ideas. Let us know your ideas on our social media!

Christine Hradek

Christine Hradek is a State Nutrition Specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. She coordinates ISU’s programs which help families with low income make healthy choices with limited food budgets. Christine loves helping families learn to prepare healthy foods, have fun in the kitchen and save money. In her spare time, Christine enjoys cooking, entertaining and cheering on her favorite college football teams with her family and friends.

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