While many businesses have seen big declines the past three years, dollar stores have seen their business surge, as cash-strapped families watch every penny.
And while dollar stores offer great deals on certain items, there are a few products where you need to be a bit more careful when you're shopping there.
Diann Combs is a frugal shopper, who clips coupons and loves shopping dollar stores. But she wasn't very happy when she recently brought home a jar of Kraft mayonnaise from a Family Dollar store.
Diann said, "When I picked it up to open it, I looked at the expiration date and it was December 2010."
Had it been cookies, she said, she wouldn't have worried. But she said with mayo, "spoiling is the No. 1 thing they talk about it at picnics and everything, This jar is almost 7 months old."
A fluke? We decided to do some checking, at several different dollar stores chains in the area, including two Family Dollar stores, a Dollar Tree, and a Dollar General.
What We Found
The good news: Most products were within their date, though sometimes just a few weeks away from expiring.
However, at another Family Dollar store, I found boxes of Golden Graham Bars that expired on "27 June 2011," which was a week prior to my visit.
At the same Family Dollar, I also found a jar of Miracle Whip spread that had expired on "13 April 2011." That was three months past the sell-by date.
According to the FTC, canned goods are edible several months after their sell-by date. So there may not have been any health concern.
But Diann doesn't trust mayo one day over, telling me "people do say it lasts a year past the due date and all that, but not for mayonnaise. Not for mayonnaise, I wouldn't do it."
Family Dollar says, "We take the health and safety of our customers very seriously..." and says stores "have a freshness program to ensure expired products are found and pulled from shelves before their expiration dates. We will take steps to ensure that all stores are reminded of our freshness program." (Read full statement below)
Consumer Reports Magazine Advisory
But what Diann stumbled upon is one of the downsides of dollar stores, according to Consumer Reports magazine: Food and vitamins that are often very close to their expiration dates, and sometimes past it.
Consumer Reports says dollar stores are great for buying paper products, kitchen items, school supplies, and detergent. But the magazine says be careful when it comes to food.
The Bottom Line
There's nothing wrong with buying food or health products dollar stores. Most of it is either overstock, or the dollar store's house brand.
But check the dates on perishable items before you check out, and that way you keep your family safe and you don't waste your money.
Don't Waste Your Money is a registered trademark of the EW Scripps Co.
Full Statement from Family Dollar:
"Thank you for bringing this to our attention. At Family Dollar, providing customer with fresh, quality merchandise is important to proving great value to shoppers.
To that end, we have a freshness program to ensure that expired products are found and pulled from shelves ahead of their expiration dates.
We are investigating this specific situation and will take steps to ensure all stores are reminded of our freshness program."