When my garden slows down in the winter, I still often crave fresh produce. This winter I decided to give Imperfect Foods a try, especially with things being what they are right now. Particularly living in a more rural town with limited grocery delivery options, a home produce delivery service sounded like a nice idea to me. Here’s my honest Imperfect foods review so far, and a promo code if you’d like to try it yourself!
What is Imperfect Foods?
The main (brilliant) idea of Imperfect Foods produce subscription was to help minimize food waste across the nation by creating a market for all the imperfect produce and other food items that are good, but not as “perfect” as brands prefer to place on the grocery store shelves. Think carrots with funny legs, fruit or veggies that are bigger or smaller than the standard size, label misprints, too much of a product like rice, etc. Many of the imperfections could be really unnoticeable to you as a consumer. Of course, none of the imperfections would affect food safety or I’m sure it couldn’t legally be sold.
How does Imperfect Foods work?
It is essentially a produce subscription box, but you can choose to skip any delivery or set them to every other week instead of weekly.
Each box is completely customizable. When you first set up your subscription, you set your initial preferences, like size of box and which categories of food it contains. You can choose only produce, or opt to add a random selection of dairy, grains, snacks, plant-based stuff or even meat and fish. You also can ask them to “never” send certain foods you hate. A mix of products that fit your preferences is automatically added to your cart, but from there you have a window of time to add or subtract anything from that week’s box.
Details about Imperfect Foods box sizes here
My “shopping window” is usually from Thursday to Sunday, and my delivery day is Tuesday. The produce and other foods available vary based on what is available from growers, but there is a large selection.
What imperfect produce do they have?
The products available change a little each week, but I was really pleasantly surprised how many items they have available, especially for produce–both organic and conventional. In fact, I was able to get a few items I haven’t seen in my local grocery store (diced sweet potatoes, shimeji mushrooms, different brands of yogurt and healthy baked goods). It seems the company even make some of their own products, like cookies or granola, with some of the extra baking ingredients they get.
There are a variety of meats and plant based items, but I haven’t personally purchased those. You can set up your subscription to automatically include dairy or a meat & fish pack if you wish. Meat, fish, dairy, or any other frozen or refrigerated items such as cut fruit or vegetables come packed in an insulated bag with a large ice pack that lasts a long time.
They’ve also recently begun offering “saved stems”–imperfect bouquets of flowers. Yes, please!
Is Imperfect foods actually cheaper?
I thought the prices were good on most produce items. I opted to choose items that were on sale or seemed a good price to me. Some items were priced above what I normally buy at, but some of the prices change a bit each week depending on supply. To get the best prices, I just choose my items accordingly like I do with any other store. This also helps to change up my meal planning each week!
You can get a $10 off Imperfect Foods coupon code to use on your first order by using my referral link here! It gives me a discount too, so thanks!
Imperfect Foods prices:
Here’s what my first order looked like, including the prices (yes, I added a lot of stuff). For reference, I live in southern California (I assume prices or items may vary by state).
Imperfect Foods Delivery Review
Here’s a photo of my box as I opened it. Sorry it’s a bit low quality, it’s from when I took a video to share on my Instagram of the first unboxing. You can find that video on my Instagram highlights. All in all, I was pleasantly surprised at the size and quality of everything!
My 4 year old twins and I had lots of fun opening up the box checking out its contents–especially the blackberries, which they consumed almost immediately. It still makes me laugh to watch their excitement every time we get a produce box delivered–they “help” me carry it inside and proceed to shout out all of the contents, and immediately start snacking or sneak away with their favorite items. It’s not uncommon for them to even start nibbling on broccoli heads or carrots. This may sound strange, but I think the fact that we are avid gardeners (as well as this boxed produce reminding them of a present) helps them get excited about vegetables!
What makes the produce imperfect?
For most of the imperfect foods, I could not tell what the imperfections were. As I mentioned above, I suspect several of them were imperfect size or shape. I would say about 70-85% of it though, I did not notice any imperfections. Here are some examples of the imperfections I did find in my deliveries so far. When you shop, most items specify what the imperfection is (i.e. size, surplus, irregular shape etc.).
I would guess that one of the most common imperfection is size, as items were often a bit larger or smaller than grocery store sizes (ex. carrots, beets, zucchini apples, oranges). Probably just being leftover surplus is another common reason these items end up with Imperfect produce. One of my favorite items, the diced sweet potatoes, just seem to have a few more pieces with skin.
In my four deliveries so far (around 100+ items total), only a few items were slightly disappointing. I had one large eggplant that was maybe overripe and got soft quickly, one order of carrots that were pretty small (but for 99 cents not bad) and the blackberries, understandably, were fairly ripe and soft. The blackberries were no problem since my kiddoes polished them off within minutes anyway. 😉
I haven’t liked imperfect foods tomatoes so far, but being that I am a home gardener, I am a total tomato snob so that’s not surprising. Some fruits like mango come very under ripe, so you may have to plan for that.
All in all, as long as you don’t expect 100% perfection, you should be very happy!
Is Imperfect Foods a more ethical choice?
Of course, one of the draws of Imperfect Produce is the “ethical” angle. Many consumers like the idea of helping farmers and helping the planet (and maybe hunger problems too?) by reducing food waste. So does it?
Some have argued that much of the imperfect produce would actually have ended up as donations to food banks instead. According to Imperfect Foods, though, only a small amount of the surplus food would go to food banks. Their contact with Feeding America, one of the largest food bank networks, indicated that food banks only receive a small percent (about 10%) of their produce directly from farms or growers.
Depending on the area, this makes sense, but it would be interesting to do some digging in your own area. I know our local small town food bank receives weekly produce donations from local grocery stores instead, and apparently many food banks do this since they do not have enough refrigerated storage in-house.
I like that you can apply for a reduced cost box (33% off) if your income qualifies you for SNAP benefits, even though the company can’t officially accept SNAP/EBT/food stamps yet. Maybe soon!
Another concern I’ve heard is that Imperfect produce boxes sometimes compete and outsell local CSA produce boxes available from local farms. Since their supply tends to come from much larger farms and suppliers (think grocery store brands), smaller scale farms would almost certainly have a harder time competing with prices and customizability.
For me personally, I like to try to support small local farmers as much as I can, so I will most likely pause my subscription during the summer or fall, when there is lots more local produce available. But for now, during winter, it is a great option to fill in the gap.
It’s nice that most of the produce comes plastic-free if you’re trying to reduce your plastic waste.
The Verdict: Is imperfect foods worth it?
For me, yes, absolutely! I love the convenience, the prices, large and frequently changing selection, and so far most of the produce is really great quality! I like the opportunity to choose items and brands that are harder to find in stores. There are plenty of items for bargain shoppers as well as those who like premium items like meat and dairy substitutes, quality meat and fish, or healthy grains and specialty baked items like bread and wraps.
I will continue to order Imperfect produce until summer comes when our local farmers have lots to offer. If nothing else, it’s nice to avoid a shopping trip and my kids and I honestly love opening a fun box of healthy goodies. Perhaps it’s all in the presentation but yes, believe it or not, my kids really do get excited about the imperfect fruits and vegetables. Especially when “exciting things” are limited lately, it’s like a healthy mini version of Christmas for them, without all the plastic and candy! Win win!
So far I have gotten three deliveries, and am still very happy with the service.
One week we had our freeway closed due to snow, so my delivery was delayed a day. I got emails and texts to let me know, and my box came the next day. The kale ended up a little bit wilty, but everything else was great.