Why I Love Thrive

Hi, I’m Francesca and I want to tell you a bit about Thrive Life.  They are an online grocery store that specializes in premium freeze dried foods.

You may be wondering what does “freeze dried” actually mean. Simply put, freeze drying is just removing the water from a piece of food, using cold instead of heat, as dehydration would use.  This is done by placing the already flash frozen food into a freeze drying unit, then slightly raising the temperature (to a nice warm negative 50 degrees) while dropping the air pressure to sublimate the water (turning the ice into water vapor). The water vapor is then vacuum extracted, causing no damage to the cell structure of the food while retaining almost all of the nutrients. This process also makes the food incredibly shelf stable and, unlike dehydrated foods, allowing them to keep the food simple and clean with no added artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives.

So, how did I find Thrive? And why have I switched from relying on just my local grocery store to using something as “weird” as this in my everyday cooking? Well, in late 2010, I was working for a company that was going through some cutbacks and downsizing. That really focused me on the concern of not having enough food on hand, just in case I ended up out of work for a while. I didn’t want to just stock up on things from the grocery store as too much of it is over processed, been sitting in the freezer too long, or just full of bad “stuff” I didn’t want to eat. It was around that time I realized that the stress from work really took a toll on my family’s health.  With the long hours I was working, it was way more attractive to pick up pre-made food at the grocery store, or fast food on the way home, than to do all the prepping, cooking, and cleaning needed to feed my family. I wanted something that was simple and easy to use without sacrificing nutrition.  I did my research and comparisons between many of the food storage brands on the market and I found that Thrive was not your average food storage, that it was food designed to be used in everyday life. Once I tasted it, I was sold!

Thrive Life picks their produce Vine Ripe before flash freezing in order to lock in all the flavor and all the nutrition. During the last 10% of ripening most of the nutrients develop, so the difference in nutrition between ripe and unripe foods, like the ones you get find at your local grocery store, is massive. Mercer Foods says this in an article about the benefits of Freeze Dried foods.

“A 2004 study of fresh blackberries found that levels of antioxidants were four times greater in ripe blackberries compared to underripe versions of the same fruit. With freeze drying, fruits and vegetables can be picked at their ripest, when produce is packed with nutrients. In this way, freeze-dried foods can be even better for [your] health than fresh foods. Vitamin A (which has an important role in the health of your eyes, bones, and immune system) along with vitamin C starts to break down fast in traditional dehydrators. But freeze drying halts that degradation and keeps the vitamins intact.

Freeze drying is so effective, in fact, that studies on the potential for cancer prevention are often done with freeze-dried food. You’ve probably heard that multiple studies have found cancer-fighting properties in berries; much of that research was led by Dr. Gary Stoner at the Medical College of Wisconsin, using freeze-dried strawberries and black raspberries.”

 Grocery stores pick their produce unripe and it is kept in cold storage for extended periods to give them time to sort and process the food before it hits the shelves.  Fruits and vegetables are often exposed to ethylene gas to “ripen” the fruits as they are picked early, but since they aren’t connected to the plant they came from, pretty much all they are doing is changing color. For example, apples can be picked, covered in a thin layer of wax, and stored up to 12 months, all while losing nutrients, before they even get to the produce section.

Because Thrive Life foods are flash frozen and freeze dried quickly, they retain their original nutrients, and fresh flavor. Because our foods are naturally high quality, most of them are single ingredient products.  The chicken is just chicken, strawberries are simply strawberries, and pineapple is only pineapple.  Did you know that pineapple will turn brown when dehydrated? In order to make it appealing for customers, sulfur is added to keep it from turning brown.  However, in order to mast the (not pleasant) sulfuric taste, sugar is added. Why would I eat that when the alternative keeps the pineapple so natural, that even the enzymes (destroyed by heat) reactivate when water is added back to the freeze dried pineapple?  Canned foods aren’t much better.  In order to keep them appealing while prolonging their shelf life, preservatives and artificial colorings are added. Often sugar is added to mask the taste of the preservatives and the low quality of the food.  Even fruits with naturally high sugar content, like pineapple, are mostly canned in “light syrup” to try to hide the fact that a lot of sugar is added.

Thrive Life has very high standards for what foods they use.  All of them are non-GMO, very carefully sourced, and pesticide free. According to Thrive’s  own question and answer page:

“Our foods are fully cleaned and tested before they are packaged to ensure there are no foreign particles or contaminates. Those that are not certified organic may have been produced with fertilizers and pesticides: however, products are tested for pesticides and must fall below the EPS’s required levels. Often, our products test negative for any trace of pesticides.”

 On top of how nutritious the foods are, I love how much time and effort Thrive foods save me in the kitchen.  Everything is already prepped to there is no washing, chopping, or deseeding.  All I need to do is just to scoop each ingredient to use it, on average cutting prep time in half. And because there is no prepping involved, there is no waste, I only pay for the parts of the food that I actually use.

Let’s take a bell pepper for an example. When one of my recipes calls for half of a bell pepper, I need to wash it, cut it, remove the stem and seeds (which go into the trash), slice up my half to use, package up and refrigerate the unused half, and then try to remember to use it before it goes bad. With Thrive, I just scoop half a cup of freeze dried bell peppers and move onto the next step in my recipe.

Food waste pops up even where you would least expect it. A pound of ground beef from the grocery store ends up being only about 12 ounces after cooking. The rest is water, which evaporates, and grease which you get to decide what to do with. With Thrive Ground Beef, the meat is already cooked and the grease is removed, so you can use whatever amount you want, without the mess.

With everything already chopped, sliced, grated and the meats cooked, the time saved really adds up. I figured out if I saved only 30 minutes a day by having and using Thrive I saved myself a whole week of time, to use, as I want.  Seriously, a week! Thirty minutes a day over a year adds up to a full week! That is time I can be spending doing what I want to do and with my loved one.

Snack time is much easier, as all of our foods can be eaten straight out of the package. The freeze drying process retains the flavor and texture so well that it’s not like eating dehydrated fruit can turn into leather. In fact, it preserves the natural flavor and great texture so well that I have friends whose kids will actively seek out eating our Sweet Corn and Broccoli as treats.  And with a large selection of fruits and veggies it doesn’t matter what the season is, always have it everything from cranberries to asparagus.

Since Thrive Life foods are freeze dried, they are incredibly easy to store as well.  Most foods can sit unopened for 25 years, after they’ve been opened; the average shelf life is 1 year. Even opened they do not need to be store in the refrigerator or freezer. Compare that to the produce you have in your refrigerator right now, which usually goes bad within about a week. According to the National Resources Defense Council, up to 40% will be thrown away uneaten. The most expensive food you buy is the food you throw away.

Having lived in the frigid Midwest (go Nebraska Cornhuskers!), currently living in earthquake country, and having gone through several periods of job uncertainty, having food that is shelf stable gives me peace of mind that I can provide healthy foods for my family if something goes sideways.

After all of that there’s still one more thing that might end up being your favorite part about Thrive.  Because it’s an online grocery store, I can shop in my jammies with a mom bun and nobody will judge me.  I can start filling my delivery (my shopping cart), any time of day or night, leave it and take a break, come the next day to finish my shopping, my local store would really frown on that. I’ve really cut down on the amount of time driving to the store, standing in line, loading everything into my car just to take it out again.  Now most of my food is delivered right to my door.

And That’s Why I Love Thrive

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