While I'll never view my own health as anything less than a worthy investment, it still makes me cringe to consider how many thousands of dollars I've spent on my groceries over the years. Sure, I've certainly picked up some key money-saving tactics along the way, but following a relatively wholesome, plant-based diet has put a sizable dent in my monthly budget—organic kale, sprouted bread, and vegan mayo don't come cheap.
The most frustrating part of this is the knowledge that so much of the exorbitant cost of healthy eating is due to price markups. Aside from the environmental, social, and ethical implications of making healthy food inaccessible to most—of which there are many—it just seems downright unnecessary. Trader Joe's has proven this time and again with its famously low prices, as has Whole Foods, believe it or not: I'm lucky enough to live in the neighborhood where the company rolled out its first 365 by Whole Foods concept store, which slashes overhead costs in order to make its products far more affordable than those of its parent chain.
All this is to say that sure, there's progress—but it's slow, to say the least, and the industry has been primed for disruption for quite some time. Enter Brandless, a new online grocery store that could very well transform things forever. It adopts the same health-geared mindset as Whole Foods, with a game-changing catch: Everything costs $3 or less.
Because using brand packaging tends to drive up prices the most (via something called "brand tax"), Brandless's founders built their company by opting out of it—instead, it sells generically packaged items, which allows for bargain-basement pricing. But that doesn't mean Brandless skimps on quality: Every item is GMO-free and certified Fair Trade, so you really are getting the equivalent of a fancy health product at a fraction of the cost.
In addition to an array of pantry staples—everything from gluten-free brownie mix to coconut oil—Brandless offers a handful of home and beauty items as well. And while you do have to pay for shipping—a flat rate of $9, unless you spend more than $72, in which case it's free—you pretty quickly make up for it in drastic savings. (Our tip would be to stock up on a bunch of items at once to get the most bang for your buck.)
Suffice it to say that the site has earned major buzz that even preceded its launch earlier this week: At press time, the startup has $50 million in funding. It's clearly onto something, and maybe my bank account will look all the better for it.