With dollar stores popping up everywhere these days, I’m sure you’ve wondered if the foods they sell there are worth buying. After all, paying $1 for something is pretty cheap, but does it taste good?
Sometimes, if you’re talking about sprinkles, or sugar, or salt, there probably wouldn’t be any difference from what you might buy in a regular grocery store. But what about a $1 bacon-wrapped steak? Does that taste any good?
I’ve tried the following six dollar store items (plus the added bonus Kitty Litter Cake made from Dollar Store ingredients) so you don’t have to!
So let’s go ahead and find out if these dollar store food items are tasty.
1. $1 Cheeseburger
A few years ago, when I was in the dollar store picking up some wrapping paper for the holidays, I happened to go past the food section where I found these burgers and sandwiches: a Classic Cheeseburger, a Fish and Cheese Sandwich, and a Spicy Chicken Sandwich.
As this was my first Dollar Store taste test, I didn’t have any real preconceived notion of what these products would taste like, though I did have the suspicion that based on the incredibly low price point I wouldn’t exactly be eating like a gourmand.
And the first thing you notice when you take the top bun off is that the burger is pretty tiny. The bread to burger ratio skews heavily toward the bread. And other than bread and patty, there’s just cheese — no pickle, no dried onions, no lettuce, no other condiments.
For cooking, you’re supposed to microwave the burger for 70 to 80 seconds, after which the bun softens up and smells like biscuits. As far as flavor goes, the burger itself is somewhat bland, tasting more like a veggie burger than actual meat. And it is quite salty. I went ahead and added ketchup to mine, but if you’re going to get one of these you may want to add pickles and onions too.
Finally, I should also note that once microwaved, you really shouldn’t wait on eating this burger as the bun tends to dry out rapidly.
You can watch me taste-testing all three sandwiches below:
2. $1 Steak
The $1.00 rib-eye steak was my second ever dollar store tasting.
The packaging says that it’s a boneless ribeye steak, “mechanically tenderized,” and contains a 30 percent solution of water, seasonings, sodium phosphate, dextrose, salt, and bromelain. If you’re wondering what bromelain is, it’s a naturally occurring enzyme found in pineapple.
Now, somewhat counterintuitively, you’re going to want to cook your ribeye steak while its still in its frozen state. So don’t thaw it first if you’re getting this cut.
In terms of size, it’ s 3.5 ounces which is almost a quarter of a pound. I believe a lot of that is water, so this would be a 4 or 5-dollar-a-pound ribeye steak, something which would normally go for about 12 to 16 dollars a pound in the supermarket. So it’s significantly cheaper.
Now true ribeye steaks don’t really need all this tenderization, so that leads me to believe that this might be a different cut, one that’s just kind of shaped out of a few different cuts to look like a ribeye.
And it’s a very thin piece of meat — almost like a scallopini or something. It’s only about a quarter-inch thick; not much fat surrounding it; and not much marbling in the meat. Marbling is an indication of really good quality meat, because that’s what gives a steak its flavor.
But the way this steak gets its flavor is through a brine of the ingredients I mentioned earlier. The brine, in addition to making the steak juicier, imparts some extra flavor.
The only downside of the brine is that it won’t lend itself to good caramelization, i.e. your steak won’t brown properly because the brine is making it too wet.
As for the flavor? It tastes like beef, but it doesn’t feel like a steak that I’ve ever had. It still has some residual stringiness to it and has a bit of a bounce, but it also gives too which I think has a lot to do with the bromelain they put in there. It simultaneously falls apart while those pieces themselves remain stringy.
Flavorwise, it does have hints of beef like I mentioned, though it also curiously tastes of soy sauce. But the flavor doesn’t remain consistent throughout — some bites have a pronounced livery taste; others are almost cardboard-like.
So, if you’re on a budget, I would recommend skipping this steak and finding other options in the supermarket — something like a blade steak.
You can watch my complete taste test of the $1 Ribeye Steak below.
3. $1 Pork Chop
I also found this $1 pork chop in the frozen foods section at my local dollar store, and, similar to the ribeye steak above, this is a very thin cut of meat.
And just like the ribeye steak, you’re going to want to cook this up frozen. I used a cast iron skillet over an induction burner, but any frying pan over a heat source should do.
And because, just like the ribeye steak, the pork chop has been packed in a solution, you’re not going to want to salt it. Cook it for three minutes per side, for six minutes in total.
Once cooked, I did give it a little pepper for taste, but beware, it is a pretty lean piece of meat with just a tiny bit of fat around the edges, so don’t expect too much flavor.
And not only is the pork chop devoid of flavor, the texture itself is off-putting: squishy and rubbery, so as you chew into it, the juices from the brine I mentioned kind of squish out.
This actually reminds me a little bit of seitan, or vital wheat gluten, though not nearly as good.
Now this piece of meat was a dollar, but the price per pound was a little over three dollars. For that price, you could easily get a piece of pork from the grocery store that hasn’t been Frankensteined.
So a big thumbs down for the dollar store pork chop. You can watch me cooking it up and eating it below.
4. $1 Ribs
PORK. LOIN. RIBLETS.
I found these Mesquite Barbeque Flavor Pork Loin Riblets in the frozen foods section at the Dollar Tree. Unlike the ribeye steak and the pork chop, however, you will want to thaw this piece of meat before cooking.
And similar to the previous two pieces of meat I tried, the riblet was quite a small piece of meat — six ounces, which is less than half a pound.
And like both the steak and pork chop, the riblet contains some solution. The package reads: “Pork coated with up to a 3% solution of water.”
So the instructions say you’re supposed to bake this in a relatively low-temperature oven — 300 degrees — for about an hour, an hour-and-a-half, and then you’re supposed to barbecue this on the grill to get these little grill marks, and, of course, that barbecue-y flavor. A lot of work and energy for a $1 piece of meat!
And, since it was snowing on the day of my taste test, I decided to pan grill it instead of pulling out the Smokey Joe. So, if you want to skip the grill, go ahead and wrap your riblets in foil and place them in a 300 degree oven for about an hour.
After the steak and pork chop, my expectations were fairly low, but to my surprise, when I unwrapped the riblets, they smelled pretty good. They also appeared to have actual rib bones inside, another good sign.
So after baking, all that’s left to do is sear the riblets in your preferred barbeque sauce. Keep in mind though that barbeque sauce has a lot of sugar in it, so you’ll have to keep an eye on it so it doesn’t burn.
So How Do They Taste?
Besides tasting mostly of the barbecue sauce I added, the riblets do have a very strong garlic and onion flavor. And unlike the ribeye and pork chop, the texture of the meat is pretty good: it’s very tender, and pretty juicy, and very much like…ribs!
So of all the dollar store meat products I’ve tasted up to this point, I think these actually taste the best! However, I’m not really sure how much of a value this really is because there’s really very little meat on here — a lot of it is bone.
So I think if you went to a supermarket and bought a dollar’s worth of ribs, you’d probably get more than this.
You can watch my taste test of the dollar store ribs below:
5. $1 Chicken Fried Steak
The dollar store chicken fried steak is made by the same company as both the ribeye steak and the pork chop — Stampede. Now you might be confused by the packaging when you see it, because it reads, “Beef Fritters for Country Fried Steak.”
What is Country-Fried Steak?
Also known as chicken-fried steak, usually it is an inexpensive cut of meat that has been cubed, or chopped up in order to tenderize it. Then it is battered and fried like fried chicken — that’s why it’s called chicken-fried steak — but there’s no chicken in it at all. It’s simply beef cooked in a chicken-like manner.
Chicken-fried steak is very popular in the Southern United States. And traditionally it’s served with gravy, but the packet from the dollar store contained no gravy, so I made a quick gravy to accompany mine, because we want to feel like we’re doing this right.
For my gravy I made a roux, which is basically fat and flour. For fat I used the oil that I cooked the chicken in. To that you’re going to add some whole milk, whisking it into your roux. Finally, after reducing the heat, you’ll want to salt and pepper it to taste. (I added lots of black pepper to mine.)
How Does It Taste?
For what it is, it’s not bad. The crust is nice and crispy, though it is quite salty, even without the gravy. The meat has an interesting texture: it’s not at all like a steak. I would say it’s more like a compound meat — sort of like a ground meat that’s been kind of put back together again.
It does have a bit more chew than a hamburger; and the crispy crust really does help with the flavors and textures.
Now I tried it both with and without the gravy. I would say it is much better with the gravy: much more of the country fried steak experience for me, adding a really nice toasty richness to the steak.
So what are my final thoughts on dollar store chicken-fried steak? It’s passable. If you’ve only got a dollar, and you’re really jonesing for crispy fried steak, then maybe this is the way to go, although I think you could probably make something comparable in terms of price if you were to make it yourself.
You can watch my complete dollar store country fried steak taste test below:
6. Kitty Litter Cake Made from Dollar Store Ingredients
The Kitty Litter Cake is not a dollar store item per se; rather it is a cake that is made entirely with ingredients that you can find at the dollar store. And it’s perfect for Halloween or any kind of fun party.
And because it uses cake mix as a base, it’s both easy and quick to make. Aside form the cake mix, we’ll be using cookie crumbs, and then strategically shaped Tootsie Rolls for the cat droppings.
For the base, I used a chocolate cake mix, but you can use any flavor you like. Just mix and bake it according to package instructions in a 9 X 13 pan.
Once your cake has completely cooled, you’re going to level the top — no need to be precise as the cake itself will be covered with cookie crumbs.
So the one thing I didn’t buy at the Dollar Store, because I couldn’t find it, was a dish pan which will make your kitty litter cake look more realistic. Just fill the bottom of the pan with your cake, cutting as needed to fit.
Next you’re going to frost the top of the cake — I used a white frosting as I didn’t want my chocolate cake to show through when I put the “litter” on top.
Next take a package of butter cookies, crushing them up in a Ziploc bag. (They should have some chunks, but you don’t want them so big that they are recognizable as cookies.)
To make my litter look whiter and dustier, like real kitty litter, I added about a cup of powdered sugar to my cookie crumbs. Once you’ve gotten the desired consistency, pour it right on top of your frosted cake.
Now on to the fun part — making the cat turds!
Take your Tootsie Rolls (about 20) and put them in the microwave for about 20 seconds. (Keep an eye on them — you just want them to be soft; you don’t want them to bubble up.)
Once they’re soft you’re going to shape them into turds. (I used about three or four per dukey.)
To make them look a little bit more natural and dusty, I rolled them in some of the litter powder.
So now it’s just a matter of placing the poops. You want to gently nestle them into the litter so they look natural.
So besides the Tootsie Rolls, the thing that’s really going to make this cake look authentic is a scoop. And please, please, please make sure you get a clean new litter scoop. I got mine, of course, for a dollar at the dollar store. Just jam it right into the cake and you’re good to go!
You can watch me tasting this abomination below:
7. $1 Bacon-Wrapped Steak
The last of the dollar store foods that I’ve tried is the chopped beef steak wrapped in bacon. The “steak,” most likely chopped up and reshaped into a meat resembling a steak, is really more of a burger.
And once again, similar to the other dollar store “steaks,” you’re going to want to cook this one while it’s still in its frozen state.
And just like the ribeye steak and the pork chop, this steak contains a 30% solution of water, salt, dextrose, sodium alginate, sodium phosphate, calcium sulfate, and sodium acetate. So if you were to thaw this steak before cooking, you would probably be left with a wet pile of mush because the solution would simply pool out.
According to the directions on the package, you’re going to want to “lightly oil a pan” onto which you will place your steak, cooking at 375℉ for twenty-five to thirty minutes.
But How Does it Taste?
Unfortunately, not very good. To be honest, it’s more like a meatball than a steak — very soft and squishy, almost spongy. And as you bite it, lots of juices come out, but not steak juices, rather the watery brine solution. So it is tender, but it doesn’t have much texture.
The bacon wrapped around the outside does tastes like bacon, but it doesn’t have any of that crispness that I love about bacon.
And honestly, without the bacon to lend the meat some flavor, the steak itself doesn’t taste like much of anything. It’s just mushy and juicy in an unpleasant sort of way.
Perhaps this would be better on the grill — you would get more of that higher temperature cooking and you would caramelize that bacon a little bit more — maybe get some grill marks on the steak Itself.
You can watch my complete Dollar Tree Bacon Wrapped taste test below:
So that’s it. In short, I don’t recommend the pork chops, the ribeye, or the bacon wrapped steak. The sandwiches, the riblets, and the chicken fried steak are passable. The ingredients for the kitty litter cake are indistinguishable from what you would get at a supermarket.
Please leave a comment if there’s a dollar store item not on this list that you’d like me to try. Happy eating!