The Dollar Tree D a z e

Under the curse of the gray sky of winter, I find myself poised to incessantly strike at any creative notion my tiny mind concocts. Tonight I bring you the result of just that…

The almighty American dollar may not stretch as far as it used to, but that doesn’t mean I can’t waste some on silly garbage and write about it. I went to a local dollar store with nothing but a crisp $10 bill in my pocket, the dream of my purchases bringing an evening of entertainment, and the hope of finding the discount pleasantries among life’s low priced simplicities. 

My Rules: I can only go over $10 via tax. Immaturity and variety must be the themes within my purchases. I must navigate the store completely blindfolded (I made that last one up to see if you’re paying attention). 

Note: I recommend trying this experiment with a friend or loved one. Mostly because it’s always interesting to find out the excuses they produce to exclude themselves. 

Now The First Annual Ten Dollar Store Shopping Spree! 

I ended up in a fairly new Dollar Tree store that was quiet and organized. Which I realize is a rarity within the realm of dollar stores. There’s almost a feeling of superiority upon entering a store knowing every single item costs a dollar. You realize flashing a one hundred dollar bill could lead to the possibility of the employees silently bowing in respect as they close the store for you to shop in solitude. Or maybe that’s just me. 

Anyway…

For about twenty five minutes I found myself haunting the snack and toy aisles like a whiter, harrier Casper. I was confident with my haul. In fact, I even had to turn down some interesting options. But I had rules to abide by and a sad empty article to write. “For another time…” I thought as I made my way to the checkout aisle to be silently judged by the clerk. 

Now Let’s Dig On In…

Da Goods: 

  • Bag of Haribo Gummy Dinosaurs
  • Slab of Cheese Dip and Breadsticks 
  • Box of Vanilla Moon Pies
  • Zapp’s VoOdOo Potato Chips 
  • Mountain Dew Blue Voltage 
  • Ninja Turtles Activity and Coloring Book
  • The Most Swallowable Optimus Prime 
  • A Unidentifiable Grow “Creature” 
  • 24 Jurassic Park Crayons (Jealous yet?)   
  • Hot Wheels DONUT CAR 

MY TOTAL WAS $10.77

Dollar stores aren’t known for healthy food options. And although I’ve never really been a human raccoon, the point of this exercise was to indulge my inner child. And after my $5 junk food buffet..the next point of this exercise will simply be to exercise. 

The gummy dinos were an easy pick. There’s gummy everything these days so I figured the best option was to eat a bunch of animals that would naturally eat me. Sort of a lazy revenge plot 65 million years too late. The box of Moon Pies is a junk snack I never think about until they’re directly in front of me. I chose the vanilla flavor because I found out they made a vanilla flavor when I was standing in front of a box of vanilla Moon Pies. What a time to be alive.  

Zapp’s Voodoo chips are kettle cooked potato chips that taste like salt and vinegar got into a car accident with barbecue. They honestly could’ve been flavored like toothpaste because I was already sold on the bag littered with little voodoo dolls and old Halloween cassette tape font. The breadsticks with cheese dip reminded me of my brown-baggin’ grade school days and I probably haven’t snacked on these since. I also like how they’re packaged like some sort of cracker snack ammo belt. Lastly I had a Mountain Dew Voltage to wash down all my garbage. Mountain Dew’s flavor choices basically look like a gradient tool these days. But I always admire a beverage that makes people think I’m downing chilled window cleaner. 

Now when it came to junk of a different variety, the dollar store was even more impressive. From tiger puzzles, bags of green army men, knockoff family board games, and neon colored plastic alligators…the dollar store is a proverbial “Who’s Who” of “Shit I Don’t Need”. And I truly appreciate it for that.    

I had dinner…now the entertainment to go with it! The first thing I immediately grabbed was a Rise of The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles coloring and activity book. You could stick the Ninja Turtles logo on a bag of dry mulch and I’d happily buy it. I threw in a Jurassic World crayon pack to assist me in my activity book adventures. I knew they wouldn’t be as quality as the Crayola brand but these had images of dinosaurs wrapped around the crayons. And I’ve always been someone who can overlook one’s faults if wrapped in images of dinosaurs. 

The next thing that caught my eyes were small bags of retro choking hazards disguising themselves as Transformers “mini-figures”. You can’t see the actual figures because they blind you with nostalgia by using the original Transformers box art. And it worked on me anyway. I picked Optimus Prime and although I’ll end up losing him by the end of this article he’s pretty rad for being the size of a Starburst. I find it humorous that dollar store Transformers don’t actually transform. You want Optimus to be a truck now? What is this? Walmart? He’s a dollar, man. He stays a robot. 

Yet the Hot Wheels were conveniently displayed to rectify the disappointment left by our Non-Transforming Transformer robots. Front and center was a Pink Donut Racing Car called the “Fast Foodie”. Ha. That’s good. And when you’re in that aisle with an armful of junk food and see a Hot Wheel shaped like a donut amongst all “regular” cars…you don’t call that happenstance…that’s called “fate” my friend. And you add it to the pile. 

Lastly at the end of the aisle was a display of Grow Creatures. They had a classic selection featuring sharks, alligators, mermaids, dinosaurs, and MONSTER FACE. Grows 600 PERCENT the package claimed. Are you listening to me? I could throw this guy into a bowl and wake up to the sound of him absorbing my block! This was easily the most confident purchase of the entire lot. Grab a handful of Zapp’s Voodoo chips as I watch my shrunken head grow. Life ain’t so bad. 

BUT IT CAN BE DISAPPOINTING…

Directions on the package stated it takes up to ten days for Monster Face to achieve full growing potential, which makes it one of the most patient toys I ever purchased. So I got cozy and documented Monster Face’s (now named “Sigourney”) progress. It was like watching a super delayed allergic reaction to bee stings. I noticed it stopped growing around Day 4. I can’t say it’s large enough to absorb my block. I don’t think it can even absorb my bath mat. Perhaps common tap water isn’t the best for growing monster heads? But I ended up with a cold clamy creature the size of a baseball. Now I don’t know what to do with it. What did anyone do with these things once they were “done” anyway?

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Even though the deconstruction of my purchases definitely broadcasts Lonely Manchild: Party of One vibes, this could be a fun experiment between friends or partners as you can learn a lot about someone through their purchases. What may seem nonsensical could lead to an interesting conversation, nostalgic recalling, or solemn discovery of one’s personal being. 

Or maybe they just like off brand cheeseballs. It can go either way really. 

As a kiddo, a trip to the dollar store often led to an excuse for me to leave with a sugary soda pop, a pack of outdated NBA trading cards, or an action figure that looked like Ultimate Warrior’s less impressive cousin Barry. And this is still an excuse…just with a ten dollar price tag to escape the monotony of adulthood. Sometimes the getaway is a low rent scavenger hunt that ends up looking like you looted a first grader’s birthday party. 

The key to this exercise is childlike wonderment. Though the junk food might make you realize you’re no longer a child as you’re propped up like a Jabba the Hutt puppet popping antacids. But that’s neither here nor there. If you choose to do this experiment I wish you Good Luck and Happy Dollar Days! And be sure to remember: this is only what you make of it!

Now, excuse me, I have to finish a Ninja Turtle word search and have 14 cracker logs with artificial cheese goop to devour. 

I Ate Ninja Turtles Kid Cuisine

I’ve yet to come across someone from my generation that doesn’t know what Kid Cuisine is. Whether recalling the penguin mascot on the box or the icy blue plastic tray it came in, others recollections of it are surprisingly fond. And with so many iconic childhood brands going the way of the dodo, it’s remarkable that you can still find Kid Cuisine nestled comfortably in your local freezer section.

I know this because I just bought one from my local freezer section.

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This site has hit an all time low.

No, I didn’t buy it because I had a hankering for soggy cardboard cheese pizza. Nor did I get a craving for soupy slimy mac and cheese. I didn’t yearn for spongey chicken nuggets and a “brownie” so hard it could break a kitchen window. I bought it because it featured the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. And anyone that knows me understands you can slap a Ninja Turtle on anything and I’ll buy it. Case and point: Kid Freaking Cuisine.

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A Kid Cuisine Vanity Shot.

I was never particularly fond of Kid Cuisine. I think I just felt, as a kid, it was my duty to eat Kid Cuisine. It’s right there in the title after all. This time around after a nostalgic conversation with my girlfriend I found myself in the “frozen dinner” section for curiosities sake. Lo and behold, towards the bottom of the freezer they be for a mere $1.97. The presence of Ninja Turtles coupled with the diarrhea the meal would surely cause reinforced my purchase. And to bring everything full circle I realized I could write about this on my virtual tumbleweed of a website. Now as I put this in writing I realize it is very sad.

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The activity I did located on the back of the box whilst waiting for my dinner.

I put my tray in the oven at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. I crushed the activity on the back of the box in about 25 seconds. Writing the Turtles names and weapons down? Please! I scoffed confidently. I pondered why I was doing this exactly. That took some time. Before I could come up with any discernible answer my food was about ready.  And here it is…

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It’s food! (?)

For anybody who wants the details it’s Cowabunga Popcorn Chicken with fries, corn, and Shell Shocked Chocolate Cookies. You’d think a Ninja Turtle themed meal would contain PIZZA. But at this point I realized I was giving too much thought to my frozen children’s meal. I mean, I probably have the longest review on a Kid Cuisine out there right now. And if that’s true, it’s an accomplishment I’ll relish to the grave.

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The new TMNT logo was on the “Shell Shocked” cookies. That was the peak for me.

Now, I’m no food critic. I don’t have sophisticated tastes (I took pictures of a Ninja Turtle doll next to a frozen dinner). I grew up on Happy Meals and think Taco Bell is high culinary art. But I do like to watch Gordon Ramsey television shows. So I have some training in that regard.

THE GOOD

  • The tray is blue. Which is fun. Most trays are not blue.
  • The Cowabunga Popcorn Chicken could be kinda sorta maybe passable with a decent dipping sauce.
  • The Ninja Turtles were on the box. And their logo was on the “cookies”.

THE BAD

  • Everything tasted like the packaging it came in.
  • Corn tasted like packing peanuts. The fries were bland mush. The cookies were literally a bag filled with nobody’s favorite part of an off brand Oreo.
  • I felt sad eating it.

To be frank, it was awful. But it was just a microwavable kids meal for $1.97. And when you’re a kid…you’re picky and your taste palette sucks. So maybe this would be passable to the average 5 year old I don’t know. Taking what I remember about previous Kid Cuisines, I would’ve had a pizza, that weird brownie thing (with some green “ooze” icing) and maybe a Ninja Turtles sticker/trading card/temporary tattoo in the box.

In conclusion, I can’t believe I’m writing about this much more posing it for pictures. I guess it adds to the eccentric charm of my website. I’m not going to recommend this to adults or children. And with the “clean and healthy” eating angle my generation pushes, I’m sort of astonished that these are still around. I’m not saying that because I think you shouldn’t feed trash to your kids, I’m simply saying there’s much tastier trash you could be feeding your kids.

This is just the consequences of being a shill to a brand you love. A slave to my Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Cowabunga, dudes. Cowabunga.

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