Food costs a lot right now. According to some sources, grocery prices jumped by 11.4% between August 2021 and August 2022. Even simple foods like bread and eggs have increased in price—in some cases, by as much as 40%.
Given these amounts, you might want to consider reducing your food budget. One way to do this is by purchasing a produce kit that sends you “ugly” or traditionally discarded produce for a slightly discounted price. Or, if you’re craving quality fruits and veggies but don’t have time for a grocery store run, a fresh produce delivery service can streamline your weekly shopping experience. We looked at many different services to figure out which ones offer the best quality (and most convenient) produce for the most reasonable price.
Here’s how the best produce delivery services stack up:
- Imperfect Foods (Best Overall)
- Misfits Market (Most Affordable)
- Farmbox Direct (Just OK (With Prices to Match))
- The Fruit Guys (Highest Quality—But Expensive)
- Melissa’s Produce (Novelty Fruit Options That Don’t Justify the Price)
What is the best produce delivery service? That depends, so here’s the breakdown.
The Best Produce Delivery Services
- Delivered weekly or biweekly
- Established produce brand that ships “ugly” produce
- Smooth ordering and customer service experiences
- Priced well
- Environmentally conscious
- First order was mysteriously canceled
Imperfect Foods has been around for about seven years. The brand’s experience in the “ugly food” market shows compared to its competitors. These days, you can order more than just ugly produce on its website—organic meat, snacks, and canned goods are also on display.
Our experience with Imperfect Foods started with a jolt, as the order was canceled without explanation after the requisite two-week waiting period that follows signing up. (Your wait time may be shorter depending upon where you live, but usually the brand needs that much time to set you up in the system, allow for ordering, and ship your box.) Thankfully, customer service responded to our chat quickly and set up a new delivery for just a few days later.
When it came time to order, we were impressed by how easy the website is to use. It seamlessly guides you through the process of choosing your produce for the week. You can choose unlimited items with each shipment. (Note that if you don’t order as soon as you get your email notification, some of the items on the available produce list—which was about 30 items deep when we ordered—may be sold out.) The variety is not as extensive as some of the other services, but it’s good enough.
When the box arrived, we were impressed by the quality of the food. Nothing was overripe or moldy, although we did need to wait a few days for the avocados and fruit to ripen. The price of the box felt right, too: For $39, we got a mango, butternut squash, garlic, sweet potatoes, zucchini, avocados, grapes, lemons, and a package of chicken sausage. (We chose the $35 box option which meant that we had to buy at least $35 worth of produce; but depending on which individually-priced items you choose, your bill will sometimes be even more than the $35 limit.) This felt like less than what we’d spend on the same lineup at the local grocery store. Nothing looked especially “ugly.”
Imperfect Foods is a subscription-based service, so you’ll need to manage your subscription weekly if you don’t want to get charged for skipping a week. (This is fairly easy to do but may require you setting your own reminders.) Canceling is also easy enough—all you do is navigate to your membership on the website and follow the cancelation instructions.
Imperfect Foods boxes are recyclable. The company also recently introduced the option to send your ice packs and shipping materials back. When your next order is delivered, your driver will pick up the old materials if you leave them on your doorstep.
- Delivered weekly or biweekly
- Eclectic produce brand that sends potential food waste your way
- Least expensive produce box tested
- Good range of options
- Mostly organic
- Especially high quality fruit
- Tough to cancel
The cheapest option in the mix, Misfits Market has a similar setup to Imperfect Foods. It also has a slightly trickier website. Like Imperfect Foods, Misfits Market offers “ugly” food in a subscription kit model. You’ll get an email when it’s time to order and you can choose your box size—which range from small to large—and whether you’d like to shop organic or not. You can also add proteins and other products to your shopping list. The overall price may change slightly depending on what you put in your box—our box filled with tomatoes, blueberries, scallions, blackberries, avocados, cilantro, asparagus, bell peppers, onions, eggplant, and red grapes was about $33—but your bill will most likely be cheaper than that of a typical grocery store run.
The foods in our box weren’t seasonal or unique (although the website says that the options do vary by the season), but the variety was good enough to replicate a standard grocery shop. Nothing in the box was particularly “ugly,” and the fruit was especially high quality. The vegetables were fine, although some items started to mold after just 24 hours, which made us worry that they’d been sitting in a warehouse for a while.
One major downside is that Misfits Market is tough to cancel. The system ordered us a second box without any alerts and even picked out what was in the box. Because we weren’t alerted, we had no idea that the second box was coming and it was too late to cancel.
Misfits Market makes an effort to be fairly environmentally conscious, with recyclable wrapping and packaging.
Are Produce Delivery Services Worth It?
This question depends on a few more questions. Let’s break them down.
Should I eat more produce?
Short answer: Yes. Fruits and vegetables are good for you! The longer answer: Most countries offer daily dietary recommendations that include fruits and vegetables, which contain concentrations of important vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals (like antioxidants). The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans USDA “Dietary Guidelines for Americans” View Source recommends that adults consume 1.5 to 2 cup-equivalents of fruits and 2 to 3 cup-equivalents of vegetables every day. Fruits and vegetables are also a good source of dietary fiber Advances in Nutrition “Health Benefits of Fruits and Vegetables” View Source , which is linked to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and obesity prevention. Whenever possible, experts recommend consuming the entire fruit and vegetable— peel, membrane, and all!—to maximize fiber benefits. (Whether you eat it straight or throw it in a smoothie is up to you.)
Consuming fruits and vegetables regularly also appears to protect against strokes, cataract formation, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diverticulosis, and hypertension. Some studies show that particular vegetables, especially those that are dark green, leafy, cruciferous or deep yellow-orange (think: broccoli, kale, carrots, and the like), are the most effective for disease prevention.
Will a produce delivery service help me eat more fruits and vegetables?
Getting fruits and vegetables delivered might also make it easier to actually add them into your diet given the convenience, especially if you live in a food desert where it can be difficult to access fresh food. (23.5 million Americans currently live in food deserts, making this a huge problem nationwide.) Researchers NIH—U.S. National Library of Medicine “Fresh Start: Increasing Early Produce Intake” View Source are also currently looking at the impacts of produce delivery boxes for low income families. The jury is still out on the results, but previous research PubMed Central “Adults and Children in Low-Income Households That Participate in Cost-Offset Community Supported Agriculture Have High Fruit and Vegetable Consumption ” View Source has confirmed that access to discounted local produce boxes increases the amount of fruits and veggies in the diets of low income families.
Are produce delivery services good for the environment?
Many produce box suppliers make the claim that ordering from them is not only a way to up your colorful food intake—it’s also an environmental boon. The actual answer is a little more complicated.
There are clear environmental benefits to eating local produce. Because it doesn’t have to travel as far to arrive at your home, the process emits fewer greenhouse gasses, which reduces your overall carbon footprint. Buying local also supports the local economy. However, most of the produce delivery services we looked at in this guide don’t source locally. If you want to focus on local goods, it’s better to invest in a local CSA (community supported agriculture) program.
Several of the produce delivery services we tested do send customers foods that traditional food retailers reject because they’re misshapen, oddly colored, or generally “ugly.” These brands do this by buying excess “ugly” produce from wholesalers. Then they resell those items to consumers for a price that’s usually lower than what you’d find at the grocery store.
Food waste is a big problem in the US, and reducing it is one of the ways we can help to reverse climate change on an individual basis. And it appears that “ugly foods” companies are making an impact: In 2018, Imperfect Produce claimed that it had saved 30 million pounds of food from being wasted. But the brand has also been criticized for monetizing and commercializing surplus food, which might otherwise go to restaurants and food banks. In other words, even if these brands didn’t exist, the food would probably still be used. The brands have admitted as much, saying that not all of the produce they sell would have ended up in a landfill if they didn’t ship it to (theoretically) altruism-minded consumers.
In summary: Buying ugly produce isn’t a bad move. Still, supporting a local CSA is probably a better place to start if you’re making a buying decision purely based on environmental impact.
How We Got Here
Meet Your Guinea Pig
I’m Jenni Gritters, a journalist with more than 10 years of experience covering science, health and psychology. I’ve written product reviews for publications like Reviewed, Wirecutter, Forbes, and Slate, and you can find my essays and reported stories in the New York Times and the Guardian. I was previously an editor at Wirecutter. There, I covered parenting and kid products, outdoor gear, and travel apparel as a writer and editor.
Our Testing Process
First, we spent several hours researching produce delivery services. Some offered subscriptions while others were more like gift boxes. We read dozens of reviews and made note of which services offer the best variety for the price. We also spent quite a bit of time digging through research about the environmental impacts of selling “ugly” produce, as well as the health benefits of keeping produce in your diet.
Eventually, we ended up with 10 options. We narrowed that list down to five services to test based on customer reviews, which The Nessie ordered for testing. After two weeks, we had a fridge bursting with fruits and vegetables. We took notes on the customer experience, smoothness of delivery, packaging, variety in the box and quality of produce. We ate the produce every day for almost a month, making a crockpot full of applesauce, pureeing carrots for our 5-month-old, teaching our toddler to appreciate kiwis, and roasting potatoes. In the end, we landed on a few favorite produce delivery services.
For more on how we found the best produce delivery services, read the test notes.
How to Pick a Produce Delivery Service
Which features matter most when choosing a produce delivery service?
- Good customer experience: The service should be easy to schedule and easy to cancel. The brand should remind you of when it’s time to choose your next box if it’s a subscription-based service.
- Quality produce: The produce should arrive intact and ready to eat. It should be ripe or nearly ripe—but not overripe.
- Social consciousness: Does the brand give back to the local community, reduce food waste, make it easy to recycle or reuse packaging, or work toward aiding our broken food system in some way?
- Produce variety/ novelty: Does the subscription introduce you to new or novel foods? Does it provide a good variety of produce?
- Price: Does the price feel reasonable for what you get, and does it save you money compared to shopping at the grocery store?
Another Produce Delivery Service to Consider
Just OK (With Prices to Match)
- Delivered weekly or biweekly
- Wannabe-local produce box with so-so options and a confusing interface
- Packaging is biodegradable and recyclable
- Fair pricing
- Tough to order and cancel
- Some items arrived moldy
Farmbox Direct is meant to be a local, farm-to-table subscription service. It’s unclear as to where the food is actually sourced from, though. The products we got looked nearly identical to those from Imperfect Foods and Misfits Market.
The website experience isn’t as good as its competitors. When we went to order, we found the interface to be confusing and some of the buttons didn’t work. When you order, you can choose either a fruit box, veggie box, or one with both. And we got many emails inviting us to update our box before delivery, but we were never actually able to do so via the website. We also struggled to cancel the service and ended up getting a second box by mistake.
The produce we got was mostly fine, although the kale was moldy and the pears needed at least a few days before they were ripe enough to eat. But we also got products we didn’t want or need since we weren’t able to pick what was in the box, which added to potential food waste. The lack of customization might be a benefit to those who suffer from choice paralysis, don’t want to think about what to get, want to expand their palate, or just like surprises. Everything in the box arrived damp, which was likely because it took longer to ship than other brands.
We appreciate that Farmbox Direct’s shipping materials are 100% biodegradable and recyclable, with instructions in the box about how to recycle it. The price is right for the quantity and quality of the food, too.
Produce Delivery Services You Can Skip
Highest Quality—But Expensive
The Fruit Guys
- One-off delivery
- Top-quality produce at a top-range price
- Great quality
- Fast shipping time
- Expensive for what you get
- Brand uses a lot of unnecessary packaging
Despite the name, the Fruit Guys brand doesn’t just sell fruit. Instead, it curates a mix of fruit, fruit and veggies, and/or snacks with seasonal produce based on your location.
We ordered the smallest box (a $36 “season’s best” mini fruit box) and ended up with nine pieces of fruit: all apples and pears. The produce was by far the highest quality of any box we received, but the price is steep for just a few pieces of fruit. It felt more like a gift box than a replacement for a weekly grocery shop.
The apples and pears were perfectly ripe about 12 hours after they arrived, and the box shipped within two days of our order, too. Unfortunately, the brand also uses more packaging—including some plastic—than the other services we tested. Overall, it’s a good option if you want to send a gift box to a friend. As a produce delivery service, we’ll pass.
Novelty Fruit Options That Don’t Justify the Price
- One-off delivery
- All-organic fruit with limited options and a steep cost
- Everything is organic
- Unnecessarily expensive
- Impossible to pick what you want
- Items arrived bruised and past their prime
Melissa’s Produce’s main draw is that most things it delivers are organic. Research is not yet conclusive Mayo Clinic “Organic foods: Are they safer? More nutritious?” View Source about whether or not organic produce has more positive effects on health compared to non-organic produce. Organic produce may contain more antioxidants and fewer toxic metals. Eating organic also means avoiding pesticide residue.
But still: $75 for an all-fruit organic produce delivery! Need we say more? Based on the price alone, this option also feels more like a gift service and not a subscription. The box we chose was $45, one of the cheapest options, but shipping added $30 to the overall price. We couldn’t pick what was in the box. It arrived with mostly apples and oranges, as well as a few too-ripe avocados and squishy grapefruits.
However, like Farmbox Direct, not being able to choose what goes in the box might be a benefit to you. Everything was thrown into the box together, which meant some of the fruit was bruised. And the company doesn’t have any notes on its website about sustainable packaging or shipping. The only benefit to ordering from Melissa’s is that you can buy novelty produce, like tropical fruit, for special occasions. But as a grocery shop replacement? It’s a no from us.
- The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that adults consume 1.5 to 2 cup-equivalents of fruits and 2 to 3 cup-equivalents of vegetables every day: “Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025.” USDA.
- Fruits and vegetables are also a good source of dietary fiber, which is linked to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and obesity prevention: “Health Benefits of Fruits and Vegetables.” Advances in Nutrition (July 2012).
- Researchers are also currently looking at the impacts of produce delivery boxes for low income families: “Fresh Start: Increasing Early Produce Intake.” ClinicalTrials.gov (December 2021).
- The jury is still out on the results, but previous research has confirmed that access to discounted local produce boxes increases the amount of fruits and veggies in the diets of low income families: “Adults and Children in Low-Income Households That Participate in Cost-Offset Community Supported Agriculture Have High Fruit and Vegetable Consumption.” Nutrients (July 2017).
- Research is not yet conclusive about whether or not organic produce has more positive effects on health compared to non-organic produce: “Organic foods: Are they safer? More nutritious?” Mayo Clinic (April 2022).