About once a month, I place an order with Thrive Market (Disclosure: if you click on this link and become a member, I will get a small commission for referring you. You do get a free month to try it out first).
For those of you who have never heard of Thrive, it is essentially an online food co-op — or as they call it, a “membership community” — that specializes in organic foods and natural beauty products. I like Thrive because it has a good selection of specialty foods, particularly gluten-free, paleo-friendly and organic foods, all of which are easily browsed thanks to categorical menus. They also have a free healthy living blog that occasionally has a good recipe or three, and the company is committed to sustainable living by being carbon neutral and using recycled packaging.
I spend $59.95/year for a membership, in exchange for which I get access to healthy non-perishable foods, bathroom and cleaning products at reduced prices (you’ll still have to get your fresh produce and meats locally, such as at your weekly Farmers’ Market). I also get free shipping if I spend more than $49 on an order (easily done since I usually batch my orders and also make purchases for colleagues and friends). I usually also wait until Thrive is offering some sort of special, usually free products like granola bars or cooking oil. This time, I got a free box of Primal Kitchen Chocolate Hazelnut Grass-Fed Collagen Bars by placing an order that exceeded $59.
Now, most of the products that I buy through Thrive are available at my local grocery store or food co-op. Alternatively, if I don’t want to drive to the store and can wait a couple of days for delivery, they can be obtained through Amazon (I also pay $99 annually for Amazon Prime, which I consider well worth the cost in terms of the free two-day shipping, access to the Video, Music and Reading libraries, and the Kindle First benefits). I similarly pay for an annual membership to BJ’s Wholesale Club, the cost of which I largely recoup in Diet Coke (as a mixer for my rum) and bacon.
When I logged onto Thrive Market today to place my order, I was cheerfully greeted by a banner that proclaimed that I had Lifetime Savings of $377.17 and Projected Annual Savings of $502.89, the Lifetime being less than the Projected Annual Savings as I haven’t yet been a member for a full year yet. But that got me wondering … does Thrive Market actually help me save money? Is it worth the annual membership fee?
So, figured I’d do a little research. Here’s what I ordered from Thrive this month:
Traditional Medicinals Roasted Dandelion Root Tea for $3.75 a box.
Acure Organics Brightening Facial Scrub for $6.45.
Bragg Organic Apple Cider Vinegar at $2.55 for a 16-ounce bottle.
Mavuno Harvest Organic Dried Pineapple at $7.95 a bag.
Simple Mills Almond Flour Focaccia & Sandwich Bread Mix for $7.55 a box.
Thrive Market Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil at $14.95 for at 24.5-ounce bottle.
Red Boat Fish Sauce Fish Sauce at $6.95 for 8.45 fluid ounces.
Dr. Bronner’s Organic Peppermint Castile Bar Soap at $3.45 a bar (2).
San J International Organic Tamari Gluten-Free Soy Sauce at $6.45 a bottle.
As mentioned before, I also got a 6-pack of collagen bars for free. I wouldn’t have bought these otherwise, though, so don’t count them towards any savings. All told with taxes, I spent a total of $68.53. Thrive claimed that I saved $54.69 on my purchase.
When I checked the prices of identical or comparable items on Amazon, I found that I would have spent $97.26. A few things were slightly cheaper, but to get the lowest prices I often would have had to order from third-party vendors that also charged for shipping. Similarly, at my local grocery store and food co-op, it would have been over $100.00 (and not all products were available).
Thus, I did save a decent amount by buying through Thrive Market. For this smallish order, I saved $28.73 over Amazon. Although it wasn’t quite the $54.69 claimed by Thrive on the website, at this rate I will recover the cost of my annual membership in just two months time. So, it turns out that Thrive is worth the money if you are committed to healthy eating and willing to spend a little extra to get sustainably harvested or organic foods.
While I still worry at times about the environmental impact of using an online delivery service (for this, for the meal-delivery services and for my Amazon habit), a friend of mine who is a sustainability expert did point out that in this case the harm of ordering from Thrive is offset in part by the savings associated with the reduction in carbon emissions associated with the delivery of these same goods to my local grocer and co-op (not to mention the gas required to drive to these stores).