When we first learned about financial independence, we started to analyze our spending. One of the first things that we realized was that we spent way too much on groceries.
I eat gluten-free and have a variety of weird food allergies. We like to eat healthy, fresh foods, which also tend to cost a bit more. I would assume that we’d spend a little bit more on groceries than the average.
Through some research, we realized that we spent more money on food than the USDA’s guidance for a (liberal spending) family of four.
We have taken steps to improve. We’ve focused on not wasting food, meal planning based on what we already have, and buying in bulk. We have reduced our food spending quite a bit, but we felt like it was still high.
I wanted to save more money on groceries. I didn’t feel like we were getting the appropriate value for the money we were spending.
Someone mentioned that they save money by using a CSA (community supported agriculture). What this means is that you buy a share in a farm and then you get a big box of produce each week for the summer and fall.
While I was doing research into this, I stumbled across ugly produce delivery services. I found these services appealing for two reasons. First, these services ship the produce directly to your house, compared to a CSA that typically requires you to pick it up from a central location. The ugly veggie services also provide the option of customizing the size of the box. CSA shares provide a lot of food, and I wasn’t sure that we could use it all.
There are two options for ugly produce where we live: Misfits Market and Imperfect Foods. We decided to try them both, alternating weeks between the two. One week we’ll get a Misfits Market box. The next week we’ll receive an Imperfect Foods Box.
Now that we’ve subscribed to these services for 3-4 months, it’s time to choose which service is better and write a review of both.
What is Ugly Produce Delivery?
In the united states, approximately 40% of our food is wasted. It isn’t only consumers who are wasting food. Food is wasted for a variety of reasons and at different points along the supply chain. Farms, distributors, stores, and consumers are all guilty of too much food waste.
For the purposes of this post, let’s focus on the beginning of the supply chain – farms. Farms waste food for a variety of reasons:
- Hedging against Weather and Disease – Farms will often over-plant because they worry about bad weather or other potential harm to their crops. Because of this, they might have a surplus that there is not a demand for.
- Buying Standards – As consumers in the United States, we have unrealistic cosmetic requirements for our produce. In a grocery store, we are likely to buy perfectly looking vegetables. This is problematic because this leads to edible but “ugly” crops being left in the fields.
- Market Conditions – Sometimes the crop’s price at the time does not warrant the cost of labor or transportation to bring it to market.
- Order Changes – Sometimes a company will make a large order and later cancel their order. This leaves farms scrambling to figure out if they can sell the product.
The National Resource Defence Council makes a number of recommendations to help solve this problem. One of their main recommendations is to “expand secondary markets for items that do not meet the highest cosmetic standards.”
This is precisely what companies like Misfits Market and Imperfect Foods are doing. They are the secondary markets. They are buying the produce from farms when there is a surplus or when the produce doesn’t meet cosmetic requirements.
Instead of this produce going to waste, it gets sold at a discount to companies like Misfits Market and Imperfect Foods. These companies then ship the produce from their warehouse to customers.
What are the Benefits of using a Secondary Market?
There are many benefits to buying your produce through a company like Misfits Market or Imperfect Foods.
- Cost Savings: Produce through these services are less expensive. When I first started using these services, I compared prices with my regular grocery store. The prices are typically 30-50% less, depending on the product.
- Time Savings: These companies deliver the produce right to your door. This cuts down on the need for going grocery shopping
- Healthy Eating: Now that we use these services we eat more fresh fruits and vegetables than we used to. We eat a ton of salad for lunch, have vegetables as a side to our dinners, and eat the fruit for snacks.
- More inventive meals: Since we now plan our meals around the produce that arrives in our box, we’ve been more creative with our meals. We’ve made many recipes I would have never even considered. These new recipes include spaghetti squash boats, cabbage and sausage skillet, and even a curtido (pickled cabbage to put on tacos).
- Good for the environment: Buying produce from these services helps to reduce food waste. These companies have also done due diligence to ensure that food pantries are not receiving fewer donations.
What are the Drawbacks?
If you use one of these services, there are certain drawbacks. You are no longer stopping at the grocery store to get what you want or need.
- Limited choices: Depending on which service you use, you either don’t get to choose your items or you only get to choose from what is currently available. There are occasions when we get food that we don’t want or can’t use. For example, I am allergic to fresh fennel. At one point, we received some in our box, and we weren’t able to use it. There are also occasions where we got such a wide variety that we couldn’t figure out recipes to put them all together before they go bad.
- Limited Delivery Frequency: Sometimes these products are shipped by FedEx, so they can arrive on any delivery day that you choose. Other times, a company might only deliver to your area once/week.
- Product Quality is Sometimes Lower: There are occasions where I will receive a product that needs to be eaten within a couple of days. On rare occasions, some products will get smashed in transit.
How do Misfits Market and Imperfect Foods Compare?
|Category||Misfits Market||Imperfect Foods|
|Contents||An assortment of fruits and vegetables.||You have the option to choose a box that includes:
-Fruits and Vegetables
|Order Customization||No customization||Yes. A few days before each delivery, you have the opportunity to customize. You can choose to add and eliminate items. There are also optional add-on items like cheese, dry goods, eggs, etc.|
|Organic Produce||Yes, all the produce is organic.||Some produce is organic. Even if you don’t choose an all organic box, you have the opportunity to add organic items when you customize.|
|Price||Two sizes: |
10-13 lbs for $22
18-22 lbs for $35
Small (7-9 lbs) for ~$11
Medium (11-13 lbs) for ~$14
Large (17-19 lbs) for ~$20
XL (23-25 lbs) for ~$25
Small (7-9 lbs) for ~$15
Medium (11-13 lbs) for ~$22
Large (17-19 lbs) for ~$33
|Delivery Schedule||You specify your delivery day - ships via FedEx.||Imperfect tells you what day/time that they deliver to your area.|
|Locations||Delivers to all addresses in a number of states, mostly in the northeast, mid-west, and mid-Atlantic||Most major metropolitan areas: west coast, east coast, mid-west, and Texas|
|Referral Program||Yes. Your friend gets 25% off their first box, and you get 25% off your next box. (Misfits sometimes runs special promotions up to 50% off)||Yes. Your friend gets $10 off their first box, and you get $10 off your next box.|
About Imperfect Foods
Imperfect Foods was started in 2015. They focus on metropolitan areas. They currently deliver to 25 metropolitan areas in the United States.
They differentiate themselves by allowing customers to customize their boxes. You can choose from 4 different size boxes and organic or conventional. They will add a set of items to your box. During a customization window, you can swap things out and add eggs, dairy, or other pantry items if you’d like.
Imperfect Foods has their own delivery drivers. Because of this delivery options are limited. For example, they only deliver to my area on Tuesday afternoons.
About Misfits Market
Misfits Market was started in 2018. They are based in Philadelphia and New Jersey.
You choose from two sized boxes (small or large). They fill your box with a variety of items they currently have (all organic). It gets delivered to your doorstep by FedEx.
Misfits Market differentiates themselves by not only focusing on urban, highly populated areas. They have a list of states where they deliver, and they can deliver to any address within the state.
How are they similar?
Misfits Market and Imperfect Foods have so many similarities.
- Mission: Both companies have a mission to reduce food waste.
- Sourcing: They both source the produce that would not sell in stores for a variety of reasons, whether it be surplus or cosmetic requirements.
- Delivery: Both companies deliver the box right to your doorstep.
- Delivery Fee: They both charge a nominal delivery fee.
- Referrals: They both offer a referral program. You will get a discount on your next order if a friend signs up.
How are they different?
Although these companies are seeking to solve the same problem, they are also different in a few ways.
- Organic vs. Conventional: Misfits Market offers 100% organic produce. Imperfect Foods offers both organic and conventional produce.
- Selection: Misfits Market only includes produce. Imperfect Foods also offers pantry items, dairy, eggs, and more.
- Customization: Misfits Market does not offer any customization. Imperfect Foods allows you to customize your order based on their available selection.
- Price per Unit: Misfits Market’s cost is based on the weight of the entire box. With Imperfect Foods, you see the cost of each item. This allows you to compare it to the prices in your local grocery store.
- Coverage: Misfits Market delivers to all zip codes in the states it covers. Imperfect Foods focuses on highly populated metropolitan areas.
- Delivery Schedule: Misfits Market uses FedEx for shipping, so you get to choose your delivery day. Since Imperfect Foods has its own delivery services, delivery windows are more limited. For example, they only deliver to my area on Tuesday afternoons.
Best Ugly Produce Service: Misfits Market vs. Imperfect Foods
We’ve been getting both of these boxes for a few months. Now is the time to decide which one we prefer!
Ultimately, your decisions will be based on what you value most (or where you live).
For me, I’ve realized that the things I value most are cost and customization.
I don’t think I need to eat all organic produce, so I don’t need to pay the premium.
I also love the ability to customize. I eat a lot more vegetables than fruit. If I get a Misfits Market box with more fruit, some of it usually goes bad before I eat it.
Sometimes, I get products that I don’t know how to cook. I usually can figure out what to do with it, but sometimes I don’t figure it out before they go bad.
For us, the delivery day is not a deal-breaker for us. It forces us to plan our meals slightly differently. I usually end up ordering items that will last longer to use over the weekend.
For these reasons, Imperfect Foods is our clear winner!