I went shopping at one of Dollar General's food-focused markets for the first time. I wouldn't go back unless it was the only choice I had. (2024)

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The DG Market I visited was in a strip mall in Fort Washington, Maryland. Walking toward the entrance, I noticed these bright green carts. Carts at a normal Dollar General are yellow — perhaps it was a branding choice meant to emphasize the "fresh" aspect of DG Market. On the other side of the entrance were these rolltainers full of dry pet food. Overall this store was tidy, but these reminded me of my reporting on Dollar General stores that were overrun with merchandise like pet food and bottled water. If you looked closely, you could see evidence of the sign that had been used when this location was a regular Dollar General. I found the section of the store with fresh foods to the right as I walked in. There were definitely fresh items you wouldn't normally find in dollar stores, such as bulbs of garlic, avocados, and bananas. But some space reserved for fresh produce was partially empty or contained shelf-stable packaged foods, like chopped garlic in jars. These bottles of lime juice were in a fruit crate — and right next to fresh limes. Cooler cases had more produce and fresh items. The selection wasn't as extensive as you'd find in traditional supermarkets, but I saw tomatoes, carrots, cucumbers, celery, and ready-to-eat salads. Dollar General has said it doesn't intend for DG Markets to be the same as grocery stores. But in some rural areas, its stores are often the only retail options. Some of the products I saw were priced higher than they were at rival stores. These 8-ounce packs of whole white mushrooms were $2.95 at DG Market — a dollar more than you'd pay at a nearby Aldi. This beef chuck roast was $9.99 per pound, which worked out to almost $22 for this piece. Instacart indicated that beef chuck roast was selling for $6.49 a pound at Food Lion, another grocery chain in the area. All else being equal, I'd buy the Food Lion version and save some money. I was initially interested in these cheddar-and-jalapeno bratwursts, but I changed my mind when I saw how gray they were. (They were still over a week away from their sell-by date.) This sliced ham was by all accounts safe to eat, but it didn't have the appearance of fresh meat, though the label said "fresh." Cases where milk and other dairy products are normally stocked were empty. While I did find some Vitamin D milk down the aisle, I would've been out of luck if I'd needed 2% or skim. I spotted some unusual products, such as these containers of Kool-Aid yogurt. Frozen foods, like TV dinners and pizzas, were well stocked. The store had a wide selection of shelf-stable packaged foods, such as soda and pasta. Once again, the store's prices weren't always as low as rivals' prices. A can of Dollar General's store-brand black beans was $1.35. At a nearby Aldi, a comparable product was $0.73. As I looked around the store, I got more confused about which demographic Dollar General is trying to appeal to with DG Market I could scrape together a week's worth of groceries here, but I'd need to rely heavily on canned and other shelf-stable foods. There were more fresh food options than at other dollar stores I'd been to, but fewer than at a traditional supermarket. Unless this was the only store that sold food nearby, it would be hard for me to justify shopping here regularly. After picking out a few items, including the Kool-Aid yogurt, I headed to the checkout. As I touched the screen on a self-checkout kiosk, a message popped up saying I couldn't use cash to pay for my groceries. I paid using a card. There were no employees at the regular checkout lanes. If I'd had only cash, I would have had to ask an employee working elsewhere in the store to ring me up. Checking out was easy, and I was out of the store in a few minutes. Overall, there was more fresh food at the DG Market than at any other dollar store I'd been to before. But if I lived in the area, I'd do my grocery shopping at a proper grocery store instead. There's a Safeway and a Weis Markets location within a 10-minute drive of the DG Market I visited. The high prices of some items also surprised me. For anyone who's on a budget or who likes to hit up weekly specials, there are definitely better places to shop for food.

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Alex Bitter

I went shopping at one of Dollar General's food-focused markets for the first time. I wouldn't go back unless it was the only choice I had. (1)

  • Dollar General operates about 19,000 stores in the US, 2,700 of which focus on fresh groceries.
  • DG Markets stock produce, meat, and other foods that aren't typically found in dollar stores.
  • I visited a DG Market and found the selection limited and the prices higher than grocery stores.

I went shopping at one of Dollar General's food-focused markets for the first time. I wouldn't go back unless it was the only choice I had. (2)

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I went shopping at one of Dollar General's food-focused markets for the first time. I wouldn't go back unless it was the only choice I had. (3)

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I went shopping at one of Dollar General's food-focused markets for the first time. I wouldn't go back unless it was the only choice I had. (4)

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Dollar General wants to be lots of things, like a bank and a clinic with basic health services.

But one area where it's made a lot of progress, executives say, is in fresh food. Dollar General has spent years opening DG Markets, stores it says have enhanced selections of foods like bananas, cheese, and milk. The company says the goal is to provide customers "with closer access to fresh and healthier foods and a convenient location to purchase the items they want and need at everyday low prices." The company has not disclosed how many DG Markets it has opened, but an Insider search found over 100 locations listed on Google.

Dollar General has also added some of those products to its regular dollar stores. Dollar General plans to have fresh produce in about 5,000 of its 19,000 stores by the end of the year.

Besides DG Fresh stores, Dollar General has an initiative of the same name to expand its distribution capacity for fresh food. The chain expects to sell fresh food in 5,000 of its stores by the end of 2023. Analysts at Coresight Research said in January that while selling food is a logistically tough, minimally profitable business compared with other consumer goods, it could "help dollar stores create a steady stream of repeat customers, driving store traffic."

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To find out whether I could actually do my grocery shopping at a dollar store, I visited a DG Market.

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The DG Market I visited was in a strip mall in Fort Washington, Maryland.

I went shopping at one of Dollar General's food-focused markets for the first time. I wouldn't go back unless it was the only choice I had. (5)

Walking toward the entrance, I noticed these bright green carts. Carts at a normal Dollar General are yellow — perhaps it was a branding choice meant to emphasize the "fresh" aspect of DG Market.

I went shopping at one of Dollar General's food-focused markets for the first time. I wouldn't go back unless it was the only choice I had. (6)

Alex Bitter/Insider

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On the other side of the entrance were these rolltainers full of dry pet food. Overall this store was tidy, but these reminded me of my reporting on Dollar General stores that were overrun with merchandise like pet food and bottled water.

I went shopping at one of Dollar General's food-focused markets for the first time. I wouldn't go back unless it was the only choice I had. (7)

Alex Bitter/Insider

If you looked closely, you could see evidence of the sign that had been used when this location was a regular Dollar General.

I went shopping at one of Dollar General's food-focused markets for the first time. I wouldn't go back unless it was the only choice I had. (8)

Alex Bitter/Insider

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I found the section of the store with fresh foods to the right as I walked in.

I went shopping at one of Dollar General's food-focused markets for the first time. I wouldn't go back unless it was the only choice I had. (9)

Alex Bitter/Insider

There were definitely fresh items you wouldn't normally find in dollar stores, such as bulbs of garlic, avocados, and bananas.

I went shopping at one of Dollar General's food-focused markets for the first time. I wouldn't go back unless it was the only choice I had. (10)

Alex Bitter/Insider

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But some space reserved for fresh produce was partially empty or contained shelf-stable packaged foods, like chopped garlic in jars.

I went shopping at one of Dollar General's food-focused markets for the first time. I wouldn't go back unless it was the only choice I had. (11)

Alex Bitter/Insider

These bottles of lime juice were in a fruit crate — and right next to fresh limes.

I went shopping at one of Dollar General's food-focused markets for the first time. I wouldn't go back unless it was the only choice I had. (12)

Alex Bitter/Insider

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Cooler cases had more produce and fresh items.

I went shopping at one of Dollar General's food-focused markets for the first time. I wouldn't go back unless it was the only choice I had. (13)

Alex Bitter/Insider

The selection wasn't as extensive as you'd find in traditional supermarkets, but I saw tomatoes, carrots, cucumbers, celery, and ready-to-eat salads.

I went shopping at one of Dollar General's food-focused markets for the first time. I wouldn't go back unless it was the only choice I had. (14)

Alex Bitter/Insider

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Dollar General has said it doesn't intend for DG Markets to be the same as grocery stores.

I went shopping at one of Dollar General's food-focused markets for the first time. I wouldn't go back unless it was the only choice I had. (15)

Alex Bitter/Insider

But in some rural areas, its stores are often the only retail options.

I went shopping at one of Dollar General's food-focused markets for the first time. I wouldn't go back unless it was the only choice I had. (16)

Alex Bitter/Insider

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Some of the products I saw were priced higher than they were at rival stores. These 8-ounce packs of whole white mushrooms were $2.95 at DG Market — a dollar more than you'd pay at a nearby Aldi.

I went shopping at one of Dollar General's food-focused markets for the first time. I wouldn't go back unless it was the only choice I had. (17)

Alex Bitter/Insider

This beef chuck roast was $9.99 per pound, which worked out to almost $22 for this piece.

I went shopping at one of Dollar General's food-focused markets for the first time. I wouldn't go back unless it was the only choice I had. (18)

Alex Bitter/Insider

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Instacart indicated that beef chuck roast was selling for $6.49 a pound at Food Lion, another grocery chain in the area. All else being equal, I'd buy the Food Lion version and save some money.

I went shopping at one of Dollar General's food-focused markets for the first time. I wouldn't go back unless it was the only choice I had. (19)

Instacart

I was initially interested in these cheddar-and-jalapeno bratwursts, but I changed my mind when I saw how gray they were. (They were still over a week away from their sell-by date.)

I went shopping at one of Dollar General's food-focused markets for the first time. I wouldn't go back unless it was the only choice I had. (20)

Alex Bitter/Insider

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This sliced ham was by all accounts safe to eat, but it didn't have the appearance of fresh meat, though the label said "fresh."

I went shopping at one of Dollar General's food-focused markets for the first time. I wouldn't go back unless it was the only choice I had. (21)

Alex Bitter/Insider

Cases where milk and other dairy products are normally stocked were empty. While I did find some Vitamin D milk down the aisle, I would've been out of luck if I'd needed 2% or skim.

I went shopping at one of Dollar General's food-focused markets for the first time. I wouldn't go back unless it was the only choice I had. (22)

Alex Bitter/Insider

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I spotted some unusual products, such as these containers of Kool-Aid yogurt.

I went shopping at one of Dollar General's food-focused markets for the first time. I wouldn't go back unless it was the only choice I had. (23)

Alex Bitter/Insider

Frozen foods, like TV dinners and pizzas, were well stocked.

I went shopping at one of Dollar General's food-focused markets for the first time. I wouldn't go back unless it was the only choice I had. (24)

Alex Bitter/Insider

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The store had a wide selection of shelf-stable packaged foods, such as soda and pasta.

I went shopping at one of Dollar General's food-focused markets for the first time. I wouldn't go back unless it was the only choice I had. (25)

Alex Bitter/Insider

Once again, the store's prices weren't always as low as rivals' prices. A can of Dollar General's store-brand black beans was $1.35.

I went shopping at one of Dollar General's food-focused markets for the first time. I wouldn't go back unless it was the only choice I had. (26)

Alex Bitter/Insider

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At a nearby Aldi, a comparable product was $0.73.

I went shopping at one of Dollar General's food-focused markets for the first time. I wouldn't go back unless it was the only choice I had. (27)

Alex Bitter/Insider

As I looked around the store, I got more confused about which demographic Dollar General is trying to appeal to with DG Market

I went shopping at one of Dollar General's food-focused markets for the first time. I wouldn't go back unless it was the only choice I had. (28)

Alex Bitter/Insider

Advertisem*nt

I could scrape together a week's worth of groceries here, but I'd need to rely heavily on canned and other shelf-stable foods.

I went shopping at one of Dollar General's food-focused markets for the first time. I wouldn't go back unless it was the only choice I had. (29)

Alex Bitter/Insider

There were more fresh food options than at other dollar stores I'd been to, but fewer than at a traditional supermarket. Unless this was the only store that sold food nearby, it would be hard for me to justify shopping here regularly.

I went shopping at one of Dollar General's food-focused markets for the first time. I wouldn't go back unless it was the only choice I had. (30)

Alex Bitter/Insider

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After picking out a few items, including the Kool-Aid yogurt, I headed to the checkout.

I went shopping at one of Dollar General's food-focused markets for the first time. I wouldn't go back unless it was the only choice I had. (31)

Alex Bitter/Insider

As I touched the screen on a self-checkout kiosk, a message popped up saying I couldn't use cash to pay for my groceries. I paid using a card.

I went shopping at one of Dollar General's food-focused markets for the first time. I wouldn't go back unless it was the only choice I had. (32)

Alex Bitter/Insider

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There were no employees at the regular checkout lanes. If I'd had only cash, I would have had to ask an employee working elsewhere in the store to ring me up.

I went shopping at one of Dollar General's food-focused markets for the first time. I wouldn't go back unless it was the only choice I had. (33)

Alex Bitter/Insider

Checking out was easy, and I was out of the store in a few minutes.

I went shopping at one of Dollar General's food-focused markets for the first time. I wouldn't go back unless it was the only choice I had. (34)

Alex Bitter/Insider

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Overall, there was more fresh food at the DG Market than at any other dollar store I'd been to before.

I went shopping at one of Dollar General's food-focused markets for the first time. I wouldn't go back unless it was the only choice I had. (35)

Alex Bitter/Insider

But if I lived in the area, I'd do my grocery shopping at a proper grocery store instead. There's a Safeway and a Weis Markets location within a 10-minute drive of the DG Market I visited.

I went shopping at one of Dollar General's food-focused markets for the first time. I wouldn't go back unless it was the only choice I had. (36)

Alex Bitter/Insider

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The high prices of some items also surprised me. For anyone who's on a budget or who likes to hit up weekly specials, there are definitely better places to shop for food.

I went shopping at one of Dollar General's food-focused markets for the first time. I wouldn't go back unless it was the only choice I had. (37)

Alex Bitter/Insider

Dollar General did not respond to a request for comment from Insider on this reporter's experience.

Do you work or shop at Dollar General or DG Market? Reach out to Alex Bitter at abitter@businessinsider.comor via the encrypted messaging app Signal at (808) 854-4501.

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I went shopping at one of Dollar General's food-focused markets for the first time. I wouldn't go back unless it was the only choice I had. (2024)
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