Imperfect Foods Review: The Ugly Food Delivery Service Trying To Fix Our Food System
Rating as of based on a review of services October 31, 2022.
Imperfect Foods is an ugly food service that delivers “rescued” items to your doorstep. Consumers can reduce their food waste, save time, and minimize their carbon footprint by purchasing imperfect foods. Find out if an Imperfect Foods subscription is right for you.
- Health-conscious shoppers
- People who prefer organic produce
- Eco-friendly shoppers
Do you get a kick out of funny-looking fruit? Are you guilty of sending memes featuring carrots that look suspiciously similar to human legs?
If you’re a fan of imperfect food and/or reducing food waste, you might just be a fan of Imperfect Foods, too. This subscription-based grocery delivery service lets you shop for flawed, ugly, or surplus food and grocery items and have them delivered right to your door each week.
In this Imperfect Foods review, I’ll share how this service actually works, my firsthand experience as a subscriber, and who I think should consider signing up.
What Is Imperfect Foods?
Imperfect Foods was founded in California in 2015 to help reduce food waste and promote a better food system. They do this by selling perfectly good food including fresh produce and pantry staples that maybe aren’t the cutest, largest, or most conventional.
Imperfect Foods built its business model around rescuing foods that would go to waste because they don’t fit the mold of what grocery stores want to sell and what consumers want to buy. Think things with cosmetic imperfections, weird shapes — stuff like that. This company recognizes that the U.S. wastes a lot of food because we put too much emphasis on what it looks like. Each year, this company saves 139 million pounds of food.
And in addition to fighting food waste by sourcing ingredients that would otherwise be discarded, Imperfect Foods strives to make a positive environmental impact through its other practices too. In fact, they have committed to net-zero carbon emissions by 2030 and plan to achieve this through the use of renewable energy during production and fulfillment and more eco-friendly packaging.
What’s in an Imperfect Foods Box?
You have complete control over what’s in your Imperfect Food boxes.
Each week, Imperfect Foods automatically adds items to your box. If it’s your first box, they’ll suggest popular items. If it’s not, they’ll make recommendations based on your past purchases.
You’re free to make any changes you want to your order before it finishes processing. You can add, remove, or swap items by editing your box and shopping from the app or website a few days in advance of your delivery.
How Does Imperfect Foods Work?
Imperfect Foods requires a subscription to get started. Here’s how to sign up.
To find out if you’re eligible to sign up, enter your zip code on the site. This will tell you if Imperfect delivers to your area and, if so, what day of the week they deliver. Imperfect Foods is currently available in 38 states and still expanding.
Unfortunately, you don’t get to choose your delivery day. This is decided for you based on your location and when an Imperfect Foods delivery truck is in your neighborhood. Your delivery day could be any day between Monday and Saturday and any time before 9 pm. If your zip code is eligible, you can go ahead and create your account.
Creating Your Account
When setting up your account, you’ll answer a few questions about your shopping preferences.
First, you’ll specify how many adults, children, and pets you’re shopping for.
Then, you’ll choose a date for your first delivery from a couple of options. Take a minute to note your weekly shopping window.
Next, you’ll indicate your preferences for conventional or organic food. Imperfect offers both, so you’ll still get to choose each week, but this question will help guide your recommendations.
If you’re vegan or vegetarian, you can select this as a dietary restriction here. That way, Imperfect will never recommend anything you won’t eat.
Once you’ve subscribed, you can also set “never” items. These are items that will never be recommended to you, so the only way they would end up in your box is if you add them.
This short quiz determines what grocery items are recommended to you, but you’ll still have the opportunity to edit your box and shop from all available items. Imperfect will add between $36 and $46 worth of items to your cart that will automatically appear in your box as soon as your shopping window opens to give you a head start, but you’ll take it from there.
Subscriptions are commitment-free. You can always skip a week if you need to or cancel your subscription.
Each week, you make your selections during your specified shopping window (which you’ll find out after creating your account and can check from your account page). For example, my shopping window is between 3 pm on Friday and 12 pm on Monday.
You’ll receive an email reminder when the window opens and a text reminder when you have one day left. You get a few days to shop and finalize your selections, and anything in your cart/box by the time your shopping window closes will be processed and added to your final order. After your order has been processed, you won’t be able to make changes such as modifying items or skipping that week.
Sometimes, one or two of the items you try to order might not end up in your box. This can happen with limited stock and seasonal items, and you obviously won’t be charged for them.
Your box will ship right to your door between three and five days after your order has been processed. For reference, my shopping window closes on Monday at noon and my delivery arrives on Wednesday. Your delivery day will always be the same.
Every week, you’ll get a text message letting you know when your box is on its way and the estimated delivery window (which tends to be around the same from week to week). Watch for a pink van, you can’t miss it.
There may be a $5.99 delivery fee for each box.
What Are the Key Benefits of Imperfect Foods?
If I had to sum up the main advantages of shopping with Imperfect Foods based on my own personal experience and research, here are the things I’d highlight.
Reduce Food Waste
According to Imperfect, customers save an average of 288 to 384 pounds of food from being wasted each year they use this service to shop.
You can also reduce your CO2 emissions and water use. The average customer saves 9,000 gallons of water and between 192 and 288 pounds of CO2 every year they buy their groceries from Imperfect. They also offer a free packaging return program that lets you return your gel ice packs if you don’t have a place to recycle them near you.
Of course, these numbers could be different depending on if you’re using your subscription to do some or all of your grocery shopping.
Shop With Your Values
Imperfect Foods only partners with companies with similar values, so you’ll see brands like Tillamook, Impossible, Califia, and other companies with higher-than-average environmental standards.
Many items are certified organic or fair trade and animal products are sustainably and ethically sourced from producers that treat their animals with care and follow environmental best practices.
Having a box shipped to your doorstep is a whole lot easier than making a trip to the grocery store every week. If you’re able to get all of the groceries you need from this delivery service, you’ll save yourself time. Plus, you’ll have a few days to do your shopping from your phone, significantly decreasing your chances of forgetting something and having to make another trip (I know it’s not just me).
What Kind of Food Can You Get From Imperfect Foods?
Imperfect Foods offers a lot more than you might think. Choose from the following categories:
- Produce items including seasonal fruits and vegetables
- Dairy items and non-dairy alternatives
- Pantry items
- Snacks and breakfast items
- Meat and plant-based meat alternatives
- Wellness and beauty items
Sometimes food makes its way to Imperfect Foods because it’s too small, too large, misshapen, or slightly blemished. Other times, food producers just have too much of one thing on their hands and send it to Imperfect Foods so it doesn’t go to waste. Available items are always changing with the seasons and stock. When you’re shopping each week, you’ll be able to see what makes something “imperfect” and learn more about where it’s coming from.
Imperfect Foods is always expanding its offerings, so although you can’t get everything you’d be able to get in a store, there are at least a couple of options for most major grocery categories.
Who Is Imperfect Foods For?
Think Imperfect Foods might be perfect for you? If you fit some or all of these descriptions, it probably is.
People Who Want To Lower Their Carbon Footprint
If shopping green is important to you, Imperfect Foods makes it easier to do that. You can choose from rescued produce and upcycled items to help save food and order only what you need to avoid wasting anything.
People Who Like To Buy Organic
This service offers a variety of organic foods to choose from, from produce to animal products.
Not everything from Imperfect Foods is organic, but a lot of it is. And when setting up your account, you can indicate your preference for conventional or organic, if you feel strongly either way. This doesn’t mean you won’t see other options, but it’ll change your recommendations.
People Who Eat Seasonally
One of the most fun parts of Imperfect Foods is that all of the food is seasonal. While you might be able to go to your local store and get any fruit or vegetable your heart desires year-round, Imperfect makes a point of sourcing ingredients that are in season. This has been proven to be more environmentally friendly and allows the company to work around what their partner farmers and producers are currently harvesting.
Eating seasonally tends to be more delicious, too, since fruits and veggies picked at the height of freshness just taste better.
People Who Don’t Have Access to Fresh Fruits and Vegetables
If you live in a food desert, a big city, or another area where your access to produce and other groceries are limited, Imperfect Foods can help you eat the way you want to eat without having to make long drives to your nearest store.
Who Is Imperfect Foods Not For?
You know we like to keep it real here. Let’s be honest about who this service is not good for.
People Who Grocery Shop Multiple Times a Week
Imperfect Foods would probably not be a good fit for you if you find yourself stopping at the store more than once a week. Weekly delivery is the only option, so if you have trouble doing all of your shopping in one trip, you’ll struggle to make Imperfect worth it.
And while we’re on the topic, not getting to choose your delivery day is another downside that could ruin this service for you.
People Who Live Out of Range
This one goes without saying, but if Imperfect Foods doesn’t deliver to your zip code, this service isn’t for you. Currently, coverage is pretty scattered and even states where Imperfect Foods is available aren’t 100% covered. If you live in a smaller city, a rural area, a Northwestern state (such as Montana or Wyoming), or a Southeastern state (such as Georgia or Florida) you probably won’t be eligible.
You can check out the delivery map here.
How Much Does Imperfect Foods Cost?
How much you pay for your Imperfect Foods box changes every week. This subscription is not a flat rate. You’ll use the prices listed to pick your items just like you would at the store.
Usually, Imperfect grocery delivery prices are about the same as what you’d pay in a typical grocery store. It’ll probably be more expensive on average if you usually do your shopping at discount stores and less expensive on average if you usually do your shopping at specialty or gourmet stores.
Delivery is free for orders over $60 and $5.99 for all orders under $60, regardless of where you live. This delivery fee is the only cost that comes with this service as there are no subscription or membership fees.
If you want to share the love (and save a smidge), you can send your unique referral code to a friend. They’ll get 20% off their first box and you’ll save $5 on your next order.
Is Imperfect Foods Worth It?
Imperfect Foods is going to be well worth it for some and hard to justify for others. It depends on how you shop, what you currently spend on groceries, and if this service offers all the items you’re looking for.
But there might be ways you can make Imperfect Foods work for you, even if you can’t afford to spend more on groceries.
If you’re on a tight budget, you can filter for discounted items and get a lot more bang for your buck, but you’ll be limited to certain items and might not be able to cross everything off your grocery list. Another option is to skip weeks as needed and opt for a large box every couple of weeks instead of a small box each week to save on shipping fees and take advantage of deals.
If you’re willing to pay a little extra for high-quality produce and groceries and the convenience of receiving a box each week, Imperfect is most likely worth it.
Can Ugly Produce Subscriptions Really Reduce Food Waste?
This is a loaded question. There’s a good deal of controversy around the ugly produce movement and plenty of critics who claim that produce delivery companies like Imperfect Foods aren’t actually helping to eliminate food waste.
In short, it’s complicated. A subscription service like this might not actually be “saving” all of the food it sells, but it does help encourage people to only buy what they need, think twice about what they purchase, and be more intentional about their selections. So at least indirectly, yes, ugly produce services can help reduce food waste. But it’s up to you to follow through on this.
How Do You Cancel?
Canceling your Imperfect Foods subscription is as easy as logging into your account and selecting “Manage Subscription.” From there, you’ll just select “Cancel Subscription.” A box will pop up asking you if you’d prefer to skip your next delivery, and you’ll just choose “Continue to cancel.” Finally, you’ll give your reason for canceling from a long list of options and have a chance to rate your experience and provide feedback.
You can skip as many weeks as you want if the delivery frequency just isn’t working out for you. And if you do decide to cancel, it’s really easy to reactivate your account.
My Experience Using Imperfect Foods
I’ve used Imperfect Foods for a few months and can honestly say that I really love it. The food quality is always very high, and I have a lot of fun shopping for imperfect items each week. At first, I stuck mostly to produce but then I started using my subscription to restock my pantry and fridge too.
I’ve gotten to try some unique fruits and vegetables and I know I’m saving food at least in my household. I like that you can see where items are coming to you from so I can pick local produce when possible.
Except for one or two apples that were a little past their prime, I’ve never had an issue with my deliveries. My boxes arrive on time and in good condition each week, the cold stuff is still cold, and I rarely run into the issue of not receiving what I order. Somewhat disappointingly, the majority of my items are normal-looking instead of wonky.
But here’s the thing: I personally don’t actually save money buying imperfect produce. In fact, I often pay a little more (around 10%) each week than I would at the store. I suspect this is due to four reasons:
- I’m less inclined to buy organic produce at the grocery store but am more likely to add it to my delivery because sometimes that’s the only option for an item I want.
- I buy things I probably wouldn’t have otherwise because it’s just too fun to pick out items when my shopping window opens.
- I pay less attention to what is on sale than I do when shopping in person.
- I’m fortunate enough to live in a city with a number of fully-stocked grocery stores that keep prices low in order to compete with each other.
All that said, I’m more than happy paying a little extra for the cause and quality.
What Do Other Customers Think?
From what I can tell after reading some online forums, the biggest issues people have with Imperfect Foods are delivery-related. Maybe their box arrived late, their cold items were thawed, or their produce wasn’t as fresh as they had hoped.
As with any grocery delivery service, some of your experience will depend on where you live too. For example, if your driver has a lot of stops on their route, this could affect how quickly your box gets to you. Positive and negative reviews are split about 50/50, so it’s worth trying for yourself.
Imperfect Foods vs. Misfits Market
One of Imperfect Foods’ biggest competitors is Misfits Market, another ugly produce delivery service.
What might give Misfits Market the edge over Imperfect Foods for some people is the price. Misfits Market is more affordable on average and puts greater emphasis on helping you beat grocery store prices than Imperfect.
But having tried both services, I’d rather pay more for Imperfect. I was really disappointed with the quality of the food in my Misfits Market boxes and remember throwing away produce items that rotted almost immediately after I unpacked them. Also, I found the selection at Misfits Markets to be much more limited, although they’ve added far more categories of groceries since I tried them a couple of years ago.
It’s probably time I revisit Misfits Market. But for now, I’d choose Imperfect Foods.
If you’re thinking about subscribing to a grocery delivery service and want to help make a positive difference, you might consider Imperfect Foods. Imperfect Foods could be a good fit for you if you like to shop seasonally, prefer organic food, and don’t mind spending a little extra on sustainably-sourced ingredients. But if you need to get groceries more than once a week or know you can save more by discount shopping at your local stores, Imperfect might not be worth it.
Of course, even if you decide Imperfect Foods isn’t for you, there are things you can do to help reduce food waste. Choosing the ugliest produce at your local grocery store, for example, is a small step in the right direction.