This a challenge set forth to me, and I wanted to extend it to anyone interested in a friendly little competition.
I was complaining to someone recently that I have the worst luck at thrift stores finding anything really great...That one "score" that remains a cherished object in your home forever...The one thing that you wonder how someone ever parted with it.
Well, I have my theories about why the thrift stores around here are cleaned out, but one place I do have good discount shopping luck at is the "dollar store" (including 97, 98, and 99 cent stores). I almost always can find a treasure at the dollar store, be it an item that was overstocked at a retail store, or a cheap item that I can re-purpose to look like it cost more than a dollar.
The dollar store is also my first stop when I am planning a party. No matter what the theme, I have always found something that can be used for serving, decor, or party favors. And mind you, these "treasures" are things that other people cannot believe I found at the dollar store. The dollar store is also good for gift basket fillers. For example, I recently included a 99 cent burp cloth with a baby shower gift for a friend. She held it up at the shower and exclaimed how it was the cutest burp cloth she had ever seen (she was being honest - I know her sarcasm). I held my breath and looked around, worried that others had probably seen the same burp cloth at the 99 Cent Only store. A couple of people looked suspicious, and maybe they clued the mother-to-be in later. The rest of the gift cost a lot more than 99 cents, so hopefully I am vindicated.
The one aspect of the dollar stores I have not delved into to any extent is the food. There is the occasional box of crackers or candy bar, but I have not bought any meal fixings there. I am intrigued by some of the labels, and a decent portion of the food at one store even claims to be organic.
The challenge that was proposed to me, and now I propose to you, is to make a "gourmet" meal and set a "nice" table using nothing but items from the dollar store. You can get as into it as you like, but it will be more fun the more items you include in the setting of the table and preparing the meal that came from the dollar store (keeping in mind a lot of the food items are 2 or 3 for 99 cents).
Price Limit: I guess we should set a price limit - maybe $40? That is cheaper than eating out at a nicer restaurant, and maybe you will even get some new dishes out of it.
Eligible Stores: The main chain dollar stores around here are the 99 Cent Only store, and the Dollar Tree, but any store that sells all of its items for a dollar or less would be eligible. The Target Dollar Spot is also fair game. Of course, you may have to supplement your food or decor items with items from other stores/sources, but think how much fun it will be to show off how many items you obtained at a particular dollar store!
Deadline: How about we set the deadline of Sunday, February 5? Send me a picture and description and cost of the items used in the preparation and presentation of your meal via email (firstname.lastname@example.org), and I will post a blog entry where we can vote on the best submission(factors to consider include high usage of dollar store items, creativity, and pulling it all together). If "voting" through the comments section of that blog entry does not seem to be working, I will take the top 3 entries to my local 99 Cents Only store and have the clerks decide the winner.
**PRIZE**: I'm sorry I cannot offer more, but I kind of get the feeling this is going to be a "competition" of one (heh heh - nervous self-doubting laugh). But the prize, with the hope that there is more than my entry, is a $25 gift card to Maggiano's Little Italy restaurant (also good at Chilis, Macaroni Grill, On the Border, Corner Bakery, and Big Bowl Asian Kitchen). I guess some of these restaurants are located internationally, so if you have an equivalent of a U.S. $1 store and at least one of these restaurants nearby, by all means enter!
Other notes: Remember to look for items that can be used differently than intended! And have fun! Email me with an any questions.
Small Print: I've never done anything like this before, so I'm not really sure what to expect. I doubt it will get out of hand, but if it does I reserve the right to cancel the contest at any time.