Is Imperfect Produce Worth it?

Update 5/9/2020: So I decided to restart using Imperfect Produce because it seemed like a nice supplement to get food delivered with the shelter in place warnings. Imperfect Produce is now called Imperfect Foods and has expanded the product lines to some dry goods (grains), dairy, meat and seafood.

In terms of cost, it looks like the box fee went away and everything is a-la carte so you don’t need to sign up for the Meat & Seafood, Grains, or Dairy packs to actually get those things. Dairy, Meat, & Seafood is shipped inside an insulated box with an ice-pack. If you’ve done Blue Apron, it’s basically the same set up. I think in terms of pricing and quality everything seems about the same as before when I wrote this article a couple years ago. In general, the pricing is fair-ish but not really cheaper when you account for the size and weight of the produce, but they are very consistent about delivering on time.

Original Review: I’ve been using Imperfect Produce which is a vegetable and fruit delivery service for the past few months. Imperfect Produce aims to reduce food waste by delivering ugly and surplus fruits and vegetables to your door.  I liked the mission statement, but after a few months I felt like most of the food I was getting was labeled ‘surplus’ and prices seemed to be less competitive.   Delivery to delivery, I would often buy basics like carrots and onions that were always labeled ‘surplus,’ but if they’re available all the time are they really surplus?

One of the Imperfect Produce boxes

One of the boxes most things look pretty normal.

Another box with more fruit

The fruits were kind of small

So I broke out my kitchen scale, and I tracked 4 deliveries (2 months worth!).  I compared the amount that Imperfect Produce sent me and priced out the equivalent from my local grocer.  Everything was compared against a direct replacement as best I could match.  To keep it fair, I also included the Box Fee ($3) and Delivery Fee ($5) that Imperfect Produce charges.

Here are the cost comparisons by delivery:

  Imperfect Produce Grocery Store Savings over Store
Box 1  $31.85  $29.90  $(1.95)
Box 2  $32.78  $28.13  $(4.65)
Box 3  $33.76  $6.57  $(7.19)
Box 4  $29.01  $26.52  $(2.49)

As you can see, Imperfect Produce has cost more than the grocery store on all of my boxes.  If you subtract out the box and delivery charge the prices of the actual produce and fruits are cheaper, but once you include the total cost Imperfect Produce really isn’t a deal.

The actual produce usually looks pretty comparable to what is at the grocery store.  Some of the items (espeically fruit) are often smaller than at the store, but really the most obvious things are like the carrots are almost always shaped like giant turnips and the onions tend to be either gigantic or tiny.

Items that saved the most:

Item Imperfect Produce Cost  Store Cost  Savings %
Conventional Green Bell Peppers (2 ct)  $0.99  $5.56  $4.6 82%
Conventional Avocados (12 ct)  $7.74  $12.20  $4.5 37%
Organic Leek (2 ct)  $4.67  $8.18  $3.5 43%
Conventional Parsnips (1.5 lb)  $0.69  $2.30  $1.6 70%
Conventional Apples (3 ct) 1lb  $1.88  $3.15  $1.3 40%

Don’t use this to save money.

If you are looking to get your vegetables delivered this is totally a viable option that doesn’t cost much more than the store.  But keep in mind, you will generally end up paying more for the convenience of the having the box delivered. Selection varies week to week, so I do like using the boxes to try out different fruits and vegetables.  On top of that you’ll be helping out to reduce food waste, although I’m not sure how much of those savings are offset by the delivery and non-reusable delivery box.

If you want to try out imperfect produce and live in one of the cities here’s a link for your first Imperfect Produce box. As of this post, Imperfect Produce operates in many cities including:

  • San Francisco Bay Area, CA
  • Los Angeles, CA
  • Orange County, CA
  • Portland, OR
  • Seattle, WA
  • Chicago, IL
  • Indianapolis, IN
  • Milwaukee, WI

4 thoughts on “Is Imperfect Produce Worth it?”

  1. I understand your comparison but you didn’t mention the cost of gasoline and time driving to the store or multiple stores to get some items you may want. I think the variety is good and for those that live a little rural it works.

  2. I received my first box of the imperfect food today. It will also be the last!! I am not impressed with it at all!! I would not recommend it to anyone. My Daughter recommended this company to me. However, our opinions certainly are different when it comes to the value of buying imperfect food. No thank you!!

    1. Maybe give them one more try?

      I am noone, not even a subscriber as in my area there is a waitlist, however one try isn’t enough to completely write them off-at least in my opinion.

      Best of luck & enjoy your produce!!

  3. We’ve gotten about 5 boxes worth of Imperfect Foods. I am consistently not impressed. My daughter is the fan but even she has to admit that is hard to cope with having things in her order and then having them not show up in the delivery.

    In my view, Imperfect Food takes more time to prep. And since we are getting what is on offer, it’s like constantly being in the Chopped Kitchen trying to figure out what to make with what we’ve got.

    The mission is supposedly to reduce food waste. But how does it help for me to eat the mutant carrots? I am not eating more food, just lower down on the food chain. What is happening to the “perfect” food I am no longer eating? I think the mission is sell low cost imperfect and surplus products at full price by wrapping them in a warm and fuzzy mission statement.

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