Up to 25% of food produce that's grown in the USA never reaches the grocery store because it is irregularly shaped or blemished and considered "ugly produce". Because many large grocers do not want these fruits and vegetables, they often end up in the landfill as food waste. Not only is this wasting valuable food, but it is harming the environment by filling landfills and emitting harmful gas.
Are you looking for an inexpensive way to eat organic produce? Hoping to reduce your grocery bill? Want to help end food wastage? Thanks to services, such as subscription boxes, and improvements in distribution there are more and more ways to access cheap fruits and vegetables in your area. One such way is to purchase "imperfect" or "ugly" fruits and vegetable produce from a subscription service, delivery service, or perhaps even at your local grocery store or farmer's market.
As mentioned earlier, nearly a quarter of all fruits and vegetables never make it to the grocery store and often end up in landfill. Ugly produce is edible and fresh, just not cosmetically perfect.
What are ugly fruits and vegetables?
Ugly produce is not old fruits and vegetables nearing expiration. It's simply:
- Irregularly shaped
- Delicious and edible
- Equally nutritious
Ugly produce delivered to your door
Subscription services make getting imperfect produce incredibly easy! These services might deliver to your door, or to a nearby pickup location, on a set schedule (weekly, bi-weekly, monthly and so on). The services vary in how you can order: you might be able to select from many different types of produce, a small set, or you may just receive whatever is available. The subscription service in my area lets you select exactly how much you want from a large list of options at a discounted price.
If you are in the San Francisco Bay area, check out Imperfect Produce. They offer weekly or bi-weekly deliveries, with full control over skipping deliveries. My deliveries have been perfect - the produce incredibly fresh, in great shape, and delivered as expected. My customer service has been top-notch too when I had questions.
If you are not in the SF Bay area, refer to the following section!
UPDATE / REVIEW for Imperfect Produce: I can sadly no longer recommend (nor use) Imperfect Produce at this time. While customer service was good throughout, the deliveries were woefully incorrect (missing items almost every week, sometimes more than one item) and the quality of the produce went downhill (many brown or molding items) box by box and additional value concerns cropped up. While I still believe this is an amazing opportunity to help solve a real problem we face in this country, in my opinion the execution needs to be addressed in this individual case. Hopefully, as they are a new company, this will change over time as they sort out their workflow and product issues and I wish them the best of luck. We will absolutely watch for their produce in our local stores, as they are apparently working on this as well.
How to find ugly produce
Ugly fruits and vegetables are often available if you do a bit of searching. Or, you might be able to find older produce (overripe or near shelf life produce) offered at a steep discount that is often perfect for smoothies or juicing.
- Check at your grocery store, and if you don't see any available - ask! I have seen shelves, often in a non-obvious location, with older produce offered at a steep discount. Distribution services are cropping up to deliver fresh but blemished/irregularly shaped produce at grocery stores. Or, a grocer may have these available in the "back" and could offer them to you by request. Not offered? Express your interest at local grocery stores!
- Set delivery services: Search Google for your city and add the term "ugly produce" or "imperfect produce". For example, I searched "Sunnyvale ugly produce" and found Imperfect Produce that delivers boxes right to my front door.*
- Request imperfect produce at your grocery store and farmer's market. Speaking directly to farm employees at the farmer's market may lead to connections, or perhaps ugly produce offered the following week!
I did a Google search for the name of my city along with ugly produce, "Sunnyvale ugly produce" and the first result was the Imperfect Produce* website mentioned above. Several articles about local grocery stores working on deals to stock ugly produce also came up, so I might have several options to find the produce in the near future. Here are a few recent articles on the subject:
- Huff Post: Target and ugly produce
- NPR: Tackling food wastage
- NPR: Ugly produce coming to Whole Foods
New projects? Please post them in the comments!
* Please see review in earlier section.
I know I am very lucky to have more than one option in my area to help reduce food wastage in my area. If you do not find anything, send a message to your local grocery stores and request this kind of produce. You might even search for a local distributor and speak to them about whether they could work with your local stores. This is a new and exciting time when distributors are getting creative to move this produce out of the landfill, so showing your interest in these products could very well help make change happen in your area.
Last updated: October 10, 2016. Originally published: August 27, 2016.
Photo: Public domain. Source.