Wednesday, July 1, 2015

My 10 favorite items to buy at Vitacost

Though Vitacost is known primarily as a large online retailer of supplements and 'natural' products, my first encounter with the store back in 2010-ish had nothing to do with ingestibles. I was actually searching for a pedometer, after trying out a couple of poor-quality ones I bought locally, both of which conked out after less than a week of use. As I had no desire to shell out another NIS 150+ for an item I saw cost far less abroad (e.g., sold by US vendors on eBay but with exorbitant shipping costs), I headed over to Google Shopping to see if I could find an online store that not only had a high-quality pedometer, but also wouldn't gouge me on shipping costs. In the end, I bought this pedometer, but for a lot less, and shipping at the time was only $7.99. Naturally, having finally found a rare website with what I considered fair shipping prices intrigued me, I returned to see what else they had to offer.

The rest,as they say, is history.

[In case you were wondering, the pedometer is excellent and though it needs the occasional battery change, still works perfectly after 5 years. Unfortunately, it is no longer sold at Vitacost, though they do have another one for sale.]

While prices for packages up to 1.63Kg are now a flat-rate $10.99, and certain international shipping restrictions have been put in place since I first started shopping there (some items need to be bought in multiples of 2,3, or 4, and not all items will be sent abroad), I keep on shopping at this online store because of the large selection, the reasonable prices (sometimes the identical item at iHerb will be more expensive and count as heavier, so it's worth comparing identical 'baskets' at both sites), and the superior quality. The BOGO and 12% off your order deals don't hurt, either.

Some tips and tricks to shopping at Vitacost:
  • For your first shopping experience there, you can sign up to the site through my link, which will give you a $10 discount off a purchase of $30 or more, essentially almost cancelling out the shipping costs. The coupon code you'll receive expires after 30 days, however, so if you're just browsing, I recommend you don't sign up just yet.
  • For subsequent shopping trips, try filling up your cart without checking out. A couple of days later, Vitacost may gently encourage you to bite the bullet by offering you a 10% off coupon. 
  • Don't forget cashback (though not for for your first purchase). Ebates only has 4% cashback, but will often overlook other discount codes you use. Mr. Rebates and BeFrugal have higher cashback rates (6% and 8.5% respectively), but are stricter about you using only coupon codes existent on their sites. The Israeli cashback (read more about it here) will give you back 4%. 
As always, all foodstuffs I recommend are kosher, though not necessarily O-U. If you don't recognize a Kashrut insignia, you can check it out here .

Let's start out with a short and simple recipe for a sugar scrub that's great to use in the bath or shower. I bought a similar one at Sabon or Body Shop, I think with a groupon, and while I enjoyed it very much, I figured that I could make my own for far less. So I ordered some sweet almond oil and fragrant essential oil from Vitacost. After they arrived, I got out a clean, dry wide-mouthed glass jar about the size of the body scrub I'd bought, filled it about 3/4 of the way with demerara sugar (bought locally at the supermarket, of course. I have my limits!), and then poured the almond oil until the sugar was fully saturated+1cm above. Then I added a few drops of essential oil - about 5 drops, not too much or the smell would be overpowering - mixed the whole thing up with a plastic spoon, and placed it in the bathroom. Voila, sugar scrub at the fraction of the price!

This Nubian Heritage Black Bar Soap is a lot of fun to use. It has a nice fragrance, is delicate enough for both facial and body use, and it's really cool to watch this black soap produce white foam.

Anyone miss bacon bits? (vegetarian ones, obviously.) While these aren't quite as good as Betty Crocker's Bac-Os, they're still quite bacon-ey, and missing the red food coloring to boot. Definitely worth a try in your scrambled eggs!

After a few times we ran out of both regular and UHT (Amid) milk when the stores weren't open, I decided to order some Nonfat milk powder, which is notoriously hard to get in Israel. This is obviously not an option if you keep Chalav Yisrael, but it works well for our family.

I actually first bought Arm & Hammer Advance White toothpaste on my last trip to the USA. It was on sale and I figured it was worth a try. And was it ever! I love the whitening effect this toothpaste has, and was delighted to find they sold it at one of my favorite stores.  

Another item I was introduced to on a previous trip to the US was shelled hempseed, which has a nutty flavor, is full of omega-3 fatty acids and great sprinkled on yogurt or salad. Also great is the slightly naughty feeling I get when eating them because, you know, hemp. I've since sampled several brands, and the Vitacost brand is, in my opinion, both the tastiest and gives you the most bang for your buck.

I really like the flavor and texture of these EOS lip balms. Vitacost has the cheapest per-item price that I've seen for these balms, outside of Chinese knockoffs, which I, personally, would be very reluctant to use on my lips. The downside is that you have to buy at least 2 at a time, and they have to be the same flavor. They make great gifts for females of all ages, though.

This Simply Organic pepper grinder is a great value for your money, as at 85 grams, you get more than twice as much as similar pepper grinders found here in Israel, at about 1.5 times the price (even less when on sale). You can unscrew the cap and refill with peppercorns you bought in your local shuk for even better value. I know lots of fans of the Simply Organic spice brand; I've also bought their chili powder and it's very good.

When the dietician suggested my husband drink pomegranate juice for its antioxidants, after buying locally for prices of 15-20 NIS/liter, I tried Vitacost's pomegranate concentrate . Not only is it tasty, but you can easily make 4 liters from a single 16oz. bottle of concentrate, which (when figuring in shipping costs) puts it on the low end of the price range for fresh-squeezed juice here. Also, the concentrate keeps for far longer if you keep it in the refrigerator once you open it.

I could probably recommend many more Vitacost products, but this post is quite long enough and I'll let you discover other favorites on your own. Don't forget to get and use your $10 off coupon for your first purchase!

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