Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Imperfect Foods

An in-depth look at the sustainability-focused grocery delivery service, how it works, what it costs, and whether it's a good fit for you.

Imperfect Foods
Imperfect Foods
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No, using a grocery delivery service will not up the likelihood of your farmer’s market meet-cute fantasy—but if you’re willing to forsake your shot at finding love over a mound of locally-sourced, organic tomatoes in the name of convenience, a mail-order produce service might help you out with some other to-do list items.

Introducing: Imperfect Foods—a sustainability-focused food delivery company devoted to making use of produce and other grocery items that restaurants and grocery stores would otherwise throw away. Here’s the spiel: When produce is delivered from farms to retailers, anything that’s, well, “ugly” is typically disposed of. That means bruised apples, misshapen potatoes, broken almonds, you get the gist. Imperfect Foods is looking to reduce that food waste while also providing you with fresh produce (and other grocery products) at lower prices than you might expect from a standard grocery store. Win-win situation, no?

So, in the interest of doing the dirty vetting work for you, we gave Imperfect Foods a try. Here’s everything you need to know about the grocery delivery service.

What, exactly, is Imperfect Foods?

As we’ve mentioned above, Imperfect Foods aims to take “imperfect” goods—most of which would be tossed out by grocery stores and restaurants—and repurpose them as groceries for folks who don’t mind a minor bruise or two on their bananas. The company works directly with farmers and producers to rescue and redistribute all kinds of grocery goods for delivery purposes—so, in addition to plenty of produce, you can expect shelf-stable items, dairy, meat, seafood, and snack foods.

For folks who sign up, delivery boxes arrive weekly—and using the Imperfect Foods app, customers can select exactly what they’d like in each box. Then, for folks who are feeling a bit more adventurous, the app will recommend seasonal goods that feel in line with their previous orders. Theoretically, through the service, you could do all your grocery shopping at a serious mark-down from your normal grocery prices—all while patting yourself on the back for having done your part in the fight against food waste.

How much does Imperfect Foods cost?

Like with any grocery pricing, you’re paying by the item here—so there’s no lump sum or pre-priced CSA selection. And shockingly enough, there are no membership subscription or service fees. Each week, you’ll simply pay for precisely what you ordered. And depending on your area, shipping will cost you from $4.99-$8.99. That said, in some areas, there is a delivery minimum of $30.

When it comes to beating grocery store prices, the service changes from region-to-region. For locally-sourced, high-quality produce, you’re certainly paying less than traditional farmer’s market value—but you may be paying similar prices to your local grocery store (lest we forget the premium on convenience).

What do Imperfect Foods reviewers say?

For the most part, it would seem that reviewers have been pretty steadfast in their assessments: Like with any “real food,” there are weeks when your tomatoes arrive fresher, and there are certain particularly bruisey pears—but that’s an occupational hazard for anyone hoping to eat ultra local, fresh produce. If you’re looking to prioritize sustainability, you can’t exactly prioritize aesthetics as well.

Additionally, folks find the app super easy to use—which means changing delivery schedules, re-jiggering orders, or contacting customer service are fairly simple tasks. And better yet, a number of people wax poetic in the customer reviews about the versatility of the options available to them. Not only does the site’s selection update throughout the year with fun, new seasonal goods, but within the scope of their standard supply, they’ve got just about everything you could think to pick up at a grocery store.

That said, on the negative side, reviewers do seem to take issue with the state of their delivery boxes: Plenty of folks complain of produce being mishandled and jumbled about—which means, upon arrival, it’s all one mushy, sticky mess. Moreover, there are complaints of melting ice packs—which can be super problematic when it comes to storing dairy or meat products that really need to be temperature regulated.

Imperfect Foods

Is Imperfect Foods difficult to use?

As far as any mail-order food service goes, Imperfect Foods definitely offers a user friendly platform. The app is pared down and totally intuitive to navigate—and the platform makes it super easy to do things like check in on your order, change your grocery list, pause deliveries, or contact customer service.

When it comes to cadence, you’ll only be able to pre-set your orders for weekly or bi-weekly delivery. But you’re free to skip as many deliveries as you like—so it’s plenty easy to organize monthly (or even less frequent) drop-offs as well.

Be wary: Unlike a meal kit program, you won’t be receiving any kind of instructions re: food preparation. So be sure you’ve got some ideas in mind before going haywire on the website.

What are the stand-out Imperfect Foods features?

We’ve all got a handful of grocery items we keep in eternal rotation—think: oat milk, bananas, hummus. And while Imperfect Foods can likely meet the vast majority of your culinary needs, the service will also provide you with a curated weekly roster of suggestions based on both what’s in season in your area, and what you’ve ordered in the past.

So yes, you’ll be kept in the loop about seasonal produce, but you’ll also find yourself faced with access to plenty of other available grocery items: yogurt, eggs, poultry, fish, milk (and alt milk), quinoa, wild rice, candied almonds, etc. So, if you’re not a particularly inspired grocery shopper, relish in your ability to have someone else curate a list for you—then go ahead and swap in your fail-safe favorites.

Who should sign up for Imperfect Foods?

If you’re known for your ability to go through produce expediently, Imperfect Foods is probably a great option for you. While the produce may be a little more ripe than most supermarket items, if you’re planning to move through your haul right away, you likely won’t run into any issues. In fact, it’ll all be ready to eat from the moment it arrives at your door.

Additionally, if you’re an adventurous chef—and eater—the app’s suggested grocery list tool will provide you with ample opportunity to explore new seasonal fare when it’s in peak form...which is to say, you’ll likely encounter a thing or two you’d never even considered purchasing.

What’s more, if you’re big into smoothies, blending pre-bruised fruits and veggies is certainly a wise (and sustainable) option.

Who should avoid Imperfect Foods?

For folks who typically end up allowing produce to rot away in their fridges, Imperfect Foods is probably not the move. Your fruit and veggie items will definitely decay pretty quickly...so you might as well just save yourself the trouble.

Additionally, for picky eaters—or folks with complex food allergies and sensitivities—the service may not be nearly as reliable as a standard grocery delivery service. Things will come in and out of stock with relative frequency based on seasonality and availability in your area—and some things will be fresher than others. So if you don’t want any surprises when it comes to your pantry/fridge supplies, perhaps consider a different route.

Imperfect Foods

How does Imperfect Foods actually work?

In order to get started, you’ll need to set up an account online—for free—before answering a few questions about your habits and your typical grocery lists. From there, the Imperfect Foods algorithm will help you create the perfect weekly grocery order. And in the hopes of reducing delivery emissions, the company will also assign you a specific delivery day based on where you live.

Next, select whether you want to place a one-time order, a weekly order, or a bi-weekly order, and begin adding and deleting from your pre-made grocery list. Remove anything that’s not to your liking and search through the wealth of available products, then, once you’re satisfied, simply hit send and your order will be in the works.

From there, every week—or every other week—you’ll receive your bespoke list of handpicked items, fresh from farms closest to you. You’ll make your personal adjustments—then you’ll be ready to go and the team will start packing up your order. On your scheduled delivery day, Imperfect Foods drivers will deliver your order straight to your front door.

If you’d like to skip a week—or two—simply log onto the app and click either “Manage Subscription” or “Delivery Schedule.”

Are there alternative grocery delivery services out there?

If you’re looking to stock your fridge without actually paying a visit to the grocery store, there are plenty of options out there—and while few will focus so heavily on produce that’s already marked as surplus or damaged, there are alternatives.

Likely the biggest competitor to Imperfect Foods is Misfits Market—another produce delivery service committed to limiting food waste by collecting and reselling surplus goods. Unlike Imperfect Foods, though, the brand only vends organic goods—and rather than purchase by the product, you’ll pay a flat rate per box. Yes, you can still customize, but your options are more limited.

Additionally, there’s Hungry Harvest, another grocery delivery company devoted to reducing food waste by vending cosmetically damaged goods. With this service, you can choose between organic and standard, and each box comes with a flat fee. Plus, according to reviewers, produce typically arrives in better shape than with Imperfect Foods or Misfits Market.

Then, for a far more expedited grocery experience, you might consider Fridge No More. Unlike with, say, an Amazon Fresh, the delivery service—which will deliver anything you order in 15 minutes or less—does not rely on gig workers. Instead, all packers and couriers are full-on employees. Delivery locations are somewhat limited, but if you do live in a covered area, you can make your grocery list through the Fridge No More app—then expect local goods dropped at your door almost instantly.

Imperfect Foods

Frequently Asked Questions

Where does Imperfect Foods deliver?

As of right now, the service reaches most of the West South Central region, Midwest, Northeast and all along the West Coast. If you’re not sure if they’ll come to you, type your zip code in here. And fear not if they won’t come to you just yet—they’re expanding by the week.

How does Imperfect Foods delivery work?

Your customized box will be delivered to your door by a hired Imperfect driver on your area’s specific delivery day. You’ll receive a confirmation email with a tracking link when your delivery is on its way to you—and another confirming that it’s arrived. If you don’t think you’ll be home, the driver can even tuck the box in a safe nearby location so long as you specify where.

Are all Imperfect Foods products organic?

All of Imperfect Foods products are not organic—but if you’d like a fully organic box, you can pre-select the “organic” option, and everything served to you will be certified as such. Additionally, you can select a standard box, or a “produce-only” box if you’re not looking for other grocery items.

What do I do if Imperfect Foods doesn’t deliver to my area?

While Imperfect Foods’ limited reach has to do with the reduction of carbon emissions re: drop-off processes, they’re constantly expanding. In the meanwhile, subscribe to the brand’s newsletter, and follow them on social for frequent updates about new coverage areas.

What makes Imperfect Foods products “imperfect”?

Beyond bruises and small cosmetic issues—torn skin, small punctures and dents—“imperfect” foods will sometimes arrive in irregular shapes and sizes, or in certain cases, they may just be marked as surplus. Sure, everything may not be as handsome as it is on your grocery store shelves, but it’s all sustainably sourced from high-quality producers—so you can trust your goods.

Eliza Dumais is a former staff writer at Thrillist. She now works as a lifestyle editor at Refinery29.
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