Times are tough. As someone who has been through tough times before, I’ve been kicking this idea around in my head for quite some time. I’ve been seeing a lot of really beautiful charcuterie platters on Instagram and the like and I began to wonder how broke me would have recreated them on a budget just a few years ago. Enter your humble local Dollar Tree store.
It has only been a few years since I was still push-starting my car to save the tow truck fee so I could afford to fix it on payday and scraping together change to buy a box of spaghetti and a jar of sauce, and sometimes a box of frozen garlic bread if I could find enough change. (We were thankfully never so poor we missed a meal.) In my old neighborhood I was walking distance to a Dollar Tree, which came in handy for the years I didn’t have a car and the times after that when I was broke and the car was in the shop.
What I learned in those years is that the Dollar Tree often gets things that are leftovers from other stores, like the $4 loaves of whole wheat bread that will expire in a week that were just removed from the regular grocery store. It’s a great place to find pantry items like chicken stock, beans, and spices. You can also regularly find luxury items like fancy crackers, olives, pepperoni slices, cheese, and more. Basically, you can find plenty of options for a nice charcuterie plate to snack on while you are binge-watching holiday movies with your family, or once it is safe again to make for a “bring a dish” type of party.
So I headed over to my former neighborhood to scour the aisles of the Dollar Tree for charcuterie-makings and found quite a bit more than expected, but, alas, no pepperoni. It’s hit and miss, but there’s always plenty to go by.
Charcuterie platters have a few basic elements: meats of some kind, typically cured, cheeses, crackers, fruits, nuts, and accompaniments such as olives and pickles. Sometimes there will be some honey, mustard, jam, or other wet items, but I tend to not use those much. It’s all about building a snack platter you will like, so give yourself some flexibility. For under $11, here’s what I got:
You have A LOT of options here. There are your typical saltines, clubhouse-style, and things like that, but you can also usually find the fancy crackers that are $3-4 dollars at your local grocery chain. My good friend The Cheese Dude taught me that crackers should be as neutral as possible and are really only a vehicle for getting cheese into your face, so often I don’t even get crackers. But when I do it’s usually the fancy ones. I went for the blue box – Monet. I also grabbed a pack of Greta olive and oregano crackers, usually $2 for a small pack, because sometimes you just want a little extra flavor.
Meats & Cheeses
Again, you never know what you will find at the Dollar Tree. I’ve seen everything from cheese cubes to crumbled feta in the refrigerated section. For meats you have a lot of options for cured stuff, which is typically what charcuteries is all about anyway. On my recent trip they were sadly out of pepperoni, so I opted for a Slim Jim for the meat. They also had those P3 packs, which are like lunchables for adults, which had chicken or turkey cubes along with nuts and cheese cubes, so those could be an easy base for a Dollar Tree charcuterie plate. They even have combo packs of jerky and cheese sticks. For the cheese, I got some mozarella sticks and a block of pepperjack.
This is where you get to fill in the gaps with all your favorite snacky stuff. Most plates have olives and pickles of some kind along with some kind of fruit, fresh or dried. The Dollar Tree has a ton of options for nuts, dried fruits, pickles, olives, and chocolates. I got a can of medium black pitted olives, a bag of dried pineapple and papaya, a jar of small sweet pickles, and a bag of semi-sweet chocolate chunks. I thought about the sun-dried tomatoes and I wish I’d grabbed the jar of pesto, but overall I think I got a good variety for my Dollar Tree charcuterie plate. There were marinated mushrooms, hot peppers, and lots of other options.
If you are able, definitely support your local charcuterie box purveyor. We have tons of options in Louisville, from Charcuterie at Home to Board & You, and they are so popular right now you are highly likely to be able to find someone in your own neighborhood. If you want the fanciest cheeses to build your own mega board, check out Lotsa Pasta in Louisville – and be sure to grab some caper berries.
Photos courtesy of Maggie Kimberl