Think it's possible to make a healthy, balanced meal using just items from the dollar store? I've been wondering. Therefore, I thought, why not see for myself? When the idea for this Dollar Store Healthy Meal Challenge came to mind, I immediately freaked out, though. How in the world can someone make a healthy, balanced dinner from only dollar store items? But I was up for the challenge. And so I tried it.

Before going to the store, I pictured making a meal out of what was available in the store. I figured some of the only dollar store food options I’d find would be gummy worms, fruit punch, and canned peanuts.

And that’s when I realized I had never given a single look at the dollar store food options available. Well, maybe the candy selection before going to the movies. But, I had never even thought of grocery shopping at the dollar store. I didn’t have a clue what was offered there. And when I arrived and actually spent time to search intentionally for healthy food items, I was shocked at what I found.

Dollar Tree, Hamden, CT 8/2014 by Mike Mozart of TheToyChannel and JeepersMedia on YouTube

JeepersMedia on Flickr

What I Found Inside

Almost as soon as I walked into the dollar store food section, there was an aisle with a wide variety of mixed nuts and trail mixes. In the hundreds, even thousands of times I had been to the dollar store, I never realized the amount of healthy snacks they offered. There was even a package of dried seaweed. Dried sea plants are not necessarily my favorite snacks, and they certainly don't make a substantial dinner, but I was amazed to already see trendy, healthy snacks at the dollar store.

Now it was time to get serious. I needed to find healthy dollar store food items that could make up a balanced meal. As I walked down the first aisle, I saw that at the very end of the store, there was a freezer section. Knowing that frozen foods are often more inexpensive than fresh foods, I figured this was the place to go. But I had no idea I'd find so many great items!

The Freezer Isle

Jennifer Campestrini

I was genuinely shocked at how many healthy whole food items I found. As seen in the video, there was a wide array of frozen vegetables like broccoli, spinach, peppers, onions, carrots, cauliflower rice, and combination veggie mixes like a pepper stir-fry. 

Jennifer Campestrini

I also found frozen fruits like strawberries, blueberries, and mangos. I didn't spend too much time here, however, because fruits aren't usually what come to mind for dinner. Still, I was bewildered. Dollar store food includes fruits and veggies? That was amazing to me enough. Later, I found so much more!

Jennifer Campestrini

As seen in the video above, the dollar store food at the dollar store I went to also had a section with frozen meats, poultry, and fish. There, I found frozen raw and pre-seasoned chicken breast strips, frozen raw fish fillets in individual packages, and various meat substitute products, like veggie patties. However, one item caught my eye. 

Jennifer Campestrini

Of the many seasoned varieties offered, there was a fajita-seasoned chicken breast. Upon seeing that, a spark went off in my mind. With the fajita seasoned chicken and the pepper stir-fry I found...I knew I had to make fajitas! My dinner meal was coming together quicker than I had imagined.

Once I knew what I wanted to make for dinner, Chicken Fajitas, I picked up all the frozen items I would need for the main course and the sides I wanted to go along with it. 

The Canned and Packaged Isles

Jennifer Campestrini

Finally, I strolled through the isles to find canned and dried beans and flour tortillas to go along with the meal. I wanted whole wheat tortillas for a healthier option, but this dollar store only had traditional flour tortillas. Everything in moderation, right? 

What I Bought

Here is everything I bought at the dollar store for my dollar store food Chicken Fajitas:

-Fajita Seasoned Chicken Strips (X2)

-Pepper Stir-fry



-Cauliflower rice

-Dried Pinto Beans

-Flour Tortillas

TOTAL: $8.00

Making the Dollar Store Chicken Fajitas

To make the fajitas, I first prepared the side of beans by cooking half of the package for 3-4 hours, blending 1/3 of the beans, combining it all together, and cooking on low for another hour. Meanwhile, I pan-fried the 2 packages of seasoned chicken. Next, I added 1/2 of the package of the pepper stir-fry and corn together with it. In a separate pan, I heated the cauliflower rice and the broccoli as additional sides. When everything was finished cooking, I assembled the plates.

Jennifer Campestrini
Cost Per Serving

My $8.00 at the dollar store produced a super hearty and healthy dinner for 2 people. This isn't even counting the many leftovers from each dollar store food item. All things considered, my $8.00 dollar store purchases could have made up to 4-6 dinner servings (Depending on how hungry you are). That means each serving comes out to potentially less than $2.00 each!

Jennifer Campestrini

Equally as important as it being incredibly inexpensive, it tasted great too. Granted, I wasn't aiming for a 5-star meal result, but this was definitely a win as far as casual dining goes. Also, I didn't add many extra seasonings other than salt and pepper, but you can season your meal however suits your taste buds best. Regardless, this was a great and filling meal. I'm still in shock over the countless healthy options available at the dollar store. Now knowing the options I can find there, I will definitely be making more trips there, even when I want to do some healthy grocery shopping, too.

Share the Challenge

Now it's your turn. Visit your local dollar store and using only the items available in the dollar store, create a healthy meal of your choice. The possibilities are endlessly healthy and delicious!