The lemon pictured in this photo isn't perfectly shaped, but it's perfectly tasty. That's why I wanted to offer an Imperfect Foods review.

Sometimes the stars align. I decided to take a chance on ordering grocery delivery from Imperfect Foods after a few weeks of hemming and hawing, and then coronavirus cases started spiking in my county—and especially spiking in the neighboring county, where the nearest Costco and Trader Joe’s are located.

We were like, “Is it possible to go for months without food shopping in person?” If you live in a city, that’s generally an easy “yes.” Elsewhere, not necessarily. But thanks to Imperfect Foods, we can.

I had already been avoiding my favorite local grocery store for weeks, after a trip one Sunday when half of the people inside weren’t wearing masks, despite several “wear your mask” signs outside. This store is magnificent, what I imagine would be a love child of a Grocery Outlet and a “natural foods” store. Their produce was fantastic, and inexpensive, and their other prices were pretty excellent, too. When “safety first” meant staying away, we leaned more heavily on trips to Costco and TJ’s, both an hour away, and both much more vigilant about enforcing mask wearing.

But now? Forget about it.

We’re making one more stock-up (no, not hoarding) trip on Friday, and that’s it until coronavirus cases plummet, or there’s a vaccine, or both. Seriously. So, until at least next spring. Whatever needs can’t be met with Imperfect Foods (such as milk, eggs, frozen berries, yogurt), we’ll fill in with curbside pickup from another local store that’s not my favorite.

How does Imperfect Foods work?

I really didn’t know what to expect with Imperfect Foods when I signed up, and it was a little confusing until my first “shopping window” opened. When you set up an account, you select what size produce box you want (even though there’s just two of us, I selected the plan for 3-4 people). You’re also asked some basic questions about your eating style and if you prefer organic or conventional (or both). Your default plan includes produce, a meat & fish pack, a snack pack, and a grains pack. You can uncheck the packs, but you have to make sure your total is at or above the minimum for your area (in mine, it’s $30).

But really, none of this matters (mostly). This was what I was confused about until it that shopping window opened and I could customize my own box. Let me explain:

  • All your default box does is give you a starting point, and it guarantees that you meet your minimum if you forget to go in and customize.
  • When you customize, you can delete anything they’ve selected for your box that week, and you can shop for whatever you want from their various categories, which include produce, snacks, meat and fish, non-meat proteins, dairy, breakfast foods, dry pantry goods, canned and jarred goods, and baking supplies.
  • You could add enough produce to meet your minimum, and stop there, or cut back on produce and choose other items instead. As you add and subtract, you can always see what your running total is.
So, why “imperfect?

I think the idea of imperfect was a little bit of a hang-up at first. I’m not really sure why, because I’m an advocate for the idea that there’s no such thing as perfection! One of the things I like about Imperfect Foods is that in the item description, they tell you exactly why something is imperfect (or not).

Bell peppers might not meet be shaped “perfectly,” apples or oranges may have some scabs or scars, fish fillets might not be the standard shape or size. But often, it’s simply that the grower/manufacturer/distributor had too much of something for their normal retail channels. I got a great deal on some farro, arborio rice and sriracha this week for exactly that reason.

Speaking of prices, I’ve found that for the most part, their prices are as good or better than what I could get locally.

Honestly, I’ve been very happy with everything I’ve ordered. (And none of the carrots I’ve received have looked like those in the photo above!)

But what about packaging?

Yes, packaging can be a bugaboo. I’ve canceled CSA boxes and meal-kit deliveries before because of all the plastic. I mean, you can only reuse so many tiny plastic jars and gel cold packs. I’m happy to say that Imperfect Foods’ packaging is less problematic. Each week, I get two sturdy cardboard boxes, paper-based padding/insulation, and yes, a few gel packs. We will actually be able to reuse many of the boxes, and when it gets to the point that we can’t, we’ll offer them for free on Craigslist, as they would make good moving boxes. We can recycle the padding, and we’ll use or give away the gel packs.

I look at it this way…we’ll be using less gasoline (we will barely have to leave our house now), and we’re using fewer plastic produce bags or grocery bags (not all stores are allowing reusable bags for safety reasons). I consider it a wash.

I should also add that you can pause your box whenever you need to. We’ll be pausing it next week, since we’ll have a lot of produce from Costco and TJ’s filling our fridge.

Want to try it for yourself?

I want to note that this is NOT a sponsored post. I have simply been happy with my experience, and thought some of you, my readers, might be interested in trying Imperfect Foods (especially if you don’t have Instacart, Amazon Fresh or another service available to you. Or maybe you just like the idea of welcoming fruits and vegetables from the Island of Misfit Produce into you home.

If you want to try Imperfect Foods for yourself, sign up using this link to get $10 off your first box. Or, you can click this button:

Carrie Dennett, MPH, RDN, is a Pacific Northwest-based registered dietitian nutritionist, freelance writer, intuitive eating counselor, author, and speaker. Her superpowers include busting nutrition myths and empowering women to feel better in their bodies and make food choices that support pleasure, nutrition and health. This post is for informational purposes only and does not constitute individualized nutrition or medical advice.

Seeking 1-on-1 nutrition counseling? Carrie offers a 6-month Food & Body program (intuitive eating, body image, mindfulness, self-compassion) and a 4-month IBS management program (low-FODMAP diet coaching with an emphasis on increasing food freedom). Visit the links to learn more and book a free intro call to see if the program is a good fit, and if we’re a good fit!