Courtesy of Rebecca Chobat
- More people are shopping for food at dollar stores as inflation bites and food prices soar.
- Dollar Tree Dinners, a TikTok page run by Rebecca Chobat, shows shoppers how to cook on a budget.
- Chobat says it’s possible to eat a varied weekly diet using $35 worth of Dollar Tree groceries.
TikToker Rebecca Chobat has been using her channel to show that it’s possible to eat a varied diet for a week while spending just $35 on groceries at Dollar Tree.
Under the alias Dollar Tree Dinners, 30-year-old Chobat has been creating videos on TikTok for eight months to inform her followers about how they can eat well on a budget with food bought from the discount chain.
Explaining why she started creating the videos, Chobat said on a recent phone call with Insider, “It wasn’t really about me or my household. I was thinking about the types of people who have to use Dollar Tree as a resource for their groceries – people with limited transportation, college students, and people who live in food deserts in the US.”
Her videos and recipes have caught the attention of cash-strapped shoppers over the past year as food prices in the US soared and core inflation hit a 40-year high. One of her early TikTok videos, posted last June, showed how to make a KFC Famous bowl with Dollar Tree ingredients. The video quickly went viral.
Dollar stores have been gaining market share in the grocery sector. According to a recent report from Coresight Research, Dollar Tree, and Dollar General ranked in the top five retailers from which consumers bought food in 2022.
Dollar Tree stores have mostly sold non-perishable items in the past.
Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images
The lack of fresh food at discount stores has been a point of contention. These chains are growing at a rapid rate in the US and critics – such as the consumer advocacy group, Institute for Local Self-Reliance – say that dollar stores often move into towns, force competitors out by undercutting them on price, and create food deserts by not offering an adequate grocery selection. But increasingly, these chains are expanding their grocery assortment to grow their reach.
While grocery items are generally lower-margin goods, they help drive traffic to stores and are more likely to lead to repeat customers.
Dollar Tree, which also owns Family Dollar, said in an earnings call this month that it had been “aggressively expanding” its selection of frozen and refrigerated products, and working to bring refrigerators to more stores.
Meanwhile, Dollar General, said it would have fresh produce in 3,000 of its stores by fiscal 2023, and up to 10,000 stores over the next few years. It has more than 19,000 stores.
A revolving door of products
Chobat said it’s easier than you might think to shop for groceries at Dollar Tree – though the food selection can vary substantially from store to store. It’s also easy to cook different meals each week because the product selection constantly changes, she said.
“It’s a little like a revolving door; its shelves are never stocked in the same way from one week to the next,” Chobat said.
Many Dollar Tree stores have a selection of fresh and frozen foods, which are sold at its price point of $1.25, which has been in effect since 2021, and increasingly, more items that cost $3 and $5.
Food items costing $1.25 might include small blocks of cheese, milk, frozen fruits and vegetables, chicken nuggets, and ice cream, Chobat said. Other locations might have a single raw fish filet or chicken breast for $1.25 and ground beef at the $3 and $5 price points. There’s also a ton of tinned foods.
Items like cauliflower rice, coconut flour, or low-carb potato mash will also occasionally crop up, she said.
Her $35 weekly menu included pancakes or sausage and gravy biscuits for breakfast, crispy tacos with black bean filling for lunch, and smoked sausage alfredo pasta for dinner. While she’s savvy with her batch cooking and repeats certain items, it’s a pretty diverse menu overall.
These videos are having a real impact, according to Chobat. One follower told her she was able to afford school supplies for her kids at the start of the school year in September because she cut down on grocery costs by following these recipes.
“I get those messages fairly frequently but that one really struck home for me,” Chobat said.