I received my first box from Misfits Market in late 2019.
My partner and I were looking into a local CSA (community supported agriculture), but missed the window to sign up. We still wanted to buy organic, local produce, but couldn’t go to the farmers market because of our work schedules.
That’s when we stumbled into the world of ugly produce delivery, and Misfits Market. Misfits Market is an ugly produce subscription that offers large boxes of produce delivered to your door. While certainly not a replacement for CSAs or farmer’s markets (please support your local farmers), Misfits Market has changed the way I do grocery shopping, as well as the way I think about produce and food waste.
Now more than ever, I have been thinking about shipping, and the processes that move our food around the country. With COVID-19 ramping up demand for home-delivery of all things, here is my Misfits Market review.
What is Misfits Market?
Misfits Market is a subscription service offering weekly and bi-weekly (once every two weeks) deliveries of “misfit”, “discarded” and “overstock” produce. Misfit, also known as misshapen or “ugly” produce, is produce that fails to hit specific cosmetic guidelines set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
With proper infrastructure, this “ugly” produce can end up at food banks or special grocery stores. However, this infrastructure is difficult and expensive to set up, leaving most farms without an effective way to sell this “ugly” produce.
Founded in 2018 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Misfits Market works in collaboration with farms across the United States, Canada and Mexico. This produce is shipped to packing centers, where Misfits Market employees are “paid a living wage” to pack subscription boxes. From there, subscription boxes are shipped to customers through carriers like FedEx and Lasership.
All Misfits Market produce is USDA organic, and includes a range of offerings depending on the season. This winter, most of my produce boxes included some of the following fruits and veggies: apples, beets, Brussels Sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, chard, collards, cucumber, grapefruit, green beans, kale, leeks, lemons, mango, onions, peppers, potatoes, sweet potatoes, squash, and grape tomatoes. You can always find a full list of current Misfits Market produce offerings on their website.
Misfits Market offers two types of subscription: a smaller, $22 box titled “The Mischief” and a larger, $35 box named “The Madness.” Shipping for either box runs $4.50. Billing is done per box shipped.
In most areas, you cannot pick which produce will be in your box, meaning you will get a mostly seasonal, mostly local assortment of fruits and veggies.
Misfits Market also offers first-come-first-serve “Marketplace” items. These goods include specialty produce like mushrooms and fresh dill, as well as non-produce items like granola, chocolate, soup mixes, and coffee, all for individual purchase, to be added on to the cost of your next Misfits box. This assortment is generally organic, and sourced from “excess inventory”, short-dated or misprinted packaging.
Subscribers can choose weekly or bi-weekly delivery, as well as set their preferred delivery date. You can also skip an upcoming delivery, all the way up to deliveries nine weeks away, as long as the delivery hasn’t shipped yet.
Misfits Market allows users to pause their subscription entirely, for up to six months. You can also, of course, cancel at any time.
The Good: Quality Produce, User Experience
My experience with Misfits Market has been largely positive, with more recent additions to the service making it much stronger and more robust.
For the first few months, I stuck with the Mischief Box, delivered weekly. The box always came on time, and never arrived overly damaged or poorly assembled.
Inside, veggies are a little disorganized, but separated by weight to avoid bruising, with smaller vegetables in compostable bags. Boxes usually came with an ice pack that can be safely drained and recycled.
Lining the box was either a ridged paper lining or an insulated paper and plastic liner. The ridged paper lining is easily recyclable. The insulated paper and plastic liner, however, contains hard-to-recycle #4 recyclable plastic, which is an unfortunate knock against otherwise sustainable packaging.
The Mischief box contains a good mix of vegetables and fruits, all of which are very tasty, and sometimes oddly shaped. I received the largest beet I’ve ever seen last week, and often receive massive lemons. Produce occasionally sport very minor blemishes, but nothing major, and nothing out of line for a company touting misfit and rejected produce.
I also noticed that some of the produce goes bad faster than if I were buying it in a grocery store. This limited lifespan is likely a combination of farm sorting, all organic produce and shipping times. Living in a two-person, vegetarian home, spoiled produce rarely became an issue.
One aspect of Misfits Market I really appreciated was the account settings. Namely, I loved the fact that I was billed weekly, per box, and did not have to commit to a monthly or yearly subscription.
I also loved that I could choose upcoming boxes to skip, even boxes that were scheduled for over a month away. This feature made holiday planning incredibly easy, and helped me save money, as well as shipped produce that might have gone bad on my shelf otherwise.
Some of Misfits Market’s more recent features have made the subscription even more appealing. As I mentioned earlier, most areas cannot pick which produce comes in their box. However, Misfits is gradually rolling out a choose-your-produce feature, currently available to certain customers and areas.
This feature is first-come-first-serve, meaning if I want popular produce like cara cara oranges or flat leaf spinach, I have to make my produce selections as far in advance as possible. The selections change each week, depending on harvest, availability and season. But, once this feature is available to everyone, Misfits will have eliminated its biggest drawback: having no control over produce selections.
Another more recent feature is Misfits’ Marketplace, where they have specialty produce, as well as non-produce items from companies like Bob’s Red Mill and Taza.
Having the option to purchase multiple varieties of organic mushrooms, as well as affordable shelf stable goods is a great option when I want to lighten the load off my next grocery trip.
Lastly, I appreciated Misfits’ focus on whole state availability: being available in every part of the states in which you can order. This offering is a real positive for folks living in more rural areas, who might not have easy access to high quality, organic produce. Unfortunately the service is not available in every state.
The Bad: Lack of Choice, Availability
There are a few drawbacks to Misfits Market, but most of them are pretty clear from the outset.
When I was not able to pick my own produce assortment, I often received vegetables that weren’t my favorite, such as celery, turnip, red onion and green bell pepper. While I did make sure these items were used, not being able to control what was inside my box was frustrating.
Trying to figure out how to use uncommon produce turned into a fun experience for me, but it might not be your idea of fun. If you like your meals quick and easy, and do not want to do a lot of thinking after a long day at work, Misfits Market may not be for you.
On a similar note, if you have multiple food allergies, you should steer clear of Misfits Market altogether. Because most subscribers cannot choose their produce assortment, there is no good way to avoid cross contamination with produce you may be allergic to.
As someone living in New York City, the produce I received from Misfits Market was cheaper than if I were to buy it in a grocery store or farmers market. Nonetheless, the money was not a huge amount of savings, usually somewhere between $6 and $10 dollars. If you’re looking to slice your grocery budget in half, Misfits Market may be part of your solution, but not the total solution.
An Improvement, Not a Solution
Lastly, and this is more a criticism of ugly produce marketing than Misfits Market, the sustainability and overall good gained by ugly produce subscriptions is blown out of proportion. Yes, utilizing ugly produce is a good thing, and more businesses and consumers should!
However, ugly produce accounts for a small portion of overall food waste in America. The majority of food waste comes not at the farm or supplier level, but at the consumer level.
Put simply: households buy too much food, leading to tons of spoiled food waste. Buying organic, ugly produce is great, but make sure you can utilize all the food you get, ugly or not.
Is Misfits Market Worth It?
All in all, for most people, the pros of Misfits Market far outweigh the cons. The user-friendly subscription offers high-quality, ugly produce in plain, eco-friendly packaging. Especially with access to the newer features like produce selection and the marketplace, Misfits Market is a great way to take the load off your grocery shopping, and is likely to save you a little bit of money, too.
Misfits Market is not for everyone, though. If you have food allergies, are a picky eater, or want total control over what produce is in your kitchen, Misfits Market is a tough sell. If you’re looking to radically cut your food budget, Misfits Market may only help you get so far. And if you do not live the eastern states, it’s likely that Misfits Market isn’t available to you at all.
If Misfits Market is for you, check out their website. Unfortunately, due to high demand stemming from COVID-19, new subscribers must sign up for a waitlist. But, I found Misfits Market a great way to get delicious, sustainable produce in a smooth experience.
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