The 99¢ Only Store is 100% Awesome

Join me as we enter a world of off-brand hilarity (and actual bargains!) at my local 99¢ Only store.

Nov 21, 2011 at 2:00pm | Leave a comment

Every town has a dollar store, but there's something about the California-centric 99¢ Only chain that truly stands out. I've been a fan since moving to Los Angeles a decade ago. The stores are well-lit, nicely organized and offer enough fresh produce and basics that they kept me fed during some tough spells between paychecks back in the day.

I'm not saying it was gourmet eating (though chefs have attempted to elevate 99¢ ingredients), but it kept me alive, and sometimes -- especially after an expensive relocation -- that's the most you can hope for.

It's been a long time since I've eaten anything from the 99¢ Only store, but I still stop by from time to time to pick up random things like desk calendars, bubble wrap, plants and fridge magnets. Since it's been a while, and since the stock changes so frequently, I decided to stop in tonight and see if anything caught my eye. All the usual and useful basics were still being offered, and I came across some other new and noteworthy items I thought I should highlight here for your enjoyment.

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While 99¢ Only stores do, in fact, stock foods that are actually edible, they also seem to be a clearing house for foods that never quite made it out of the testing stages -- and looking at some of them, it's pretty easy to figure out what went amiss.

I'm not sure why someone would be looking to Larry the Cable Guy (warning: sound) for help with dinner, but in case you're that someone, you can pick up his Fish Fry or Chicken Fry batter mixes for a song. I know his catchy slogan "You gotta try it!" has me convinced.

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If you'd like to round out your meal, there are also Larry the Cable Guy baking mixes for Cornbread and Beer Bread. The warning on the back of the Beer Bread box had me in stitches. Who knew Larry was such a stickler for the law ... or that he likes to top his fried fish with a delightful sprig of parsley? He's a gourmand and a bon vivant, that one.

When is a food not a food? Well, you can usually tell when the spelling is a wee bit off. As is the case with this curious product:

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No, it's not "sour cream." It's SOURCREME. I love weird food spellings like this, and after looking at the ingredients list, I can tell you that the word "unreal" is not merely referring to the low price of this product.

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Wow, that sounds "creme"-y indeed! Just to give you some perspective, I went to Kraft's website and looked up the ingredients of their sour cream: CULTURED PASTEURIZED GRADE A MILK AND CREAM, ENZYMES. CONTAINS: MILK. I feel cheated!

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Street art is very popular in L.A., but I'm not sure that using a faux-marker font and some sploshy clip art will bring hipster cred to a boring, old-fashioned candy like taffy. This bizarre rebranding attempt did give me the idea for my new rapper name, though: MC TAFFY.

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Have I been living under a rock? Are cake-flavored marshmallows a "thing" now? Looks like this is a byproduct of that whole inbred dessert phenomenon. Somewhere, in a sugar-scented laboratory, a diabolical hybrid of Willy Wonka and Dr. Moreau is watching us eat this stuff and and he's laughing. Ha...ha HA HA!!

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If you're all hopped up on cake-flavored marshmallows, purchasing a battery-powered dog tag that senses sound and movement and sends updates to Twitter based on those movements probably seems like a really good idea. I bypassed the 'mallows and went straight to testing the limits of my relationship with my chihuahua.

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OK, so the tag is a little big for her. She still wore it for a few hours without complaint, and sure enough her movements were tracked by the computer, which automatically sent updates to her newly set-up Twitter account.

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OBVIOUSLY these are all pre-programmed updates, but the really scary thing is that I was actually doing laundry when it sent the tweet pictured above -- and Dizzy had JUST followed me into the laundry room and started barking at the washing machine. YOU SCARE ME, PUPPY TWEETS!

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That dog should just count her lucky stars that I didn't try to dress her up in one of these nylon mesh humiliation coats. I thought it was a big pile of cheapo polyester "lingerie" at first due to the animal prints, unbreathable fabrics, and badazzlements -- but no, you're actually supposed to put these on your dog. You know, for the next time they decide to trip the light fantastic at the local disco.

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As any pet owner knows, things can occasionally get stinky when you have furballs running around the house. Good thing you can always turn to those lovable, yarn-haired perfumiers, Raggedy Ann and Andy. They've put their stuffing-filled heads together to come up with a line of home fragrances that say "I buy my home fragrances at the 99¢ Only store." The nose has it, as they say -- and in this case, the nose is made from felt.

Not gonna lie, if they'd had a "clean laundry" scent (which they so should, seeing as they are MADE OF FABRIC), I would have bought it. On that note: here's what I did buy (that isn't a creepy, tweeting dog tag):

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BUMPITS, the plastic hairdo enhancers with which you can Snooki-fy your look. Lord help me, I've wanted to try these for years, but never wanted to pay actual money to do so. At 99¢, I barely did! If I start having BIG HAIR in future photos, you'll know why.

Plus I got an organic cotton mint-striped shirt (I have a striped shirt problem like Emily has a polka-dot problem) and a copy of the unauthorized Madonna bio written by her brother Christopher -- another item I had lusted for, yet would not stoop to buying at retail. Yep, 99¢ Only store...YOU'VE STILL GOT IT!

Believe it or not, I haven't even shared HALF of my odd finds with you. Did you know they made limited edition Halloween Cap'n Crunch that turned the milk GREEN? Why were these never at the "real" grocery store?! More importantly: Do you frequent the favorite dollar store? What's the weirdest thing you've ever seen on their shelves?