I was not sponsored by Imperfect Produce. My opinions and experiences expressed here are my own and I am not affiliated with Imperfect Produce.
Imperfect Produce is subscription-based service that delivers produce to your doorstep that would otherwise be wasted due to either irregularities that don’t meet grocery store standards (size, color, asymmetry, scarring), surplus, or the lack of a consumer market for something.
From Imperfect Produce’s website:
“Imperfect fights food waste by finding a home for ‘ugly’ produce. We source it directly from farms and deliver it to customers’ doors for 30-50% less than grocery store prices. Our subscription produce box is affordable, convenient, customizable, healthy, and delicious.”
How Imperfect Produce Works
You can check their Sign Up page to see if you’re in an area they deliver to (currently only a handful of cities). You can choose from four different box types: Organic, Mixed Fruits & Veggies, All Fruit, or All Veggies. Once you select the box type you want, you can choose from the array of sizes and the frequency you’d like to receive your box, which is either weekly or every other week.
A few days before your delivery date you get an email saying you can log in to customize your box. You have a relatively short window to do this – about 32 hours. Our boxes were delivered on a Monday and I was able to edit it the previous Thursday starting at 3:00pm until 11:00pm on Friday. Once the customization window closes, what you had selected is what you’re getting (supply permitting). Then just wait for it to show up. Well, I mean don’t JUST sit there and wait – live your life and all that.
A few convenient things you can do once you’re signed up is you can easily choose to skip a week, edit your box size, and still choose from the different types of boxes. You’re not stuck with the box type you chose at sign up – you can change it up.
On my delivery day they sent me a text letting me know my box was getting close with a link to track the truck. . . at the same time, I received a text saying it had been delivered. So, by “getting close” they meant the front door. 🙂
My First Imperfect Produce box
Monday August 20, 2018
Portland, Oregon metro area
My delivery window was between 3:00pm – 11:00pm and the boxes were delivered at 6:00pm, which was actually pretty convenient. It was hot that day (mid to upper 90’s) so it’s possible the produce would have gotten a little “sad” had it been delivered any earlier or had I not been home at the time. I ordered the Mixed Fruits and Veggies box, size medium and below is the side-by-side of what I order and what I received.
1 lb of potatoes
The Produce, etc.
A couple of the items were not as fresh as they could have been – several of the carrots were rubbery (they’ll be fine in soup), one of the limes needed to be tossed within two days, and the peaches got wrinkly quick. I had to toss a peach that got moldy fairly soon after we got it too, but at least the things that went bad had a home in my compost bin.
Some of the fruit didn’t have delicious, sweet flavor, but most was amazing. I ate one of the naval oranges while writing this and had to stop to just eat the whole thing. A couple of the nectarines had an off-texture that was almost spongy. I give this a pass though because even some of the “pretty” produce I get at the grocery store is hit or miss as far as flavor and texture goes. Can’t always know until you eat it. It’s worth mentioning again that the weather was warm the week we got our box so I’m not surprised some of our fruit went bad quickly.
The vegetables have been great. The bell peppers are almost gone, ate the cauliflower last night, 2 of the onions are gone, the kale is half gone, and the rest will keep for a while.
It’s interesting that they sometimes have non-produce items available as well. We got the brown rice and mint truffles, both of which were good. No complaints there other than I wish there were more truffles.
I thought it was helpful of them to include their storage guide because I think a lot of people (myself included) refrigerate more than we need to or keep fruits together that cause faster ripening. This sort of information is great for reducing food waste at home.
All told, our first box delivery cost us $35.03. This included the $4.99 delivery fee, and minus the $2.99 cost of the brown rice (they thought we hadn’t received it).
I don’t like that I can’t see how much I paid for each item in my order history; all I can see is the total cost for that week’s box. Maybe I’m alone on this, but I like to see how the costs of things are changing over time. I’d have to remember to take a screen shot during the customization period in order to track that.
They deliver the produce in cardboard boxes and although I know they can’t reuse them for food safety reasons, it’s still an item that’s more often than not, just being recycled after one use. I did find a use for mine in the garage so the first two will live on, but as time goes on and more produce is delivered, I don’t know that I’ll be able to find a use for all of them and off to the recycling center they will go. One thing each and every box will be used for is ferret-play-time because new smells = amazing to ferrets snouts.
My selections indicated I’d get 2 cucumbers, but I received 1 – it was a very large cucumber though so I’m not complaining. I think that’s fair, but other people may not think so, which is why I’m mentioning it. I also received an extra kiwi, a few extra carrots, and I got reimbursed for the rice because they thought I didn’t receive it in my box (I emailed them and let them know I did, but their customer service rep told me to enjoy the rice on them). *thumbs-up*
One thing I found odd about the customization process was that I signed up for a “medium” box, but by adding and removing things to my box, I had no idea if my box was “full”. My produce ended up coming in 2 boxes so I guess based on how much I paid, I ended up purchasing an “extra-large” box simply because I kept adding things. I was pleased by the care they took with not stuffing my box full, but instead splitting it into two boxes so the produce at the bottom didn’t get crushed. Big *thumbs-up*
My first impression of my first box is, I wasn’t blown away by it, but I’m not disappointed either. I was annoyingly excited about receiving it and I’m still hyped about the company and the work they’re doing, but there is room for improvement. I typically buy groceries from Winco and they already have amazingly low prices on produce, so next time I’m there I’ll compare prices on these items to see how much my box of produce would have cost there. Let me know in the comments if you’d like to see a price comparison between my Imperfect Produce selections and my local grocery store. I get the feeling the prices will be comparable, but what this did save me was time driving to and from the grocery store, putzing around the store, dodging annoying people, and waiting in the checkout line. As a millennial who embraces introversion, I call this first experience a win 😉 Aside from convenience and potential cost savings, I support this company primarily because I hate food waste. I think they are doing something worthwhile and I’d love to dive deeper in another post about their impacts on food waste.
Imperfect Produce may not necessarily be the best option for everyone. For example, people who tend to not cook at home much or find themselves throwing out produce because it goes bad before they get a chance to eat it may not see the full benefit of buying Imperfect. There are positive aspects for the consumer such as saving time, and helping alleviate a global problem (food waste), but if you find yourself throwing out produce at home, the food is still getting wasted.
I get why it’s appealing to people in this busy world to have fresh produce delivered, but there are other grocery delivery options other than Imperfect Produce that may better suit your lifestyle, such as Instacart. That being said, I don’t want to deter people from trying it. I still recommend giving it a chance because you may be inspired to cook at home more and use the produce before it goes bad as well as eat healthier. There will always be some food that goes bad – we have our busy days, weeks, months – so make the best of it – compost what you can, freeze fruits that are starting to ripen too quickly, put your wilted greens in some water, or make a big batch of something and freeze the rest for a hectic night.
I just customized my second box and as of right now, I plan on continuing my subscription. I’m looking forward to cutting down on shopping trips, especially once the school term starts up in a few weeks, and continuing to support a company working to reduce food waste. Please share your experiences buying and eating Imperfect! I’d love to know how it’s working for other subscribers.
Leave me a comment or *like* this post if you’d be interested in hearing my perspectives on the impact Imperfect Produce is having on food waste and on the communities within the cities they deliver. I’ve come across some articles talking about possible negative impacts of Imperfect Produce on donations to food banks, and I think it would make an interesting discussion.
***Update: I wrote a follow up to this article here: A Review of Imperfect Produce 2.5 Years Later
Check here to see if Imperfect Produce delivers in your area. If they do, find out if any of your friends are signed up and get a referral code from them so you get a credit on your first box – they’ll get a credit as well! If you don’t know anyone currently signed up, you can always use mine.