If you've ever strolled down a grocery aisle, picked up an item, checked the price, and whispered something like "Damn, this much?!" under your breath — I see you. The cost of groceries continues to rise, so much so that even those considered to be wealthy are shopping at discount retailers.
Grocery shopping can really be a challenge, especially when you're trying your best to stretch your budget to buy ingredients that'll last at least a week. Throw having a whole family in the mix, and grocery shopping might as well be an extreme sport. But one budget-conscious TikToker by the name of Rebecca is using her platform, @dollartreedinners, to prove to viewers that you don't need to spend a fortune to create meals that are delicious and satisfying. With her viral series "Budget Grocery Week," Rebecca takes viewers along with her to shop at Dollar General and Dollar Tree, often with a budget between $25 and $35 to feed herself for the week.
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♬ original sound - Dollar Tree Dinners
TikTok: @dollartreedinners / Via tiktok.com
Though budget-friendly grocery shopping videos aren't unique to Rebecca, her approach to this type of content is: Unlike other accounts that make "challenges" around budget shopping, Rebecca's videos feature tips and strategies that her viewers find actionable and useful, regardless of the circumstances they find themselves in. "I try to keep in mind that not everyone who's on a budget necessarily has hours on end to spend in the kitchen cooking food," Rebecca says in her TikTok. She continues, "I don't like calling these videos a 'challenge,' because someone out there only has $35 a week to spend on groceries, and this is geared to help those individuals. So I feel like calling it a 'challenge' sometimes makes a game out of someone's lifestyle."
In her videos, Rebecca dedicates one day to grocery shopping for the week and then shows how she puts together the ingredients to make delicious meals. "My history with budgeting has taught me so much," Rebecca told BuzzFeed. "I've personally been in a position where the only money I had for food and gas was from donating plasma each week. I got very good at making the most of a small grocery budget out of necessity, and that was back in 2012."
In combing through the comments that many of Rebecca's 1 million followers routinely leave on her posts, it's evident that her viewers wholeheartedly resonate with her past struggles when they share details on their own:
Though Rebecca generally has a positive following, there are some TikTok users who seemingly perpetuate the stigma surrounding shopping for groceries at stores like Dollar Tree and Dollar General. Rebecca told BuzzFeed, "My comments are always a complete dichotomy: People either love it or hate it. But I'm not here to convince anybody why they should be shopping at dollar stores, it's more for helping those who already do, or for providing a tool for those who are struggling week after week." In fact, Rebecca has a TikTok titled "Why I Make Dollar Tree Cooking Videos" to address those who are critical of her TikToks.
Rebecca also frequently sees opposition from those concerned about how "healthy" her meals are, which often heavily utilize processed foods and use canned and frozen vegetables in lieu of fresh produce. She told BuzzFeed, "Health is different for each individual. For some individuals, being 'healthy' is just the difference between eating something and not eating. I make all varieties of meals — I've even done low-sodium and diabetic-friendly Dollar Tree meals. I think that the big gap lies in the lack of fresh produce, but so many Americans have such limited access to it. Canned and frozen vegetables are still vegetables, and canned meat is still protein."
These days, Rebecca is finding that her content resonates far beyond just individuals with lower incomes. Inflation is affecting everyone — even shoppers who are considered to be financially well-off. Dollar General's CEO recently told CNN that they've been attracting more and more customers who make between $75,000–$100,000 a year due to inflation. As it appears, having the option between two products that serve the same purpose but differ drastically in price can really make a difference, especially for those who only have a small amount in their bank accounts to spare solely for groceries.
Even so, Rebecca's focus on these stores actually has more to do with accessibility than it does with pricing. "I don't share dollar store content because it's the cheapest," she said. "I share Dollar General and Dollar Tree content because those stores are so prevalent nationwide. Dollar Tree is particularly helpful due to the fixed pricing and flat rate of $1.25 prices, so I know that my followers in New York and California, where the cost of living is higher, can still make my recipes for the same price as I do in Virginia."
Rebecca has a ton of recipes to look through and choose from, so if you're browsing through her TikTok and don't know where to start, she has a few recommendations: "My favorite recipes are always evolving. I'm fond of some classics, like my KFC Famous Bowl, which was the video that essentially built my platform."
Rebecca continued, "Honestly, though, I think some of the most helpful videos that I make are my $20 holiday meals. They are creative and adaptive, and I feel like they humanize being on a budget while still being able to have and enjoy a special meal with your family." In one TikTok, which has nearly 4 million views, Rebecca cooks Christmas dinner for six people using ingredients that total $20.
Ultimately, Rebecca's content presents her viewers with options for what they can do and cook in the kitchen with the resources they have available to them. When addressing a comment that degraded her cooking to just "adding water and stirring," Rebecca said in a TikTok, "I don't think [people who comment insensitively] always take everybody's situations into account. There is nothing wrong with adding water and stirring because for some people, that's all they have and all they can do. And that's okay." As inflation and accessibility continue to affect the cost of living, the stigma surrounding discount retailers is shrinking. As Rebecca says, "You make the best use of what's available to you. You live the best life that you possibly can."
Have you tried any of Rebecca's Dollar Tree dinners? What are some grocery shopping tips and tricks you have that work for you? What are your go-to, budget-friendly meals? Share with us in the comments!
For more budget-friendly meals, you can follow Rebecca on TikTok.