It’s the 21st century, which means you can get just about anything delivered straight to your door. From our Amazon wish list to Turkish towels handmade in Turkey, our family has definitely partaken in the online shopping trend. And you know what, I’m not ashamed.
I love our Turkish towels. I love to support small shops on Etsy. And I love to find cool shops on IG that promote sustainability and pay people fair wages.
But one thing I don’t love is the carbon footprint from all my shopping.
As someone who works from home, I don’t really contribute much in the vehicular realm to pollution. My daughter is homeschooled, so we aren’t driving back and forth to school every day. But I still pay attention to the aftermath of my online shopping, both in my budget and the environment.
And with every Dodo video of an animal getting rescued from someone’s garbage, my conviction to live differently deepened.
And that’s part of what brought me to Imperfect Foods.
Who is Imperfect Foods?
According to Feeding America, nearly 40% of all the food that is produced is thrown out. Yes, you read that right. In 2020, their network helped alleviate 4 billion pounds of food waste, and 1.8 billion pounds of that was from fresh produce. That’s A LOT of food!
And unfortunately, most of the food is still totally edible in its “imperfect” state.
That’s where Imperfect Foods comes in.
Started in 2015, they are now part of the Feeding America network to rescue produce and other groceries from being thrown out. Imperfect Foods works with local grocery stores to take the produce that isn’t considered sellable in the store and offers it to members at a discounted price. So not only are you preventing produce from filling up landfills, but you are also getting a nice discount on what you would be buying in the store anyway. It’s a win-win.
But what I really love about Imperfect Foods is that they offer full-spectrum sustainability support. They also take an offensive position in combating waste by helping you find the best ways to handle food. If you haven’t, check out The Whole Carrot, a blog dedicated to recipes, inspiration for seasonal produce, how to keep your produce fresh and info on their podcast, Unwasted.
What makes food imperfect?
While this all sounds pretty great, it does pose one major question—what constitutes imperfect produce? Grocery stores prize themselves in selling those picture-perfect fruits and veggies. Things that don’t make the cut? The small apples. The slightly ugly produce. The carrot with a little extra something growing out sideways. These are things that wouldn’t keep farmers from selling their produce at local markets, but yet they are often thrown out by local grocery stores.
Imperfect foods aren’t just limited to physical imperfections, however. Sometimes it has nothing to do with how the fruit looks and simply with how much there is.
Imperfect Foods also partners with grocery stores who also may have simply overordered products.
About The Subscription
Currently, Imperfect Foods has over 400,000 members in 38 states, myself included.
Membership is free, so you will just pay for your groceries and the delivery fee of $5-9.
You can shop for grocery items in the following categories:
- Proteins (meat & meat alternatives)
- Plant-based groceries
- Pantry staples
- Seasonal produce
Essentially, you pick the size of box you’re looking for and what you want it to contain. I have a family of 3 eaters, but our dietary restrictions are all over the place. I also regularly shop at Costco, Thrive Market, and our local farmer’s market, so I opted for a medium-sized produce box. Next, you choose how often your box comes to you. I went for biweekly, but you can customize your experience to get deliveries weekly or even every few weeks.
Imperfect Foods will then assemble a box to match your preferences and send it your way!
Given the nature of the industry, there is some variance in availability. So while you may find your favorite organic, grass-fed salted butter there one week, the next week, it may be totally MIA.
Customization Is Key
Because quality groceries are only a hop and skip away from where I live, there have definitely been weeks that I didn’t really need anything from Imperfect Foods.
When that happens, I just skip my box. What I really love about that option is they will also give me the choice to decide which week I start back up. Because I’m scheduled to get boxes every other week, I have the option to either wait the full two weeks or just check in next week to see where I’m at.
Also, remember those dietary restrictions I mentioned earlier?
They can make it pretty difficult to shop for. While two members of my family seem to do okay with food that isn’t organic, I’m not so lucky. I’m that gluten/dairy/corn intolerant person that seems to have never-ending gut problems. We opt for grass-fed meat that was humanely raised, and we eat kosher, which means no pork or shellfish.
We have the very real possibility of becoming a grocery delivery service’s worst customer.
And yet, I have found that I’ve never had a problem with Imperfect Foods.
They open the shopping window for members three days before your delivery day. You’ll get notified via email and text when your window opens. When you log in, you’ll find a curated box based on your previous selections. I almost always make changes to mine with very little effort.
It’s so stinking easy!
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly Food
It’s easy to sit and talk about how cool a company is, but if you’re wondering if they really deliver, here is my experience with one of my most recent boxes. It was a pretty average week in the middle of summer, and I couldn’t get enough fresh produce and tacos.
As per usual, I received a text message indicating when my Imperfect Foods box was out for delivery. And I received a text when it got delivered, which is especially helpful for the days I forget about it. It arrived in a heavy-duty box that is the envy of anyone getting ready to move. Seriously, these boxes are STRONG.
When it came time to unwrap, my more sensitive produce was wrapped in recyclable paper. Most items don’t have any kind of plastic packaging, although the green beans and snap peas were packaged.
My cold items were in a separate baggie with an ice pack. This particular box ended up sitting on the porch longer than normal, so that ice pack really came in handy.
Now, here’s where it gets cool.
I got a little bit of everything in this box. Here’s a full rundown, broken into categories:
- Green beans
- Snap peas
- Tomatoes (They will always be a veggie to me!)
- Green Onion
- Sourdough Take & Bake Loaf
- Artisan pizza crust
- Corn tortillas
- Almond milk
- Salted butter
I always opt for organic produce, so my produce tends to run on the smaller side. If you are okay purchasing conventionally grown food, your produce may be larger. I didn’t get them in this box, but I usually also add in mangoes and avocados.
How It Performed
I have a hard time navigating some of the fresh fruit, so I stayed away from nectarines and peaches for a while. But I decided to give them another shot for this article. And honestly, I don’t know that I was that impressed with them this round either.
I’m not sure if it’s because of where I’m at or if it’s because I got organic produce (and organics don’t have the same shelf life), but it seemed like they were in dire need of consumption within a day or two. And as much as I try, I just can’t ever use them before they turn into a soggy mess. It’s important to note that despite my constant protests, my family will only eat hard peaches. Like, crispy-I-can-hear-you-crunch hard. So when they get even remotely close to being soft, I’m on my own to finish them off.
I also had a hard time using the onions in time and found a few of them went bad by the time I cut them open. I’m onion sensitive (it’s a thing), so I blame that one on a flare-up totally unrelated to produce quality. No points were deducted there.
But everything else was wonderful. The blueberries were eaten within a day, the green beans and snap peas made for a yummy teriyaki, and we made some beef & zucchini tacos for dinner. For whatever odd reason, the apples I get from Imperfect Foods are regular studs in this area. They are delicious, last forever, and they’re the perfect size for my eight-year-old’s lunches.
Also, if you ever find yourself making challah bread on a Friday night, the salted butter from Vital Farms makes AMAZING honey butter. Seriously, you owe it to yourself to try it.
While I don’t use Imperfect Foods in place of all my grocery shopping, it is definitely nice not to run into Whole Foods every time I need some fresh produce or meat that I don’t feel guilty for buying. I have noticed that a few of their items are smaller than what I would find in the store, specifically the almond milk. But the trade-off for not having to drive into town and saving on organic produce makes up for it.
So all in all, I highly recommend this company. While I’ve struggled with some of the produce going bad, this wouldn’t be an issue for someone with more commitment to a meal plan. In fact, my zeal for grocery shopping far exceeds my excitement about meal prepping. As a result, we are in process of building out some new household rules surrounding this very issue.
Are there other super cool boxes out there? Probably.
I’ve heard that Misfit Markets is another contender in this realm and was going to try them out a bit, but when I reached out to them, I found them unresponsive and a bit evasive. So I’ll stick to Imperfect Foods.
You might also be interested in: 8 Best Places to Get Online Groceries [Signed, Sealed, Delivered—They’re Yours]