Online vs. In-Store: The Cheapest Way to Get 10 Trendy Health FoodsAndrea Howe
For those interested in living a healthier lifestyle through diet and exercise, it’s a good time to be alive. Between amazing discoveries of wondrous “super foods” to increasing numbers of grocery chains dedicated to carrying a more natural, healthier assortment of products, to the online world, healthy living may just be a short drive or click away. But with an increase in demand and availability to so-called healthy foods, who offers you the bigger bang for your buck, online or your neighborhood store? I did some research of 10 common health food items that many of us health nuts keep in our pantries and fridges at all times, to see who actually had the better value, and I was shocked at some of the results, including the $10+ I could save by buying maple syrup from a new source. Read on to see where you should be shopping for some of these items, to make the most of your health food dollars.
Chia Seeds 1 of 10
Chia seeds have become so popular and common that my neighborhood Ralph's now carries them, and Trader Joe's has their own label. Landing on most health food experts' "top 10" lists, the little seed is high in fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, and is high in manganese and phosphorus, making it great for bone and oral health. The amino acids may also help regulate moods and improve sleep. But who has the better value, sourcing them at your favorite local store, or getting them online?
Winner Is: Online! Vitacost has the seeds priced at $7.79 for an 8 ounce package, whereas the local healthy living all natural grocery store in my area had them priced at $8.99.
Goji Berries 2 of 10
Goji berries are an ancient berry used in Chinese medicine for over 5,000 years. They're a complete source of protein and are nutrient-dense with vitamin B2, B6, and E, and 18 amino acids. Goji berries have 4 times the amount of antioxidants as blueberries! But who has the better price on this Himalayan superfruit?
Winner Is: Online wins again, and by over $2. Vitacost again had these marked at $9.89 for an 8 oz. package, and 2 local health food stores listed them for $11.99. While they often go on sale at my local Sprouts, the ever day value online is a more reliable value.
Coconut Sugar 3 of 10
While there has been some strong debate about the nutritional claims of coconut sugar, including its advantage to diabetics of having a low glycemic index (GI), it has quickly become the new darling of the health food world, so I wanted to see just who had the best price. It looks like unless you can access this product in the bulk section, you may be better served clicking around to buy this product.
Winner Is: Online again, coconut sugar can be found for over a dollar cheaper online at places like Drvita.com.
Coconut Nectar 4 of 10
Hailed as more nutritious than its liquid counterpart agave, and also having a low GI, coconut sugar is quite pricey, almost as much as pure organic maple syrup. But can you find a better deal online?
Winner Is: Sure enough, you can save almost $2 a bottle by sourcing this sweetener online at stores like Drvita.com.
Pure Maple Syrup 5 of 10
Pure maple syrup has quickly grown to be a staple in our household, and it has a wide variance of uses. I add a small teaspoon to my coffee each morning, I use it for baking, and even in some sauces and marinades. And of course there's always pancakes and waffles, which my family eats by the dozen throughout the week. It is hands-down the newest addition to our "health-food" arsenal that I use the most, so of course I want to find the best value on the stuff as I can. I was shocked to find that I could save myself over $10 if I start shopping somewhere else for it.
Winner Is: Online without a doubt offers the best value on maple syrup, whichever brand you happen to buy, but one of the most highly acclaimed brands, Coombs Family Farms, can be purchased for $10 cheaper online! Now that's a significant savings, and worth stocking up on at that cost value.
Cacao Nibs 6 of 10
Cacao is another one of the more recent super foods to become a bit more mainstream. A few months ago, I didn't even know what these little nibs were, but now we're all on a first-name basis and I add them to breakfast quesadillas, fruit salads, and smoothies. High in essential minerals like iron, copper, magnesium, manganese and zinc, it's packed with antioxidants, and it is claimed to be great for heart health. So where should you be buying your nibs?
Winner Is: Online again is the place to be for a better deal on cacao nibs. You'll save yourself about $1 on average, so the savings aren't huge, but if you're ordering in bulk online, it's worth tossing these in the cart too.
Quinoa Flakes 7 of 10
Quinoa flakes are a staple in my pantry, and I use them for my favorite quinoa granola from Gwyneth's book It's All Good, and making just simple warm cereal in the morning. High in protein, they're also gluten free and very filling, with a distinct nutty flavor. While I can sometimes find them on sale in the grocery store, can I get a better value online?
Winner Is: When not on sale, I pay $6.99 for a box of quinoa flakes. But online I can get them for as cheap as $4.06 from vitacost.com! A savings worth ordering online.
Quinoa Flour 8 of 10
Whether you're trying to go gluten-free or you have a wheat allergy, gluten-free flours are rising fast in popularity and availability. So much so that some health-food stores are even carrying the alternative flours in bulk. Quinoa flour by Bob's Red Mill is gluten-free, organic, and high in protein. Surprisingly enough, unless you're buying large 50-lb. bags of the stuff in bulk online, the winner is most likely found in your local store.
Winner Is: For bulk foods, especially flours, in-store has the better value. Priced much lower per pound than their packaged counterparts, you can save upwards of $3 per pound when you purchase this way. As I said above, unless you're buying huge bags of the stuff, even in bulk the savings online aren't worthwhile.
Coconut Flour 9 of 10
Bob's Red Mill coconut flour can also be purchased in bulk from my local health food store, and at a significant savings than buying pre-packaged. Gluten-free, it's high in protein, fiber, manganese and lauric acid.
Winner Is: If you were to buy a pre-packaged bag of Bob's Red Mill coconut flour off the shelf or online, you'd be paying about $6.99 for a 16 ounce package, versus $3.99/lb in bulk. That's a $3/lb savings by shopping in bulk! So although I sometimes have to make an extra trip to this specific store that carries this awesome selection of bulk foods, it looks like it's definitely worth it!
Nutritional Yeast 10 of 10
Also known as Brewer's Yeast, this inactive yeast is a great alternative source of Vitamin B-12 for vegetarians and vegans, and is high in protein and fiber. It's gluten-free as well. While I don't always have this in my fridge, when I do, I toss it on salads and on the kid's popcorn instead of plain salt. Red Star is a popular brand, so how do the savings compare when buying this brand in bulk, online, in store or prepackaged?
Winner Is: Buying in bulk in-store seems to be the best value. For a 5-ounce shaker jar of the yeast flakes, the price averages $6, whereas you can buy in bulk for about 70 cents an ounce, compared to over $1 an ounce pre-packaged. And unless you plan to make massive amounts of popcorn, you really don't need the mass bulk quantities you would have to purchase online in order to get any real savings.
Prices compared were the current regular in-store price, versus the current online price. Online stores sourced were Vitacost and Dr Vita. While I found significant savings by sourcing many of these items online, I of course continue to support and frequent my local health-living markets for my favorite fresh foods including veggies, fruits, meat and dairy, and you should, too! I find the best sustainable business practices to be a varying support of both local and online.