I wanted and needed to expand my idea of value to include nutrition as well as quantity per dollar. It's easy to default to your usual choices when the healthy substitute you're considering trying for the first time is double the price of the product you habitually buy. The healthy option might actually taste good, and it may be better for your body, but it's the classic case of the "better the devil you know." On a budget, you go with a sure bet.
This concern of healthy foods being somewhat inaccessible through cost and education is something that the open-secret of a healthy grocery store, Thrive Market, is trying to address. And I can honestly say I wish that I had known about them sooner.
What Thrive Market is:
Thrive Market is an online marketplace that curates high-quality organic, non-GMO products at a discounted rate of 25% - 50% off retail prices to its members. Or, as they put it, "wholesome food at wholesale prices."
An annual membership costs $59.95 (or, $5/month), and 85% of orders ship within two days or less. If you spend over $49, shipping is always free.
Thrive Market currently ships to all contiguous US states and is looking to expand in the near future.
How it works:
- Register for free to browse the catalog and see member savings. You'll receive 15% off your first purchase.
- Start your 30-day trial: with your first purchase on Thrive Market, you'll start a free 30-day membership trial. Cancel anytime.
- If you love it, join Thrive Market for $59.95 for a year's worth of savings on the site's healthy product selection. When you join, you're also sponsoring a free membership for a low-income family.
You can shop by category, by values (ie. gluten-free, paleo, raw, vegan, for moms, etc.), or by current deals. You can also shop in the 'My Aisle' section that Thrive Market populates based on your interests noted in a shopping quiz you will take during the short registration. For me, that meant their "Top Organic Bundles"(for instance, this Healthy Snack Sampler they curated), best-sellers their shoppers love (like Avocado Oil Mayo), and the "Organic Brand Spotlight" which was Annie's Macaroni & Cheese.
In addition to offering thousands of organic brands you could find at your local grocery store and online, they also have an in-house brand that packages organic products (the equivalent of your supermarket chain's generic brand).
Who would get the most value out of Thrive Market:
If you spend a lot of time researching/want to eat healthy foods, have a dedicated diet or food restrictions, or consistently buy organic or non-GMO foods online, you'll likely find at least a few compelling benefits to Thrive Market. If you like online grocery shopping and like their selection, you're probably a good candidate.
I am considering a membership because I want to make healthier choices across the board in my life, and sometimes I can find the research and continuous trial-and-error testing too exhaustive and expensive. Quality is a concern with organic substitutes (great, but does it work?), and it's helpful to have experts and customer ratings to simplify that judgment. The healthy eating community is an intense one, so it's nice that Thrive Market makes use of all that helpful, accumulative passion.
When possible, I buy most of my groceries online to avoid the time commitment of in-person shopping, and I appreciate that Thrive Market makes healthy eating this simple. All the excess items in the local aisle have been removed, and I can scroll through and pick what I want and feel good buying it. Plus, while I've been reading a lot about healthy substitutes, it takes work to figure out which local grocery store will reliably carry them. I want fewer steps, not more. This is a much lower barrier to entry for me as a beginner in the health food market.
The 25% - 50% off also could help to close the gap between the sometimes inflated "organic" prices at the grocery store and removes that barrier as well, making Thrive Market an equally viable choice for the average person on a budget. Even if you're not on a tight budget, who doesn't love saving money?
Thrive Market also has recipes available if, like me, you're still figuring out how to work new ingredients into your life.
What you can buy:
Thrive Market carries 4,000+ healthy products, and you can shop hundreds of categories. Food; beauty, bath and body; health; babies and kids; home; pet supplies; and the all-inclusive "other".
While you can buy staples like meats and seafood (a new addition), the rest of Thrive Market's selection is mostly shelf stable options, like a canned olive spread rather than a bushel of apples. For produce, you'll probably still want to stop at your neighborhood store or Farmers Market.
What other people are buying on Thrive Market:
You can shop best-sellers and the top customer-rated picks here, but some of the most popular items are Thrive Market Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil ($14.99, 170+ reviews), Primal Kitchen Avocado Oil Mayo ($7.49, 1,070+ reviews), and Mushroom Coffee Mix ($11.99, 49 reviews).
Thrive Market was not always cheaper, but when it was, it usually offered a large enough gap in savings to be substantial overall. But if you regularly shop locally (and can find all these goods here) you should do your homework before signing up. You could save more by buying local, though your selection may not be as wide or as convenient.
Also, if you're concerned about getting value out of your membership, Thrive Market guarantees their annual membership will pay for itself. If your membership fee was $60, but you only saved $40 in a year, they will automatically give you the difference ($20) in Thrive Market credit after you renew.
If you need an added incentive, Thrive Market also has a program called "Thrive Gives", which is their way of making healthy living affordable and accessible to anyone. Thrive Market understands that their yearly membership of $60 may not be in every single person's budget, however, so for every paid membership the site sells, they gift a free membership to someone in need. They also offer custom educational content to Thrive Gives members (shopping lists, recipes, a 22-part video course about how to eat healthy on a budget).
Thrive Market and Thrive Gives members enjoy the same access to "wholesome products at wholesale prices." The Thrive Gives memberships are distributed through their nonprofit partners. The free membership also includes teachers, veterans, and first responders.