Every year I try and make it to a .99 Cent Store near me to see if there are any diamonds in the rough. I have three, count 'em THREE, in a 2 mile radius of me and all were boasting (with large neon-orange banners) that THEY were the "Halloween Headquarters." So I spun my car in a circle and headed for one.
My experience with .99 Cent Stores is generally the same 9 out of 10 times I go to one: I walk in and find the Halloween section to be completely ransacked, as if some great Halloween-decoration-war had taken place and the black and orange casualties lay where they fell in battle. Skeletons missing limbs. Jack o' Lantern antennae bent. Dogs and cats living together... mass hysteria.
I went up and down both aisles looking for some hidden gems in the decorations. Nothing. At least nothing that appealed to me. I know a good buy when I see one, and unfortunately the 2011 batch at this particular store didn't have any. Plus I always have in the back of my mind "Hmmm... this item must be at the .99 cent store for a reason... like... it's covered with lead paint... or... the orange dish with the black cat on it has been known to cause heart failure in men infatuated with Halloween..."
Not wanting to give up and leave without a purchase (I mean, hey, everything IS only .99 CENTS...) I decided I would try and find some candy to purchase. Maybe the gold I was panning for would turn up in the candy aisle. I left with 3 items (technically 4 but it was 2 for .99 for one particular item) and took 'em home to see if they would be worth the review.
BLACK FOREST JUICY OOZERS GUMMY SKULLS
You can't go wrong with brand names as there's some semblance of quality behind them. I happened to know Black Forest from their previous work: Gummy Bears.
I'm not normally a "juicy" candy guy, but my pickin's were slim and the fact that they were SKULLS, I went for it.
Amazingly there is a lot of detail in the face of the skull.
Teeth, a cracked bony skull, nose and an evil looking brow and eyes makes for a sinister skull. Me likey.
Taste? Pretty darn good. The bag tipped me off to the flavor "Juicy Cherry Centers" and it's a fruity tart (but not sour) artificial cherry flavor. You can even smell it when you open the bag. CHERRY.
Skull Crushers" candies which were bigger, and more manageable for biting in half to see the candy blood flow.
I'm sure kids will like to bite 'em in half and see the "blood" in the middle (and I'm not going to lie, I tried it once) but it's certainly not necessary to the enjoyment of the candy.
My only gripe was that the skulls seemed a bit rubbery. Then I flipped the bag over and saw what I suspected: an expired "Best By" date of 7/29/11.
Sure they're only a buck for a whole 4.25 oz. bag, but no wonder they're at the .99 cent store... they're old.
So to recap for BLACK FOREST JUICY OOZERS GUMMY SKULLS:
.99 Cent Store Bargain?: F (expired candy)
SKULLS AND BONES TART TREATS
As a fan of the Mr. Bones candies from Fleer from back in the day, I'm always on the hunt for sweet and sour candy bones. I tried a Target version at the end of September and now I was hoping that maybe there was a less expensive version at the dollar store... which is a bit like hoping to find oil in your backyard and you start digging with a spoon.
I picked up this bag of SKULLS AND BONES, because I already had a bag of oozing skulls in my hand and was on a skull-high. The bag features a pirate skeleton and a treasure chest with the all-kinds-of-wrong description "18 Pack Fun Size"... that's "Pack Fun" not "Fun Pack."
Open THAT and you're met with two colors of two pieces: purple skulls and white bones. The bones are always white... the skulls are always purple.
Popping some of the candies I can tell you that the bones are SUPER crunchy. As in "Did I just crack a molar?"-crunchy. Again, after my last experience I can only imagine that these have been sitting in a box since about 1983 (no expiration on the bag).
The upper left corner of the big "master" bag had a logo saying these were "Tart Treats." Well the white bones were tart... but no real flavor. It was as if they were vanilla or unflavored bones but still with a tart twist. Here's a perfect analogy for candy lovers: you know the Lik-m-Aid stick that you dip into the flavor dust? The white bones are the flavor of the STICK... but TART. Yeah... it's weird. And not really enjoyable.
The molds for the candies themselves seem like they're the exact same as Target's bulk skull candies, just without the flavor and the "gloss" coating.
Would I buy these again? Never.
Taste: D (purple was tolerable but white was 'ick')
Presentation: D+ (not much detail but they were in the right shape)
.99 Cent Store Bargain?: F (what's the sense in spending a dollar in candy that will go in the garbage?)
GIANT CHEWY NERDS
I had to go with something familiar. Something safe.
And after scouring the shelves of no-name candy I finally saw a ray of light in the word "Wonka."
You've heard me rave about these candies before HERE.
All the fun of jellybeans with all the taste of Nerds.
So to see the almost buried box of handheld-sized Giant Chewy Nerds and then realize that they're 2 for .99 cents, I snatched up 2 and headed for the register.
What can I say? They taste good. No expiration date visible on the bag. No flavor change to my knowledge.
Presentation: A (though they're not in the Halloween colors of purple and orange like past years, this means we get other flavors like green apple, lemon and strawberry).
.99 Cent Store Bargain?: A (2 packs for a buck... that's a good deal).
Bottom line: Is the .99 cent store a good place to get candy? It depends on your store. If you buy brand names, check the expiration dates and can brave the war-zone... "sometimes."
Was this a successful trip for me, personally? Mmmmmm--no.
I'm three dollars lighter and only up 2 small bags of Giant Chewy Nerds.
Bringing back an analogy from the top of the article: If I were a prospector panning for gold, I would have left with nothing and died of dysentery.