Consumer Reports' Shop Smart magazine surveyed 1,500 women and found about 75 percent of them are shopping at dollar stores more than they used to.
"Dollar stores are really growing and expanding into a lot of new markets, and many people who maybe never shopped them before are giving them a second look in this economy," said Jody Rohlena of Consumer Reports.
Favorite purchases include paper and plastic goods, cleaning products, party supplies, storage items and toiletries.
Supermarket Shop Smart also sent out secret shoppers to check prices on 38 everyday products. They shopped at Dollar General and Family Dollar. Then they compared the prices at Wal-Mart, Target and some supermarkets.
"Wal-Mart had the lowest prices on the most items," Rohlena said. "Supermarkets had the highest prices by far. But dollar stores were really competitive."
In fact, Dollar General had the best deals on Jif peanut butter, Planters mixed nuts, a box of Lipton iced tea, Heinz ketchup and a two-liter bottle of Coca Cola, with savings anywhere from 12 percent all the way up to 28 percent. And Shop Smart found consumers can save even more on private-label brands at dollar stores.
"The dollar stores have really changed a lot, especially over the last five years or so," Rohlena said. "They're better organized, they have cleaner aisles, they have a lot more stuff and they're really designed to get you in and out very quickly."
Shop Smart's survey shows the biggest complaint among the women surveyed was the limited selection and availability. But dollar stores, especially big chains like Dollar General, Family Dollar, Dollar Tree and 99 Cents Only, are working hard to change that, stocking up on more big brand-name products and rolling out new and improved stores across the country.