Few things beckon to bargain shoppers like the dollar stores. Beneath the florescent lights shoppers can find an array of bargains, everything ranging from health and beauty supplies, cleaning products and even canned or boxed foods among other treasures. But most bargain shoppers know that just because something is inexpensive, it doesn’t mean it’s a bargain. Getting a bargain at the dollar store means knowing your prices, comparative shopping and knowing the ingredients inside each item. The same goes for finding green, eco-friendly products inside the dollar stores. Yes, it is possible to stay green while shopping in the dollar stores.
On a recent trip to our neighborhood dollar store (to buy plastic leis and a grass skirt for Hawaiian day at my daughter’s school), here are a few of the green bargains I found.
Eco-friendly light bulbs. While there were plenty of incandescent light bulbs of various wattages available, surprisingly, I also found a package of two CFL light bulbs for only $1. These lower-energy light bulbs last longer than their incandescent counterparts, thereby reducing landfill accumulation while also lessening energy consumption. At 50 cents per bulb in the dollar store, this turned out to be a true bargain.
Baking soda. At the dollar store, one pound of baking soda sells for 59 cents, making the price a tad cheaper than the grocery store. Baking soda’s green capabilities are legendary. The all-natural substance has cleaning applications as well as healthy and beauty uses, not to mention its usefulness in baking.
Vinegar. White distilled vinegar tends to be a bargain wherever you shop and like baking soda, it is a cleanser of choice for green house cleaners. At the dollar store, a 16-ounce bottle sold for $1, making it a pretty good deal.
Salt. The dollar store had a surprisingly good variety of salt. I couldn’t resist buying a package of sea salt and grinder for only $1. As well, I found kosher salt and regular table salt, for less than $1. Salt is great to add to homemade cleaning solutions, like homemade dishwasher detergent or laundry detergent. From pulling stains out of rug to cleaning brass or even glass, salt has so many uses that it is a bargain no matter where you buy it.
Epsom Salt. Not to be confused with edible salt, Epsom salt, also known as magnesium sulfate, is surprisingly versatile. Add a few tablespoons to a bath for a skin-softening soak or use in the garden to correct a nutrient deficiency. At the dollar store, a two-pound box of Epsom salt sold for $1, making it a true bargain while being versatile and green.
Sunflower seeds. Edible and rich in fiber, sunflower seeds tend to be an eco-friendly snack as the flowers are easy to grow, cultivate and process. I found salted and unsalted, hulled and non-hulled varieties in the dollar store in generously sized portions. But while sunflower seeds are generally healthy and good for you, be sure to check the expiration date if buying them at a significant discount. Consuming rotting seeds can cause tummy troubles and bloating. Our dollar store did not have any expired packages on the shelves, but check anyway whenever buying the seeds.
Plastic spray bottles. While a plastic spray bottle can never be truly green, it can help you achieve your eco-friendly lifestyle when used to mix eco-friendly ingredients for homemade air freshener, window cleaner, all purpose cleaner, homemade hair spray or other things consumers tend to buy. Making these things yourself reduces consumerism, reduces the amounts of chemicals that are being sprayed and are simply better for the environment and your health. At the dollar store, a package of three spray bottles sold for only $1.In my house, one bottle will be filled with distilled water, lemon juice and a sprig of lemongrass for an all purpose air freshener. Another will be filled with a water-vinegar mixture for cleaning and the third will be filled with olive oil for easy spritzing.
Vegetable seeds. The dollar store had an impressive variety of vegetable seeds, including some organic seeds. Few things equal the satisfaction that comes from growing your own food and when seeds sell for less than $1, it’s worth giving it a shot.
Gardening soil. To get that home-grown vegetable gardening going, you’ll need gardening soil and at the dollar store, a package of gardening soil sold for $1. The soil was a basic, non-organic variety, but the nutrient quality can be easily enhanced by adding ingredients from your home compost pile to the the soil. If you don’t compost, at least save coffee grinds or brewed tea leaves to mix into the soil along with a few crushed egg shells.
Honey. Most honeys are all-natural, but some honey, especially the inexpensive ones, can contain high fructose corn syrup and other ingredients. We found a small, 6-ounce container of pure honey (no additives) in the dollar store for only one dollar. As well as being a healthy and eco-friendly snack, honey can be used in many health and beauty applications like taking the sting out of an insect bite or conditioning hair. It can also be used to make an all-natural face mask, as well as a variety of other uses.
Books. While not necessarily green, books at the dollar store are a bargain and reading is certainly a “green” activity. At the dollar store, hardcover and paperbacks sell for only $1 and some of them are former best-sellers.
Other ways to get more bang for your dollar store buck, while staying green.
If time or budget prevent you from making your own soap, laundry detergent or dish washing detergent, you can still use the dollar store to save money and reduce consumerism, helping you move to a more eco-friendly lifestyle. Buy a few bars of basic soap at the dollar store and make your own laundry detergent by grinding the bars in a food processor (or chopping into small flakes) then mixing with one or two bars with equal parts baking soda and borax. Add about a quarter cup of salt to the mixture for extra stain-fighting capabilities. You’ll find that this mixture, which can be easily assembled with dollar-store buys, is tougher on stains, so you’ll use less per wash. Rather than using chemical-covered fabric softener sheets, add about a quarter cup of vinegar to the rinse cylce of each load.
To make a box of dishwasher detergent last longer, buy a small box at the dollar store and mix with equal parts baking soda and borax. This mixture can leave a film on plastic, so add about a quarter cup of salt to the mixture or add a few teaspoons of vinegar to each load to keep dishes sparkling. This method will help to stretch out a box of dishwasher detergent, so it will last three times as long, reducing the amount you buy. As well, you’ll use fewer chemicals per load.