Dollar Tree is, like, one of my favorite stores ever. Barnes & Noble is a strong contender; Ulta Beauty is definitely in the running. I deeply enjoy Hobby Lobby and Bed, Bath and Beyond. And I can always find time to go in Kohl's or Macy's. But Dollar Tree has a different vibe from any of those other places. It is homey, low-market (well, obviously, since everything costs a dollar), and the place where I will ONLY buy a number of commonly used household items, as follows:
1. Dish towels - If it's your thing, you can buy dish towels at Dollar Tree that are printed with wine bottles or latte cups or Santa: those things are at Dollar Tree in abundance. But they also have a large selection of neutral cotton dish towels in blues, greens and taupes that will go with anyone's kitchen and I just dare you to prove that you didn't spend $5 per towel on them at Williams-Sonoma. The towels do the job you bought them to do, and the moment they start looking ugly, you can either toss them in the wastebasket or delegate them to dusting duty.
2. Tea lights - We seem to have a number of ornamental candle-y arrangements around the place that require tea lights, which are those teeny candles that come in their own little aluminum holder. I find these little candles to be much more easy to deal with than votive candles, which, while bigger, have that annoying habit of leaking wax all over, say, the china cabinet in the dining room or the fireplace mantel. At Dollar Tree, you can get a plastic bag of sixteen tea lights for $1, each of which burns for about 2-3 hours. A total steal, especially when you compare that price to Hobby Lobby's, which is significantly more.
3. Tooth flossers - In this house, none of us like just plain old dental floss. We like those plastic doohickeys with the little piece of floss stretched on them. I don't want to get into a big (gross) thing about how all of us enjoy sparkling dental health due to the daily flossing our pearly teeth receive, but I will tell you that you can get a big bag of these handy flossers for $1 at the Dollar Tree. Compare that to the $2.89 you'd be spending on these very same things at Kroger, and even a math-impaired dork like me can figure out that you can get twice the flossing power at your friendly neighborhood DT.
4. Gift bags and tissue paper - Okay, some of the gift bags are ugly. But not all of them are. In fact, there are a good many cute ones available for any holiday you'd care to name. Well, except maybe ones like Arbor Day. And Columbus Day; I don't recall seeing any gift bags printed with the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria last month. But, okay: Christmas, birthdays, weddings, graduations, Easter and Valentine's Day, the Dollar Tree has them. Plus, they have a wide assortment of tissue paper, a really generous amount, and you can even buy brights and pastels along with the typical white. You will never be able to spend $4.95 on a gift bag from Wal-Mart again.
5. Movie candy - Going to the cinema? Need Milk Duds, Junior Mints, Charleston Chews, Raisinets, Starbursts, M&Ms, Goobers, Mike & Ikes, Laffy Taffy, Gummi Bears or any of a dozen other candies you can find behind the glass at the Loew's concession stand? Go to the Dollar Tree before your show and stuff your purse and pockets with $1 candy to avoid spending $5 per box on the very same candy. That'll leave you enough money left over to buy some popcorn, which the Dollar Tree also sells, but only in un-popped form. The ushers will give you the stink eye if you try to find an outlet to plug in a microwave.
6. Basic OTC medicines - Pain killers like ibuprofen, acetaminophen and plain ol' aspirin can be found at the Dollar Tree, along with their store brand of meds like cold tablets, decongestants, cough syrup, anti-diarrheal medication, allergy tablets, triple anti-biotic ointment, you name it. I keep a first aid kit in my car stocked with items from the Dollar Tree, as well as the medicine cabinets in the house. I also use Dollar Tree medications to stock a little kit for my husband to keep in his desk at work. You can also buy stick-on bandages, peroxide, isopropyl alcohol and other little items of that nature.
7. Little Debbie snack cakes - My husband has a terrible weakness for Little Debbie cakes, a fondness that is not shared by anyone else in our home except for the dogs. Dollar Tree has a wide selection of snack cakes at $1 per box, all the regular kinds: Sonic Brownies, Swiss Rolls, Oatmeal Pies, Zebra Cakes, Fancy Cakes, Honey Buns, Fudge Rounds and Nutty Bars are yours for the purchasing. They even have seasonal cakes like Christmas trees and those cute (but inedible) little heart-shaped ones for Valentine's Day. After paying $1 a box, I can't bring myself to spend the $1.89-$2.09 per box elsewhere. And no, these aren't old, stale, nasty cakes. They're just as fresh as the ones you'd buy at the grocery, just like the candy.
8. Paper product staples - Paper napkins, paper plates, paper towels, tissues, coffee filters and, if you're in a pinch, toilet paper. Just your basic white stuff, but it works great and it's cheap.
9. Party balloons - Dollar Tree has a big selection of both Mylar and latex balloons for a number of celebrations. Some of their balloons are pre-filled with helium, but if you want something special, a clerk will fill them for you, free. That'll make you think twice before going to Balloons, Etc. and paying $1.50-$3.00 per balloon. Dollar Tree also has a bunch of those cute little balloon weights to hold down your bouquet and keep it from taking off for the moon.
10. Wine glasses - I have to admit, my false pride makes it a bit hard to say, "Yes, I buy all my wine glasses at the Dollar Tree," but that's only because I'm an awful snob and need to be brought down a peg or two. But. But, but, but. Dollar Tree's wine glasses are virtually indistinguishable from a wine glass bought anywhere else, and I have to say that the time I've spent serving wine to my guests, I've never once had one smash their glass to the floor and say, "That does it! I am never coming here again and drinking your cheap wine out of your cheap glasses." So I buy the glasses and they're pretty and they're big -- *hiccup!* -- and if you serve enough wine and some nice little crackers with some cheese and olives and a bowl of smoked almonds, who the heck is going to care where the wine glass came from? All that matters is that it stays filled, right?
11. Disposable cooking containers - You know how nice it is to take food to people, right? A lasagna, a pie or cake, some cookies on a platter, a loaf of banana bread - gifts like that are always welcome for hostesses or the ailing or whoever you know who needs some home cooking. But I don't have to tell you what a pain it is for the recipient to make sure you get your Pyrex baking dish back, right? Especially if the person you're taking food to is a new mother or a post-op patient: those folks don't have the time to wash your casserole dish or your platter and make sure it's returned to you. So go to the Dollar Tree and spend one hundred pennies on a disposable aluminum baking pan and don't even think of going to the grocery store and spending FIVE DOLLARS -- no, I am not kidding -- on the very same pan. The only difference is that some of the grocery store aluminum-ware come with those "lifter" contraptions that don't really work anyway, so why bother? The giftee will be so happy to not have to wash and return your container, and you won't have to spend months afterwards thinking to yourself, I know I have a nine-inch Anchor pie plate around here somewhere before remembering that you used it to take an apple pie to your child's piano teacher. True story.
12. Christmas cookie tins - Speaking of containers, if you are a Christmas-cookie-baker, you can find adorable little festive tins in about three or four different sizes at the Dollar Tree. Line them with some of that above-mentioned tissue paper and you've got the sweetest and cheapest little vehicle ever for gifting someone with your homemade goodies. We stock up every year.
Eating with Ellie: It's Cold Outside, Let's Warm It Up - Pork Chops with Carrots, Parsnips, and Sage - The 86th recipe I made with the Eating with Ellie group is Pork Chops with Carrots, Parsnips, and Sage, and can be found in Ellie Krieger's book Weeknight ...
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