This is my personal review of Imperfect Foods, which used to be called Imperfect Produce.
I signed up for Imperfect Foods in January of 2019 and have received a weekly delivery for over a year.
This has allowed my family of five to try just about everything the service offers — from weirdly-shaped produce to staples like olive oil, dark chocolate and tortillas.
In this Imperfect Foods review, you’ll learn:
- About the company
- About the produce and other available items
- How the pricing works
- Pros and cons
- And much more
Let’s dive in!
My family has been getting weekly deliveries from Imperfect Foods for over a year. We love the selection and the ability to customize our boxes, not to mention the great prices and exceptional customer service.
- The produce is farm fresh and tastes great!
- Many products are locally sourced.
- You can save as much as 30% off grocery store prices.
- Items are sometimes out of stock, which throws a wrench in your meal planning.
- Suppliers and products change frequently, so your favorites may not be available for future orders.
What Is Imperfect Foods?
Imperfect Foods is a service that delivers fresh, conventionally-grown and organic produce and grocery items — including baked goods, meat, fish, fresh fruits and vegetables, dried fruits, nuts, beverages, and household staples — right to your door.
The “imperfect” part means that the items Imperfect Foods sells may not meet a conventional grocery chain’s aesthetic standards. In other words, they might have weird shapes, unusual coloring or other cosmetic “blemishes.”
Grocers only want to display and sell uniform, perfect-looking produce and packaged items. So what those stores pass up, Imperfect Foods buys and sells at a discount through its direct-to-consumer subscription model.
If you’re looking for ways to save money on groceries, this is a good one: Imperfect Foods saves customers as much as 30% on produce, meat and seafood, and pantry items.
What’s wrong with this “Grade B” food? Nothing that will impact its taste or nutritional value.
- An orange might have a bit of scarring on its peel.
- A bundle of carrots may come in different sizes.
- A bag of corn tortillas might come in an old package as opposed to the company’s newly-designed one.
In other words, definitely nothing that will reduce your enjoyment of these items — it all looks the same when it becomes a meal anyway!
Frankly, most of the time I can’t figure out just what’s supposed to be “wrong” with the items in my Imperfect Foods box.
Here’s a photo of some carrots I received in my most recent box:
How Does Imperfect Foods Work?
Imperfect Foods offers four subscription options:
- Regular (which contains conventionally-grown produce)
- All Fruit
- All Veggie
The Regular and Organic boxes come in small, medium, large and extra-large sizes, while the All Fruit and All Veggie boxes come only in small and medium sizes. You can choose to receive boxes either weekly or bi-weekly.
Here’s the content breakdown of those box sizes:
|Small||2 to 4 people||7 to 9 pounds of food|
|Medium||4 to 6 people||11 to 14 pounds of food|
|Large||6 to 8 people||17 to 19 pounds of food|
|Extra-Large||8 to 10 people||23 to 25 pounds of food|
My family of five orders the extra-large Organic box every week (see some of our haul below).
Customizing Your Box
Saving money on groceries means not ordering a box that contains foods you don’t like and won’t eat.
But some services don’t allow you to make substitutions on your order.
With Imperfect Foods, you have many customization options beyond size and frequency, and more control over your box contents.
Your Imperfect Foods box will be filled with seasonal items available at that time of the year. If there are things you don’t like, you can remove them and replace them with more of the things you do like.
In fact, your box is fully customizable (within a two day pre-shipment period) if you choose to go that route, although customization isn’t required.
The screenshot below shows how you can scroll through the different products (and see why they’re included) as you build your box. You can use the filters on the top, which makes it easy to sort by types of food.
If you want to know specifically why a particular item is being offered (i.e., what its “flaw” is), you can just click “More info…” and you’ll see an explanation like the one below.
What does that explanation look like in practice?
Well, here’s a photo of the peaches we received so that you can judge for yourself:
When you join, you’ll see what day(s) Imperfect Foods delivers to your area, and you can choose the best delivery time for you.
When the delivery driver is close, you’ll receive a text message. You don’t have to be home to accept delivery, and drivers will do their best to follow whatever instructions you specify.
Other changes you can make to your subscription box include:
- Add individual non-produce items (like meat, dairy and pantry items) to any order.
- Choose from meat, dairy, grain, snack and other “add on” packs.
- Skip a delivery.
- Change the frequency of your deliveries.
- Change the size of your box.
- Cancel your subscription at any time.
Meat, Fish, Eggs and Dairy
There are far more options available today than when I signed up. This makes it quite enjoyable to get the email that it’s time to customize my box, as I never know what new items I might find.
One of the most significant changes has been the addition of meat, fish and other products that require refrigeration (such as yogurt, butter and cheese).
Imperfect Foods now offers subscription add-ons for these types of items: a “Meat & Fish Pack” that includes two or three proteins, and a “Dairy Grocery Add On” that includes three or four items. The price of each varies.
You can also add these items individually if/when you customize your box. For example, the 100% grass-fed beef for $5.99 is a new favorite of ours — it’s a pretty good value and it tastes great.
The one issue with the meat and seafood is that your box doesn’t come packed in dry ice, which would keep it frozen solid.
Additionally, Imperfect’s trucks are not refrigerated. Instead, meat and seafood items are packed with a large ice pack in a plastic (#4 recycle) bag, and included in your regular box.
The meat we’ve received has never arrived at an unsafe temperature on delivery day (which would be above 40 degrees Fahrenheit). However, we’ve had times when it’s been delivered totally thawed, times it has arrived in a semi-frozen state, and times it has arrived frozen solid.
This can sometimes mess up meal planning, as thawed meat should be consumed within 2 to 3 days and can’t be refrozen.
As for dairy, there are both traditional and vegan options available. My daughter, who has a dairy allergy, has enjoyed the vegan yogurt and butter (which tastes a lot better than the well-known Earth Balance brand).
The first time we received eggs, about 50% were broken. When we mentioned this to customer service, they issued a prompt refund. Fortunately, this issue seems to have been a one-off, as the eggs in all of our subsequent orders have been fully intact.
What Exactly Is “Imperfect” Meat?
If you’re anything like me, one of the first questions that comes to mind is what constitutes “imperfect” meat, seafood and dairy.
Eating a crooked carrot is one thing, but we all want to avoid animal products that might make us sick (or that just taste “off”).
Fortunately, Imperfect Foods does not sell any meat, seafood or dairy products that come anywhere close to being dangerous.
Here are a few examples of how these items are sourced:
- Many products are sourced from direct relationships they’ve built with farms and dairies. They’re the same products you’d find in a grocery store, but with the middle man cut out.
- For beef and poultry products, offerings are usually the result of vendor surplus. In other words, the farmer has more supply than they can sell through their other channels, so they offer it to Imperfect Foods at a discount.
- For fish, Imperfect Foods often gets cuts that aren’t quite the right size and shape for use in commercial environments like restaurants.
Additionally, you’ll be glad to know that…
- Meat is antibiotic free and vegetarian fed.
- Seafood is sustainably farmed or wild caught.
- Eggs are cage free, with pasture-raised and organic eggs available in some locations.
- Dairy is free of artificial hormones.
How Much Does Imperfect Foods Cost?
The approximate prices for each box are listed below. There’s also a $4.99 to $5.99 delivery fee for each shipment.
The Ways To Wealth Readers can use this exclusive link to save $20 on their first box: Sign up for Imperfect Produce.
|Size and Type||Price|
|Small — Conventional||$11 to $13|
|Small — Organic||$15 to $17|
|Medium — Conventional||$14 to $16|
|Medium — Organic||$22 to $24|
|Large — Conventional||$20 to $22|
|Large — Organic||$33 to $35|
|Extra-Large — Conventional||$39 to $43|
If you add non-produce items or heavily customize your box, the prices listed above will change as you add and subtract things. Price updates occur in real time as you make changes, so you can keep a running tally as you go.
Once your customization window has closed, the credit or debit card attached to your Imperfect Foods account will be charged. The pending charge will process the day after your delivery arrives.
As I mentioned earlier, my family orders one extra-large Organic box per week, and we add a lot of additional grocery items to each order. We’re especially fond of the corn tortillas!
Our weekly box usually costs between $40 and $70. You can do Imperfect Foods for a lot less if you stick to a standard produce-only box and schedule bi-weekly shipments.
Related: Here are 15 tips for eating healthy on a budget, plus a sample meal plan and grocery shopping list.
Imperfect Foods Pros & Cons
Since this is an Imperfect Foods review, let me break down my experience.
10 Things I Love About Imperfect Foods
- The produce is fresh and tastes great. It turns out that ugly doesn’t have a taste! Besides, most of the produce isn’t very imperfect to begin with. Often, you’d need a jeweler’s loupe to spot any flaws.
- The produce is locally-sourced when possible, and over 75% of it is sourced from family farms or cooperatives.
- It helps reduce the amount of food waste. Currently, 133 billion pounds of food per year goes uneaten, often because it’s “ugly.”
- You can save as much as 30% when compared to local grocery store prices.
- Produce delivery saves time, which saves money.
- Each order is customizable, although you can also choose to let Imperfect Produce do the picking on your behalf.
- The website has a clean, intuitive interface that makes it easy to find what you’re looking for, customize orders, and manage your account.
- It’s free to change or cancel your subscription at any time. There are no contracts or minimum purchases.
- The service offers a wide selection of staples, from fruits and veggies to cooking oils to snacks (and everything in between).
- They provide great customer service. On one of our recent orders, we only received one of two expected boxes. We called the number we’d received the delivery notice text message from, and were immediately connected to a customer service rep. That rep was able to contact the driver, who was back at our door with the missing box 10 minutes later.
3 Imperfect Foods Critiques
- Sometimes items you ordered end up being out of stock. If you’re trying to follow a meal plan for health or cost reasons, this can cause a significant inconvenience.
- Suppliers and products change. You may love a certain item one week and it may be unavailable the next.
- They don’t have an app. Their mobile website is still solid, but I would prefer the usability of an app to make adjustments to my order when I’m not around a computer.
Here’s a map of the Imperfect Foods delivery area, which is current as of November 2020:
Am I Doing Harm?
This all sounds great, right? I love the service Imperfect Foods provides. It’s easy to use, reasonably priced and saves me and my family a lot of time.
But over the months that I’ve been a subscriber, I’ve started to wonder about the secondary effects of this service — most importantly, whether purchasing this food takes it away from food banks.
This is a fairly common question from Imperfect’s customer base.
Here’s what Imperfect Foods has to say on the matter:
Feeding America, the largest network of food banks in the United States, reported that in 2017 they received 1.47 billion pounds of produce. They let us know that, of that amount, roughly 10% of it comes from farms. With 20 billion pounds still getting wasted each year on farms, we are only scratching the surface of this huge problem of food waste. As Feeding America puts it, ‘When we stop food waste, we take a big step toward ending hunger.’
Over 4 years, the Imperfect community has recovered 96 million pounds of produce that might have otherwise fallen through the cracks of our food system. While we’re proud of this impact, it’s still only the tip of the iceberg and it certainly isn’t diverting produce from food banks. We work closely with food banks across the country to actively increase the amount of fresh produce they receive and have donated over 4 million pounds of produce as of January 2020.
That sentiment is reflected in an Atlantic story titled “The Murky Ethics of the Ugly-Produce Business,” which suggests that Imperfect’s business model does not have a negative impact on food bank supplies.
For example, in the Atlantic article linked above, Kait Bowdler — the director of sustainability for Philabundance, which is Philadelphia’s largest community food bank — says the two “imperfect food” startups that service the area haven’t created any issues for her organization, which hasn’t seen any drop-off in donations from growers since Misfits Market and Hungry Harvest became popular in the city.
“We have bigger problems we should be worried about,” Bowdler said.
Additionally, some community food organizations have found it possible to work productively with ugly-food companies, despite worries that their success means diverting food away from people in need.
However, taking a deeper dive into this issue paints a more complicated picture.
One issue is that while some of Imperfect’s suppliers are small local farms, the company does also source products from larger farms, ranches and dairies — i.e., from big agriculture.
So, even though I avoid adding anything to my box that appears to be a big ag product, is there a chance that by using the service I’m indirectly supporting a type of industrial farming that is, among other things, bad for the environment?
I don’t have an answer to this question. And from what I can find, I don’t think there’s a simple or clear one.
Still, I feel comfortable overall, based on what I’ve read, that these services do not take food away from food banks.
Of course, there are serious underlying issues with our current food system, and while selling “food waste” is a good short-term solution, one of the keys to ending hunger is reforming the system so that it doesn’t create 133 million pounds of food waste every year in the first place.
Imperfect Foods Review — Closing Thoughts
So that’s it for my Imperfect Foods review.
I’ve now stuck with Imperfect Foods since January of 2019, which dates back to their Imperfect Produce days. If I do cancel, I will update this post to explain why.
I’m glad to be playing a small part in fighting waste in the food system. And at the end of the day, my family is getting a box of extremely fresh produce, healthy food and other essentials of high quality, delivered to our door for a very good price. That right there is hard to beat.
It’s true that not every avocado, bell pepper or peach we receive meets the grocery industry’s high cosmetic standards, but they taste just as good as what you can find in the store — and often better, thanks to their freshness.
And frankly, most of the items look just fine and would be hard to classify as “ugly produce.”
If Imperfect Foods delivers in your city, it’s worth giving this farm fresh grocery delivery service a shot.
Here’s a link to Imperfect Foods.