Many people, including, once upon a time, me, typically avoid the dollar store at all costs. That's a big mistake. And a costly one.

My (former) impression of the dollar store scene: Chaotic aisles of miscellaneous, random stuff that no one really wants or needs. Plus, who has hours to rifle through piles and pallets to find something that will only save a dollar or two?

But after a visit, I stand corrected! Here are some of my cartloads of fab discoveries that saved a small fortune.

1. Food. 16-ounce bags of frozen vegetables, large baguettes, jars of spaghetti sauce and boxes of pasta: You can feed a family of four for under $5. 

2. Office supplies. High-quality notepads, desk calendars (themes included the New York Yankees, Disney (Stock Quote: DIS) characters and zen thoughts of the day), leather journals, steel-blade scissors, highlighters, an entire array of 3M (Stock Quote: MMM) Post-it products, all a dollar each. No joke, you can stock your office—sans the furniture and intern—for a cool $10.

3. Gifts. Welcome to candle central. You’ll find the same shapes and scents as those seen in high-end stores, plus holders in vintage-inspired colored glass, chic votive and mini Nambé-esque styles. And, yes, they’re 99 cents each. Candles, another buck. Plus, a set of 20 gift bags…you guessed it: one dollar.

4. Tools. I’m not handy, but if I were, I’d load up on one-dollar man gadgets, like pliers, hammers, tire gauges, screwdrivers, drill bits and the list goes on. Sure, they’re not designer labels, but until Gucci puts out a luxe line of Allen wrenches, I’m fine with off-brands.

5. Crafts.
I’m not crafty either, but at the dollar store you can afford to unleash your financial stress onto a blank canvas or other potential work of art. For one dollar each, you’ll find bags of sequins, beads, shells, magnets, neon erasers, markers, chalk, faux feathers and wooden buttons. Not impressed? They also had kits to make your own wallets, spaceships, dog tags and costumes.  Let the pop art begin!

6. Beauty
. Can you really put a price on beauty? The dollar store can. One-buck nail files, eyelash curlers, pedicure sets, tweezers, loofahs, aromatherapy soaps, bath oils, and back brushes mean you can bring your spa habit home for a ten spot. No tip required.

7. Socks. You haven’t lived until you’ve seen a wall of socks. Floor to ceiling, every color from black to neon, every length from footie to tube, and pattern including solids, stripes, argyle and herringbone. It’s a total trip. A quick online comparison found similar styles $8 and up.

8. Barware. Call them shot glasses, call them bud vases, call them dessert flutes—I found an array of multipurpose cylindrical beauties next to the mother load of cocktail steals, including glasses for martinis, wine, juice and [insert creative use here].  Plus, corkscrews, bottle openers, shakers and more…an intoxicating buck each.

BONUS: A few solid deals for just more than a dollar. Even more sweet steals abound if you’re willing to spend a few bucks: $8 Sony (Stock quote: SNE) speakers, $3 MP3-friendly headphones, $25 stock pots ($80 and up at kitchen stores), $5 sushi sets, $3 mod lampshades, $2 aged balsamic vinegar, $3 men’s loungewear pants, $7 B.U.M. backpacks, $6 fitness medicine balls, $8 paper shredders, $4 five-function alarm clock radios and $12 platters (retailing for $45 and up at hip home retailers). Let the savings begin!