This article is the third of a three-part series where we research whether you can get healthy and nutritious groceries from the most popular dollar stores. You can read our Dollar General review and our Dollar Tree review to see the other articles.
The common conception is that it’s impossible to eat healthy at dollar stores, and that they contain nothing but junk food, but that’s not what we’ve found in our previous reviews. If you know what to look for, you can eat a perfectly healthy diet even if Family Dollar is your only option.
In this article we’ll review the healthiest options at Family Dollar from various food categories like fruits and carbs, explain how we define eating healthy, and share a sample healthy Family Dollar meal plan.
What Does Healthy Eating Even Mean?
Healthy eating is subjective, and the optimal diet will vary between individuals based on their genetics and environment.
That being said, we know from medical studies on healthy dietary practices that a diet made of whole foods, rich in natural vitamins and minerals and free of preservatives, added sugars and other industrial ingredients is best for most people.
We define healthy eating as a diet that includes a wide variety of produce, whole unprocessed carbs like oats, animal products sourced from grass-fed animals or wild-caught fish, and nuts and seeds.
Eating this type of diet can reduce the risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and a variety of unpleasant health conditions according to the above-linked medical review.
In the next sections we'll share our healthy picks from different food categories and their prices. The prices listed are from one sample store in our region of Massachusetts, and may vary nationally.
Healthy Fruit & Veggie Picks
Family Dollar has a relatively limited fruit and vegetable selection. We recommend frozen or dried produce over canned because medical studies show that hormone-disrupting chemicals in can liners can leach into canned food. Here are our healthy fruit & veggie picks:
GoGo Squeez (mashed fruit brand): $2.95
Frozen California blend (carrots, cauliflower, broccoli): $1.50
Frozen okra: $1.50
Frozen Santa Fe blend (corn, black beans, red pepper, green pepper, diced onions): $1.50
Frozen pepper stir fry (onion, red, yellow & green bell peppers): $1.50
Seasoning blend (onion, celery, red and green bell pepper, parsley): $1.50
Raisins 6-pack: $1.25
The frozen veggie mixes are your best bet here. They provide a number of different phytonutrients, decent variety, and are sold at a very affordable price.
Healthy Animal Protein Picks
Like the other two dollar stores we reviewed in this series, fish is the only animal-based protein source that we recommend from Family Dollar. All of their meat options are sourced from conventionally-raised animals, and are often processed.
There is significant medical evidence that processed meat consumption can increase the risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes, so we recommend avoiding it.
Here are some fish options we’d recommend instead:
Pink salmon: $4.60
Of these options we prefer sardines, because they’re high in healthy fish oils like omega-3 which are good for both physical and mental wellbeing. They’re also much lower in mercury than tuna, and cheaper than salmon.
Healthy Carb Picks
For consumers on a budget, carb-based staples like beans and rice should make up most of your meals. They’re extremely cheap and high in nutritional value.
Here are our healthy carb picks from Family Dollar:
Long grain rice: $3.75
Rolled oats: $1.85
Great Northern beans: $1.80
Pinto beans: $1.80
We don’t recommend any Family Dollar grain products like pasta as they’re all enriched with synthetic vitamin blends. Rice and beans are high in fiber and rich in minerals like magnesium and calcium.
Healthy Snack Picks
Family Dollar has a surprisingly good nut selection. We recommend nuts for most of our snack picks because they’re associated with improved health outcomes in many medical studies (and they're convenient and taste great). Here are our snack picks:
Organic Tostitos: $3.95
Triscuit Original: $3.50
Pumpkin seeds: $1.25
Sunflower kernels: $1
This is the best healthy snack selection of all of the dollar stores we reviewed. For those on a really tight budget, you can get plenty of nutrition from peanuts alone which are the cheapest option per ounce.
Generally though we recommend varying your nut consumption because different nuts have different nutrients and health benefits.
The chips are slightly less healthy than nuts, but the two chip brands we highlighted are made entirely with whole foods and free of unhealthy additives.
Family Dollar of course has a huge variety of candy, soda, less healthy chips and other snacks that we don't recommend.
Healthy Drink Picks
Ground coffee: $8.60
Prune juice: $3.10
Green tea: $3.10
Coconut water: $2.75
Black tea bags: $2.50
Apple cider vinegar: $2.50
Water, coffee and tea (mostly water) should make up most of the drinks in a healthy diet in our opinion.
We recommend using a Brita filter (official Amazon link here) and filtering tap water instead of buying bottled water which is more expensive, worse for human health due to the plasticizing chemicals leaching into water (source), and worse for the environment.
Nearly two pounds of ground coffee for under $10 is a great deal. That’s around two month's worth of daily coffee for slightly more than one single large coffee at Starbucks.
Healthy Cooking Oil Picks
Family Dollar has only two cooking oils we recommend:
Olive oil: $4.45
Coconut oil: $3.70
Extra virgin olive oil is one of the healthiest food products in the world, and is shown in medical studies to be one of the core reasons why the Mediterranean diet leads to such great health outcomes.
Healthy Condiment & Spice Picks
For anyone food shopping on a budget, the spice aisle is one of the cheapest ways to get a variety of health-promoting micronutrients. We recommend any and all spices that are free of preservatives and fillers:
Frank's hot sauce: $3.95
Chili powder: $1
Onion powder: $1
Parsley flakes: $1
Crushed red pepper: $1
Ground sage: $1
Himalayan pink salt: $1
Chestnut Hill yellow mustard: $1
We generally recommend single-ingredient spices, as many of the blends contain added sugars and other questionable ingredients.
Healthy Supplement Picks
Similar to Dollar Tree, Family Dollar actually has a decent supplement selection. We don't believe that everyone needs to take dietary supplements, but here are a few that may be worth considering:
Fish oil: $7.15
Vitamin C: $6
Vitamin D: $5
Vitamin D3 can be very useful for individuals at northern latitudes (like Chicago or New York) during the winter when it's impossible to synthesize it from sun exposure. Vitamin C can be useful for those who eat an unhealthy diet and won't get enough from fruits and vegetables.
Fish oil can be a useful supplement for consumers who don't like the taste of fish but want to get the health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids.
The majority of the supplements at Family Dollar (other than those mentioned here) aren't worth the money in our opinion.
Sample Healthy Meal Plan
Even with this relatively limited selection of healthy foods, we want to illustrate how you can combine them into a healthy meal plan for a day:
Breakfast: Bowl of oats and raisins with a large black coffee.
Lunch: Great Northern beans and jasmine rice with sardines, onion powder and sage mixed in, topped with hot sauce.
Dinner: A large California blend salad topped with pecans and olive oil, and a small bowl of white rice as a side. Black tea to drink.
The meals above are healthier than the vast majority of Americans at all income levels are eating, and it’s encouraging to discover that they can be sourced from Family Dollar alone.
A TikTok user named "Beyondfoodmarket" shared his healthy Family Dollar grocery haul:
@beyondfoodmarket making a healthy meal from the dollar store #dollarstore #healthy #Westside ♬ original sound - Beyondfoodmarket
Which Dollar Store is the Healthiest?
Dollar Tree is the healthiest dollar store in our opinion because of their increased fruit and vegetable selection. Dollar Tree not only sells more frozen fruits and veggies than the other two dollar stores (at least based on the stores we visited), but also has a larger variety of dried fruits.
The carb options (mostly beans and rice), the snack options (mostly nuts) and the drink options (mostly coffee, tea and one or two unprocessed fruit juices) are very similar between all three stores.
The prices are slightly better at Dollar Tree than at the other two dollar stores as well.