This is the last of the “What Does a Real Foodie Buy at…?” series, which has already covered:
Tropical Traditions is an interesting online shop to discuss through the lens of frugality, because for the most part, the products there are rather expensive. On the other hand, there are a few gems that are probably the best price on the web, especially if you wait until the free shipping weekends that happen about once a month or so.
(In fact, I was sort of hoping this would be a free shipping weekend, which is why I saved TT until last…but it’s not. Maybe next week! I almost always make a note of it on Facebook, so “like” the page over there to be kept in the loop on little deals like those that I might not mention on the blog.)
I do a fair amount of food shopping at Tropical Traditions in spite of the prices, because they have a referral program that pays out in gift certificates – and you don’t have to be a blogger to benefit!
Here’s how it works:
- Sign up for the referral program
- If you see a good deal, or perhaps on the free shipping weekends, you can share it on your own Facebook timeline, via email, or on your blog if you have one. Anywhere you can type a link, you can share your special link.
- Create your referral links to specific products HERE. When you look at an individual product, there’s a “promote and earn” link below it. Click there and generate your link.
- Anytime a new customer makes any order after clicking on your link, whether they buy what you recommend or something else, they get a free book about coconut oil and you get a $25 gift certificate to Tropical Traditions. Win-win!
Just so you know, I don’t get anything for referring you to the referral program, but I love helping you all figure out creative ways to get food for less…and free is always a great deal.
If you’ve never shopped at Tropical Traditions and you think you might want the coconut oil book, use one of my links on this page, like this one. If you make a purchase, you get a free book (and yep, I get a gift certificate). But wait – hold out for the free shipping unless you see an incredible deal that you can’t pass up!
What Real Katie Would Buy at TT
Sometimes blogger Katie gets perks that normal Katie would never have been able to afford. Before I had a bunch of “free money” at TT, I made an occasional order on free shipping weekends. Here’s what I’d buy:
- Organic tomato paste and tomato sauce in glass jars, because tomatoes leach BPA from their cans more than any other food. I know I just said I wasn’t elitist about that kind of thing, and I’m not. If you can’t afford glass jarred tomatoes, you’re not the most horrible person in the world. If you can, TT is often a much better price than a local health food store. Those Jovial diced tomatoes are truly rich and amazing.
Shopping tip: If you buy 4 of each (paste and sauce only), it’s enough for the minimum free shipping requirement and fits nicely in one box, too. I used to have about half and half canned and glass jarred tomatoes when I started the transition. If I was cooking for company, I would use the canned stuff. That may sound selfish, but hopefully it was just prudent and doing the best I could within my means.
- Coconut flour – This is one of the “best price on the web” examples. I haven’t found coconut flour for less anywhere, and the quality is great. Coconut flour is my top recommendation for anyone starting a grain-free (or even gluten-free) diet, because you use very little in each recipe, and you only need this one flour to make all sorts of stuff. (Some examples in the free downloads that come with the KS monthly newsletter right now!)
- Palm shortening – A healthy fat that goes great in biscuits, homemade tortillas, and especially pie crusts, I’m fairly certain TT has a good price on palm shortening, especially when it goes on sale.
- Coconut cream concentrate – Also called coconut butter, this stuff is neat for making coconut milk stir fry sauces, frostings, and any recipe that calls for coconut cream or coconut butter. It’s shelf stable and lasts a long time. Right NOW there’s a BOGO sale on them, but even the normal price is better than I could find elsewhere.
- Einkorn pasta and flours – The prices at TT right now beat Amazon’s current price by a longshot, so if you want the ancient wheat of einkorn in your diet, Tropical Traditions is the place. They even have their own einkorn wheat berries grown here in the U.S., which is kind of cool (and more frugal than other brands).
- Freeze-dried fruit – When John started solids, the question I received more than any other was, “What are you going to feed him as an on-the-go snack instead of Cheerios?” This is the answer. I’d buy a few bags of expensive, organic, freeze-dried-melt-in-your-mouth fruit, break each piece into tiny pieces when I fed him at church or wherever, and make this bag last a month or two. We didn’t share with the other kids, and we didn’t use them in the house – only for on the go! Now that I’ve been shopping with certificates lately, I stocked up a little and let the big kids have some in their yogurt. It’s yummy!
Shopping tip: I’ve never seen the fruit go on sale.
- Tropical Traditions brand dishwasher detergent – We just ran out of this huge tub, and I realized how much I liked it, maybe even more than when I reviewed natural dishwasher detergents last fall. It works very well, and it’s priced at only $4/lb. right now, which I’m guessing is probably a good deal. (Need to put that in my price book!)
- Benefect hand sanitizer – Since I have a severe dislike for triclosan, I’ve been using this thyme oil based spray for a few years now, although we still did finish off all our alcohol-based sanis (because alcohol doesn’t carry the environmental risk of triclosan and other antibac chemicals).Shopping tip: That $4.49 price is pretty much the “always” price, not a sale that’s going to go away soon.
What You can Get with Those Coupons…
Real Katie may be a sparse TT shopper, but coupon-laden Katie has quite a bit of fun there. Here are things you might enjoy if you do the referral program:
Note: You can’t use the free shipping coupon codes with the $25 gift certificate codes. BUT you can take advantage of sales, which I try to do as much as possible to maximize the goodness.
- Shredded and flaked coconut – I thought these were decent deals, but it turns out that compared to Country Life, they are not. However, when shopping with coupons, I watch for a sale on coconut and get a few of the larger bags. It’s so good in so many things!!
- Spelt, millet, and other whole grains and flours
- Kalona grassfed butter – as I said when I covered buying the best butter, Kalona is pricey, and I have some qualms about shipping cold things around and the environmental impact. TT is really good about using sustainable materials, however, even using corn-based insulators instead of a Styrofoam cooler to ship frozen goods.That said, if you have gift certificates to use or can’t find a source of butter and really want it, Kalona is delicious.
UPDATE 2014: If you see Kalona anywhere in your town, grab it like hotcakes, but Tropical Traditions no longer carries the brand. Their Nordic Creamery butter is a good alternative – not nearly as gorgeously yellow, but a very nice butter in a funny package. My kids had so many questions about the “big roll of butter!”
Shopping tip: Watch for sales and play with the shipping – it only went up a few bucks for me when I tripled my order, so I stocked the freezer. Free shipping is usually only for ground, not refrigerated/frozen, so it won’t apply.
- Buffalo brats – There are meat sales, too, which is a great time to grab some brats for the grill. I have also ordered ground beef and round steaks, so if a local farm simply isn’t an option for you, it might be worth checking out prices (and watch for sales!). The meat is really top notch, in my opinion.
- Soy-free eggs – I just got 8 dozen of these eggs because they had a free shipping on eggs sale that DIDN’T need a coupon code, so I didn’t have to pay a dime. The eggs come in cardboard, not Styrofoam, and without ice packs. They’re good. Not great…the yolks aren’t really deep in color or rich…but they were raised well and that’s what matters to me.
- Organic cocoa powder
- The EVOO and sesame oil are delicious
- The spaghetti sauce and pizza sauce are great too, but pricey!
- Green label coconut oil – I get such a good deal on coconut oil (and Costco now carries a good brand, too) that I never wanted to purchase from TT. When it goes on a really good sale, though, the gift certs can help you stock up.
- Goat milk protein powder – my husband is happy to have this option, since I didn’t want to buy him the same old stuff from a fitness store that he’s been having.
- Organic applesauce – after last year’s abysmal apple crop, I thought I’d better stock up on applesauce just in case. The irony of Michigan apples being shipped to Eden Foods in Battle Creek, then the jars shipped to the Nevada TT center, then shipped back to me in Grand Rapids is not lost on me. It makes me sad!
- Balsamic vinegar and ACV – The bottle of balsamic is too tall to fit in my cabinet. Consider yourself warned!
- Organic BPA-free canned beans – This is definitely a compromise and preparedness purchase. Beans can be eaten cold from the can if a disaster strikes, so I thought I should stock up a little bit.
Shopping tip: You have to use the entire gift certificate, and although you can combine the 25s to make bigger gift certificates (click “gift certificates” in green on the right), they have to be in certain increments. Ground shipping and refrigerated items DO count on the same total, just not the same shipping. Sometimes you need a small-ish item to reach the proper total value.
My favorite little items include:
- Dark chocolate – Heavenly bars!
- Fruit preserves – these little jars have no added sweetener and are a great homemade yogurt backup if you get low on frozen fruit.
- Organic spices – I’d usually buy spices in bulk, but if I’m out of something and need to get up to a certain increment, picking a spice is like shoe shopping is to many women.
- The freeze-dried fruit from above
Eco tip: The boxes Tropical Traditions uses to mail most of their food items have thick dividers and would be fabulous for someone moving. Save up until you have a handful, then offer them for free on Craigslist or Freecycle. Same with the packing paper. It’s a way that I feel slightly less guilty for using so many resources to get food to my door…
Your turn! Do you order food online? What do you love at Tropical Traditions?
Disclosure: All the links to Tropical Traditions will help me generate coupons, as I explained above. See my full disclosure statement here.