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ugly vegetables carrots

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 have assumed 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. 

When 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. CSAs typically require you to pick it up from a central location. The ugly veggie services also provide the option of customizing the size of the box you want and the products inside. 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’d get a Misfits Market box. The next week we’d receive an Imperfect Foods Box. 

We originally wrote this review in the fall of 2019 and chose our favorite at that point. In the summer of 2022, we initially updated this review after realizing that both services had made changes to their products and level of customization. 

But that was just the beginning. Since updating this review in 2022, there have been major changes and improvements to the ugly produce delivery service industry, most notably with the acquisition and merger of the two companies that we initially reviewed.

We’ll share our experience with using both companies historically, and as they rolled out the changes as a result of the acquisition.

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 no 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 and fruits. This is problematic because this leads to edible but “ugly” crops being left in the fields or thrown into garbage cans.
  • 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.

ugly fruits and veggies misfits imperfect
Misfits Market Produce

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 directly to customers. 

What are the Benefits of using a Secondary Market?

There are many benefits to buying your groceries through a company like Misfits Market or Imperfect Foods.

  • Cost Savings: Produce through these services are often 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. Because I’m not walking through the grocery store, I’m also not picking up random things I don’t need.
  • Time Savings: These companies deliver 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 fresh produce with every meal of the day and in between for snacks.
  • More inventive meals: Since we now plan our meals around the produce that is available, 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 (Salvadoran 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.
spaghetti squash kale sausage and cheese
These spaghetti squash boats with sausage, kale, mushrooms, and tomatoes were excellent!

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 exactly what you want or need. 

  • Limited choices: While I feel like both services have a lot of options, you can only choose from what is currently available. There have been times where we’d love to get cauliflower, pineapple, or cilantro, but those simply aren’t available that week.
  • 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 when 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. If something is already bad when it arrives, both companies are typically prompt at providing a refund.

How do Misfits Market and Imperfect Foods Compare?

CategoryImperfect FoodsMisfits Market (pre-2023 merger)Misfits Market (post-2023 merger)
ContentsYou choose from an assortment of fruits, vegetables, pantry items, dairy, and meat. You choose from an assortment of fruits, vegetables, pantry items, dairy, and meat. You choose from an assortment of fruits, vegetables, pantry items, dairy, and meat.
Order CustomizationComplete customization. A few days before each delivery, you have the opportunity to customize anything. You can choose to add and eliminate items. You can add any item in any quantity. Complete customization (new in 2021). A few days before each delivery, you have the opportunity to add exactly what you want to your box. You can add any item in any quantity.

If you want to order refrigerated items, you need to meet a minimum to receive a "cold pack."
Complete customization. A few days before each delivery, you have the opportunity to add exactly what you want to your box. You can add any item in any quantity.

If you live an an area that has dedicated delivery drivers, you no longer need to choose the "cold pack" option.
Organic ProduceSome produce is organic. Even if you don’t choose an all organic box, you have the opportunity to add organic items when you customize. Most of the products are organic, although they do offer some non-organic items as well (new as of 2022). Most of the products are organic, although they do offer some non-organic items as well.
PriceYou choose a box size to start with. There are 4 options:
Small (7-9 lbs) for ~$11-15
Medium (11-14 lbs) for ~$14-18
Large (17-19 lbs) for ~$20-25
XL (23-25 lbs) for ~$25-30

Organic boxes are generally 30-40% more expensive making them comparable to Misfits Market Prices.

Each item is priced individually, so you have transparency about how much each thing costs.
Misfits Market now charges per item, and you must spend a minimum of $30 for your order. They say that their produce is 40% off grocery store prices, but it really depends on your grocery store. Misfits Market now charges per item, and you must spend a minimum of $15 for your order. They say that their produce is 40% off grocery store prices, but it really depends on your grocery store.
Delivery ScheduleImperfect tells you what day/time that they deliver to your area. You get a text the day, so you know when it will arrive. You specify your delivery day - ships via FedEx, LaserShip or another 3rd party. If you live in one of their delivery areas, Misfits Market will let you know what day/time they deliver to your area. They will send you tracking information 1 day before.

If you are outside one of their delivery zones, you specify your delivery day, and it ships via FedEx or another 3rd party.
Delivery Fee$5.99

They waive the shipping fee if you spend at least $60.
$6.99$5.99 or FREE SHIPPING on order above $60.
LocationsMost major metropolitan areas in New England, mid-Atlantic, the midwest, the west coast, the plains states, and Texas. Delivers to nearly all addresses in the lower 48 states (and Washington DC).Delivers to nearly all addresses in the lower 48 states (and Washington DC).

About Imperfect Foods

Imperfect Foods was started in 2015. Prior to the acquisition and merger, they delivered to metropolitan areas in 32 states. They were popular because of their in-house delivery and growing assortment of private label products, even if it came with limited delivery windows (for example, they only delivered to my area on Tuesday afternoons).

They allowed customers to completely customize their boxes. You could choose from 4 different size boxes and organic or conventional. They would also add a set of items to your box. During a customization window, you could swap things out and add eggs, dairy, meat, or other pantry items if you’d like. 

ugly veggies
Imperfect Produce Haul

About Misfits Market

Misfits Market was started in 2018. They are based in Philadelphia and New Jersey. 

Misfits Market initially made changes in 2021, and they now allow you to completely customize your box as well. Each week, they will let you know the window of time in which you can choose your items.

Misfits Market delivers to almost all zip codes in the lower 48 US states. In urban areas and larger suburbs, Misfits Market now uses the former Imperfect Foods delivery network. Through this network, you get your groceries delivered to your door from a dedicated Misfits Market delivery driver. If you live outside of one of their dedicated delivery zones, your box gets delivered to your doorstep by FedEx or another third party.

Misfits Market box contents

Click the link below and use this code to get $10 off your first order: COOKWME-KP3AIX.

Information about the Acquisition of Imperfect Foods by Misfits Market

The acquisition of Imperfect Foods by Misfits Market was first announced in September 2022. While both companies have shared updates along the way, it’s been a bit of a waiting game to see how this change would affect consumers.

When we first learned of the acquisition, it made sense to us because of the similarities between the two companies. Below is a list of the similarities that we initially shared in 2019.

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.
  • Selection: Both companies now offer produce, pantry items, dairy, and meat.
  • Customization: Both companies allow you to customize your entire order based on their available selection, and you do not need to meet a minimum threshold for produce.
  • Price per Unit: Both companies now allow you see the cost of every item. This allows you to easily compare it to the prices in your local grocery store.
  • Organic vs. Conventional: Both companies offer a variety of organic and non-organic products.
  • Delivery: Both companies deliver the box right to your doorstep.
  • Delivery Fee: They both charge a nominal delivery fee (Imperfect Foods waives the fee above $60). 

We were also very excited and hopeful that the acquisition would mean the best of both companies for the consumer.

So, how did the acquisition shake out for consumers? What does this mean for customers of both companies?

How does the Acquisition (and Merger) impact Customers?

Unlike other mergers or acquisitions, the acquisition has had minimal impact on customers so far. We’ve actually been really impressed with how seamless the transition has been.

We were able to continue using Imperfect Foods as we were until they made a few recent changes, including updating the app and shopping process so that it aligns with what Misfits Market does.  

I expect that they will eventually phase out the Imperfect Website and process, so if you decide to try out one of these services, I’d recommend signing up with Misfits Market, so that you process won’t change.

Best Ugly Produce Service: Misfits Market vs. Imperfect Foods

We have been long-time customers of both services. We’ve been using both for over 4 years, although our early preference (from 2019-2021) was Imperfect Foods, in large part due to the lack of customizations from Misfits Market.

But we then heard a lot about Misfits Market’s customization options. So, in the summer of 2022, we tried it again. At the time we had one key question to answer. Would Misfits Market’s new customization (and availability of non-organic produce) allow it to jump ahead of Imperfect Foods in our ranking?

Ultimately, we concluded that the decision between the two companies would have been based on what you value most (or where you live), and that Misfits Market closed almost all of the gap that we saw with Imperfect Foods (customization, transparency on pricing, adding non-organic produce, and adding refrigerated items). But we still saw Imperfect Foods as the better company to use because of the quality. It was rare that we received anything from Imperfect Foods that we could not eat.

Now that the companies have made significant progress to merge their companies, here’s what we think about the services.

We are enjoying the benefits of both Misfits Market and Imperfect Foods. We get access to the superior Misfits Market shopping app and have access to a wider variety of products. And, we still get our groceries delivered directly to our house by a Misfits Market delivery driver. And we’ve been happy to see that the level of quality from Imperfect Foods has carried over. We have not yet had to throw anything out because of the quality of food sent to us. It truly is the best of both worlds.

Click the link below and use this code to get $10 off your first order: COOKWME-KP3AIX.

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