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How to Eat Organic Without Starving Your Wallet

Thrive Market

Shopping to get high quality organic food at a reasonable price isn't easy. One of my personal hacks is to do a lot of comparison shopping for any packaged goods our family eats. Getting fresh, local fruits, vegetables and meats is always the core of a healthy diet. But we use farmer's markets, CSAs and local grocers for that portion. Getting the very best deals involves some comparison shopping, but I'll show you how we do that below.

The August 2017 Offer is: 
25% Off Plus Free Shipping

For the packaged goods, I've been testing out a newer website called Thrive Market and comparing it to other online options we use. The standard ones we use most frequently are Vitacost and Amazon.

Vitacost

Vitacost

Vitacost has an extensive selection of both food and other household items. We typically only order from them when there is a decent (15% off or more) sale running. Their site and ordering process can be clunky compared to others and you usually have to order quite a bit at once to get free shipping, so we often combine orders with friends or tag along on each other's larger orders. They do have some items that aren't easily found elsewhere and on certain items we use, they reliably have the lowest prices. 

Amazon

Amazon.com

We have an Amazon Prime membership, which I highly recommend for many reasons but especially if you shop for groceries online as shipping fees can add up and the shipping times are truly fast. They are currently running a special that allows you to try it free for 30 days and I think that's worth doing.

Tip: Stack Your Savings!

But we don't stop there. Amazon recently released their Amazon Prime Visa card and I snapped it up immediately. It literally took about 60 seconds to get approved and they automatically made it my default payment method. But here's the kicker, you get 5% off any Amazon Prime purchases and an immediate $70 credit to your account. For me, it was a no-brainer. I don't use it for anything other than Amazon purchases, but it's worth it for that alone.

So, if you get that card, remember to take 5% off the prices you'll see below. That often makes the difference between Amazon being the cheapest option or not.​ That said, as you'll see below, Amazon is often not the best place to buy food (which is perhaps one reason they acquired Whole Foods). They do have good prices on personal products and grooming supplies, but less so on food. Sometimes you can get the best price if you're willing to buy in bulk, but single item prices are often better elsewhere.

Trying Out Thrive Market

Thrive Market

The new entrant is Thrive Market. Thrive Market is focused on natural and organic groceries and household products, so it's more niche than the other two, but we use a lot of those products in our household. Thrive Market has taken $159 million (!) in venture capital funding, so they are very serious about becoming dominant in their niche. 

Thrive Market's model is a bit different than the other two, it is more like Costco than Walmart. Here are the pros and cons of using Thrive Market:

Thrive Market benefits:
  • Generally low item prices, sometimes dramatically lower than competitors
  • Decent selection of foods selected for their healthiness
  • Stocks some otherwise hard-to-find items
  • Free shipping over $49
  • Have their own branded items that can't be found elsewhere
  • For every paid membership, donates a free membership to a family in need
  • They attempt to reduce carbon footprint in their shipping practices
Thrive Market drawbacks:
  • There's a membership fee
  • Shipping isn't free under $49
  • Shipping can be slow
  • The selection is somewhat smaller than other vendors (but expanding very quickly)

As you can see above, there are definite pros and cons. The fact that shipping isn't free under $49 doesn't bother me because we don't order in small quantities, it never comes into play. It's similar to how we use Vitacost in that way.

Thrive Market tries to save on shipping both for financial reasons and to be more green by packaging everything into as few boxes as possible. This means there's more variability to the shipping speed. I've gotten orders as fast as 3 days and as slow as 2 weeks. So you have to think farther ahead when shopping at Thrive Market than Amazon, but the savings to the planet of the reduced packing materials and carbon footprint are no doubt real. It just depends on what you value, and like I say, we make use of all three of these options.

What's with the negative reviews?

One of the reasons it took me a while to try out Thrive Market was that I read online reviews and it appears to be a service you either love or hate.

There are quite a few very negative reviews out there so I spent some time sifting through them. They mostly seem to fall into two camps:
1) "I didn't know there was a membership fee"
2) "It's hard to cancel"

​Thrive Market runs a lot of promotions, often touting free products. However, their free products come with a trial membership and once it expires they will bill you for the annual fee. This is pretty much how subscription services work, going all the way back to the Columbia House Records deals from my youth. I don't actually expect to get anything for free so this isn't a turn off to me, but beware, if you accept their offers they will bill you after the trial period.

The other one is that the membership is hard to cancel. I have started it, cancelled it and restarted it without any real issues. Like most subscription products, they try to talk you out of leaving when you express that intent. Again, I expect that so it doesn't offend me to jump through the hoops to leave when that time comes.​

Let's Talk about the Membership Fee

The part of the Thrive Market service that will make most people balk is the membership fee as it's a little unusual to pay a fee like that for groceries (unless you use Costco or BJ's). And to be honest, it initially rubbed me the wrong way and it took me a while to give it a try. However, I now think it's one of those things that at the end of the day makes no serious difference. 

The reason I say that is that using Amazon frequently means you'll need to buy Amazon Prime, which is another membership fee. Amazon's annual fee is 50% higher than Thrive Market. However, it's a higher value fee as the selection at Amazon is nearly limitless and it includes a streaming TV membership that can make Netflix blush. But it is a membership fee.

Pinching pennies

Vitacost and other online vendors also have free shipping over a certain order size and we make heavy use of their coupons​, but the per item prices are often somewhat higher. So there's no membership fee but it all comes out in the wash; because at the end of the day, shipping costs money and these are low-margin products. 

Two other small notes. One is about Amazon, though their selection in general is unparalleled, they don't carry quite a few items that we look for, as you'll see below. The other note is about Thrive Market's email newsletter. They send emails a little more frequently than I'd like, but they are often packed with truly valuable recipes and information. It's not just a sales pitch and I think it's worth signing up to hear from them. ​

Thrive Market Coupon Codes

The way Thrive Market promotes their service is through semi-constant sale promotions. There's pretty much always a sale going on at Thrive Market. It's often free samples of popular items, other times it is a percentage off. We'll keep the most recent promo codes and offers on this page to make it easy. Note that taking advantage of any such promotion will mean that you are signing up for their annual fee.

The August 2017 Offer is: 
25% Off Plus Free Shipping

A Sample Trip to Thrive Market

Additionally, what I wanted to do is show all the goods we bought from a given shopping trip and compare the prices with other websites where you can get the same products. 

Products from Thrive Market

One difficulty with this is that there aren't a lot of places to source the goods we use. I'll explain why I buy each item below because there's always a reason.

We've recently updated and expanded this list for 2017. Click on any price below to view the item at the site indicated. For Thrive Market private label items, they can't be purchased elsewhere so we chose a comparable item for comparison at the other two sites. 

Important Note: Organic Daily Post is an affiliate of Amazon, Vitacost and Thrive Market but we actually use and can honestly recommend all three. The prices actually vary quite a bit because they are frequently updated on the respective sites. Because prices fluctuate frequently, the comparison should be considered a snapshot in time.​ 

Nature's Path Honey Oat Crunch Granola Bars

Nature's Path Granola Bars from Thrive Market

We use these for treats in the kids' lunches. ​They don't contain any low-quality oils like soy or canola and they have flax seed for extra nutrition. They also don't contain any nuts. Our kids aren't allergic to nuts but they can only take things to school that are nut-free and these qualify. They are sweeter than I'd like, but they don't taste sweet compared to other more conventional granola bars. The manufacturer appears to be selling these on Amazon for an inflated price, I'm not sure why that is. It's unusual. 

Amazon

Thrive Market

Vitacost

Primal Kitchen Mayo from Thrive Market

This product is difficult to find but it's one of only two mayos I could find anywhere that aren't somehow stuffed with poor ingredients. This one is made with no junky oils like soy, corn or canola. It contains no sugar. It also uses avocado oil, which has many health benefits. It's also delicious, like real mayo should be. 

Amazon

Thrive Market

Vitacost

Thrive Market brand ghee

This is an interesting one. Ghee is clarified butter, which is easy to make at home. Like, about as hard as making ice, though a bit messier. But, folks buy bags of ice every day so I consider this a purchase of convenience. I may be in the minority here because it's one of the best-selling items on Thrive Market and it's easy to see why.

I had to do some math to create directly comparable prices here, so what you see below is different than what you'll see when you visit Amazon and Vitacost. The Simply Ghee product is the closest comparison to this grass-fed ghee from Thrive Market, but it comes in a 9 oz. jar as opposed to Thrive Market's 14 oz. jar. So I calculated the per ounce prices to make a comparison as if they were all 14 oz. jars. As you can see, if you're buying your ghee it's foolish to do it anywhere but Thrive Market. ​

Amazon

Thrive Market

Vitacost

Bob's Red Mill Baking Soda from Thrive Market

Whole Foods and other health food stores carry Bob's products so you don't have to order this one online. The baking soda is a little harder to find than all the various grains Bob's makes, but it's around. 

I use this particular baking soda because it's processed without the use of chemicals, like most other baking sodas are. If you're just sticking in your fridge to absorb odors or using it for some other non-consumption purpose, then don't worry about it. But if you're eating it, spend a bit more on the good stuff. ​

Amazon

Thrive Market

Vitacost

Organic Brown Rice Syrup from Thrive Market

A jar full of sugar syrup of any sort isn't the healthiest thing you can buy, I admit that. But certain dessert recipes call for this syrup and you have to live a little once in a while. We use about one of these jars a year, mostly around Thanksgiving. If you have to use it, this is the one to use.


Amazon

Thrive Market

Vitacost

Organic Bunny Grahams Snacks from Thrive Market

This is another food we use as a treat for the kids. Again, not the healthiest choice of a food but it is made with organic whole grain wheat, it's non-GMO and it doesn't taste as sweet as similar conventional options. Sometimes you need a quick snack that can easily be packed into a lunch and this one fits the bill. I like to buy items that don't taste as sweet because it trains our kids not to expect as much sweetness in their foods. Note: Amazon only offered this as a 12-pack of boxes at the time of this writing so the price below is the per box price based on that quantity.

Amazon

Thrive Market

Vitacost

Thrive Market brand organic maple syrup

It was particularly difficult to do a direct comparison on this one. Vitacost also carries a private label version that is "grade A dark" which is what they used to call grade B so I used that. Amazon only carries two options right now so I chose the cheaper one, which is also grade A dark. 

We try to keep sugar intake to a minimum but when we splurge we often go for maple syrup. As sweeteners go it's a wholesome option, particularly this organic version.

I should note that grade A vs. B in maple syrup is really a flavor distinction rather than a quality distinction. I actually prefer the deeper flavor of grade B so I'll probably buy this from Amazon in the future and save a few bucks.

Amazon

Thrive Market

Vitacost

Coconut sugar is fabulous (as sugars go) because it's low on the glycemic index and produces a slow release of energy. It is also high in nutrients compared to other sugars. Coconut sugar is often mixed with other, less beneficial, sugar so make sure you choose a pure one like this version from Big Tree Farms. This one is also fair trade, which is nice.

Amazon

Thrive Market

Vitacost

Clif Kid Organic Fruit Rope from Thrive Market

Again, this is not a health food per se, but a replacement for what "other kids" eat and our kids want to try. We very rarely go to a theater but if we do or if we watch a movie at home and want to give the kids a rare treat, we give them these as a substitute for Twizzlers. Twizzlers are of course so full of refined sugars, dyes and GMOs that they are hardly a food at all. 

I will say that these don't taste like Twizzlers at all really, they just kind of look like them.  They don't taste worse than Twizzlers, just different. They are actually sweeter to my palate than Twizzlers. They are also stickier and have less of a waxy texture. It's still candy, but the ingredients are FAR better than real Twizzlers. ​Note: This is an add-on item at Amazon, so to get free shipping it has to be tacked on to a larger order.

Amazon

Thrive Market

Vitacost

Alive & Radiant Foods Kale Krunch from Thrive Market

This is a great healthy snack. It's actually dairy-free despite the cheese flavor and it's kale, so it's packed with nutrition. There are various flavors, you don't have to stick with cheese. It's also raw, which is unusual for packaged foods. The only problem with this snack is that it's super easy to eat a whole bag in a sitting, making it a very expensive snack.

Amazon

Thrive Market

Vitacost

The Ginger People Organic Pickled Sushi Ginger from Thrive Market

Here's one you probably don't think about. We are big sushi eaters in our household, even the kids love it though they eat veggie-only sushi. Conventional sushi ginger has tons of added chemicals. This organic sushi ginger has wonderful, pure ingredients. It's more expensive than the free version that comes with the sushi of course, but if you eat it frequently I think it's a worthwhile upgrade. 

Amazon

Thrive Market

Vitacost


Pacific Organic Pumpkin Puree from Thrive Market

I love how this pumpkin purée is organic and isn't in a can. Canned foods often contain plastics and BPA that can leach into your food.

We don't use a lot of this either, just for soups and around Thanksgiving. It's another healthier option that is worth the upgrade. 

Note: The only option on Amazon was a 12 pack so below is the per box price based on ordering 12 boxes at a time.

Amazon

Thrive Market

Vitacost


Simply Organic Thyme from Thrive Market

I like to buy organic spices when possible. They're free of fillers, chemical preservatives and pesticides. This is especially important for spices like turmeric that come mainly from regions with fewer regulations than we have in the US (not that those are fantastic either). 

This is a brand (Simply Organic) that you can get pretty readily at many grocery stores but I often find better deals online. 

Note: This is an add-on item at Amazon so free shipping will only apply if you combine it with a larger order.

Amazon

Thrive Market

Vitacost


Wild Albacore Tuna from Thrive Market

Again, BPA and plastic lining in cans leaches chemicals into your food. Finding jarred options are a much healthier choice. This one is packed in olive oil which makes it extra healthy. An overzealous TSA agent confiscated and tossed this particular jar, so I'm looking forward to actually tasting it when my next order arrives.

Note: This product was only available in a 4 pack on Amazon so this is the per jar price based on buying 4 at once.

Amazon

Thrive Market

Vitacost

Jovial Organic Whole Peeled Tomatoes

It seems odd because they are just tomatoes, but this is another item that's difficult to find offline even though we live near a major metropolitan area. It's the specific combination of features in this case.

The tomatoes are organic, whole and come in a glass jar as opposed to a can. This is a great product to have on hand for any number of recipes involving tomatoes. 

Note: The Amazon price is the per jar cost based on buying a 6 pack. 

Amazon

Thrive Market

Vitacost

Bragg Nutritional Yeast Seasoning

We're big on probiotics and fermented foods, anything that is healthy for your gut. Bragg is a leading brand in this regard so it's not too difficult to find this at a local health store. However, it's also just the kind of packaged product on which you can get a better deal if you shop online. 

​This is a seasoning, essentially a salt replacement. I'm not really convinced that sea salt is bad for you, but this seasoning adds some flavor and nutrients that you wouldn't get from sea salt. 

Amazon

Thrive Market

Vitacost

Great Lakes Unflavored Gelatin

Sometimes when you're cooking you need the consistency that gelatin provides or a good binding agent. It's not for the vegans, but this gelatin is derived from beef and provides the collagen that helps with joint issues. It's also great for your skin.

​Those on keto or paleo diets will love this, it's pure protein. And this is a cut-and-dry case of much better pricing at Thrive Market.

Amazon

Thrive Market

Vitacost

Thrive Market brand Wild Pink Salmon

Everyone probably gets that I'm not a huge fan of food that comes in a can. However, it's a very common way to eat fish and this canned salmon is still a healthier option than many choices on the market.

The closest comparison is to Wild Planet's products because they are also sustainably caught in the wild. This product from Thrive Market is labeled prominently as "Non-GMO" though I would assume that's true of all wild-caught salmon. 

Amazon

Thrive Market

Vitacost

Thrive Market Organic Apple Cider Vinegar

We use a lot of apple cider vinegar. It's great in recipes, home remedies, and just as a daily tonic. I take a couple teaspoons in my water as soon as I wake up every day. 

This is another tough direct comparison because Thrive Market's private label version comes in an unusual 16.9 oz bottle. The comparison is to the most common brand, Bragg, and prices are calculated to be comparable to Thrive Market. That means the prices below are all for 16.9 ounces.​

Amazon

Thrive Market

Vitacost

Thrive Market Turmeric Powder

Turmeric has many health benefits and is a flavorful addition to many dishes. It's a product that I consider critical to buy organic though, because it can contain a lot of pesticides otherwise. 

To make a direct comparison I scaled all the prices to be for 1.45 oz. like the Thrive Market version. The others come in a bottle rather than a bag but that's irrelevant to me as I wouldn't pay extra for packaging. ​As usual, there's a big advantage to buying in larger quantities with turmeric. If you buy a one pound bag you could cut all these prices in half. It just depends on how much turmeric powder your household uses.

Amazon

Thrive Market

Vitacost

Nellie's Oxygen Brightener for Laundry

We're always on the lookout for laundry products that both work well and are all natural. It's always a bonus when no one in the house is allergic to what's in our clothes. 

This oxygen brightener fits the bill, helping to keep white things white and remove stains to some degree. Vitacost doesn't carry this particular product. 

Amazon

Thrive Market

Vitacost

Dr. Bronner's All-One Toothpaste - Cinnamon and Anise flavors

Choosing a better toothpaste is an easy way to cut down on your exposure to toxic chemicals. This one from Dr. Bronner's uses natural non-GMO and vegan ingredients. It has no flouride (a good thing) and uses no sweeteners. 

I've used non-flouride toothpaste for years without any issues. The job toothpaste needs to do is pretty limited. If I didn't mind the flavor I'd just use some baking soda and be done with it. ​

Amazon

Thrive Market

Vitacost

Tom's of Maine Deodorant

Another great way to cut toxic chemicals out of your life is by changing your deodorant. When I was in college I went to the doctor with rashes under my arms and he told me that he hadn't used deodorant in 20 years and I should stop too. 

I wasn't quite comfortable with that so I went out and tested a variety of them, landing on one that kind of worked and was natural. These days there are many options but this is one of the best in my opinion. I've been using it for years and specifically like the lemongrass scent version. A lot of people have to apply natural deodorants twice a day, but that's a small price to pay to avoid slathering yourself with aluminum and other toxins. 

Amazon

Thrive Market

Vitacost

MegaFood Zinc Supplement

I was pretty curious to see what happens when we move into the realm of supplements because I usually buy nearly all of mine from Amazon. I've never been able to schedule things such that the subscribe and save option makes sense for me, but I like the lightning fast shipping options. 

The Amazon price is the one-off price, if you use subscribe and save it is also slightly lower than Thrive Market's price. It looks like the penalty for quick shipping is light on this item but I'll have to look at more supplements.​

Amazon

Thrive Market

Vitacost

Dr. Bronner's Liquid Castile Soap

We love this soap and use it for showering mostly. Here's the thing about this soap, it clogs. It clogs up the reasonably large hole in the cap, so putting it in a dispenser is out of the question. 

However, if you can put up with that minor annoyance you'll get a soap that smellls good, cleans well and has very natural ingredients. It also comes in a large container that lasts a while. 

Amazon

Thrive Market

Vitacost

Giovanni Wicked Texture Hair Gel

My husband LOVES this stuff. It's the only hair gel he'll use now. Like most personal care products, hair products usually contain a lot of toxic chemicals. They're probably worse than most personal products in that regard. 

This one feels fairly light going on but holds well and it has the unusual benefit of making your hair appear darker than it is. My husband has salt and pepper hair but when the gel is on it looks about half as gray as normal. It's weird.​

We've been buying this for years and usually when we have a good discount code we'll buy 10 at a time. So I know our target price for this item is between $5-$6. I've gotten it as low as $5.25 and sometimes had to pay $8 because of limited availability. Thrive Market's normal price is in my target zone though, which makes this a slam dunk for them. ​

Amazon

Thrive Market

Vitacost

If You Care Parchment Baking Paper

Here's one I bet most people don't think about, baking sheets. What surface does your food touch while it bakes? Hopefully it's not a non-stick surface, that guarantees you some toxins with your baked goods.

Many other products contain either toxic chemicals or metals that you'd be better off not consuming with your freshly-baked cookies. As usual, you have to read the labels, but I have and so I use this particular baking paper. It's a quality baking paper and is created with a mind toward not imparting toxins to your food. 

Amazon

Thrive Market

Vitacost

Are there other products you'd like to see? We're happy to swap these out for more popular items or even review some more Thrive Market private label items if you'd like. Let us know in the comments!

About the author

Sabrina Wilson

Sabrina Wilson is a staff writer for the Organic Daily Post.

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