Misfits Market – Hit or Miss?

I’m the person who sees the Hello Fresh box outside of my neighbor’s door every week and mumbles things like, “we could have bought an entire week’s worth of groceries for what he paid for that!” So, it was not without much, much, much hesitation that I opted to try a subscription box too.

A friend sent me a coupon code for 25% off a box from Misfits Market. I’d seen the ads on Facebook touting the benefits of the box, which include preventing “ugly” produce from going to waste, but I wasn’t sold on that statement alone. We all know that ugly produce goes to waste every day, right in the very stores where we shop. What was the difference in buying this box and shopping the 99-cent clearance bin at Kroger? Besides the fact that the Misfits box costs more? I decided to find out for myself.

We ordered the Mischief Box, the smallest box available and selected every other week for delivery (there are only two choices – weekly or biweekly). The contents of our first box were dealer’s choice. In other words, we had no idea what we would be getting, and honestly, that was probably the best part of the whole experience. For several years, we supported our local CSA. Every week during the growing season, we looked forward to seeing what surprises we might find in our basket. It was like Christmas for veggies 🙂

Sadly, the farmer we were buying from stopped selling CSA shares last year and we were left in a veggie void. This wasn’t so bad in the summer when other options were available, like the Farmer’s Market and roadside produce stands, but in the winter, our options are limited to Kroger, Walmart, and a local produce store (which is a great place but not exactly budget friendly). The Misfits Market box seemed the closest to a CSA basket we were going to get (at least right now).

Our Misfits Market box came on Saturday morning. I believe their only available delivery dates are Saturdays, which may matter to some folks, but not to us. I admit, we were pretty excited to see the FedEx truck pull up. Angie even met him at the door.

Inside the box, we found this:

Kale, green onions, pears, red potatoes, a mango, tangerines, turnips, yellow squash, gala apples, green beans, a Delicata squash, and yellow onions.

We received our box on January 4th. Within 10 days, we had eaten all of the contents – even the turnips, which are not my favorite. The quality of the produce is not in question. Every item was fresh and delicious. Every item is also organic and non-GMO. Some of the items were visibly “misfit” but for the most part, we couldn’t tell there was anything odd about them. Which is okay. Misfit produce doesn’t always mean misshapen. Some items are labeled misfits because they don’t meet salable standards.

We paid $22 for the box. The shipping was $5.50, so with the 25% off, we essentially got the shipping for free. Was it worth it? Before I answer that, I want to talk about some of the reservations I had prior to ordering and receiving the box.

First, I was concerned about packaging. We’re not die-hard zero-wasters but we do try to avoid unnecessary packaging when possible and make the most eco-friendly choices when we can’t. I was pleased to find that only one of the items in our box was in a package and that package was compostable. In fact, all of the packaging that Misfits Market uses is either compostable or recyclable, including the plastic bags. The ice pack that kept our produce from getting too warm is non-toxic and recyclable too, but we decided to keep it for our picnic basket.

Next, I was worried about food miles. The box came from New Jersey (800 miles away from us). The produce itself may have traveled even further to get to the warehouse. The Misfits Market website only says they source from “all across the Americas”. In season, we do our best to buy our food direct from the farm. Many of our local farmers are also our friends so we see the impact this makes in their lives. But I’d be lying to say that we only eat local. We buy the bulk of our groceries from the grocery store, which sources from all across the globe. If I’m already buying bananas from Guatamala at Kroger, I’m in no position to judge on food miles alone.

Which brings me to the only valid concern that I have with Misfits Market – value. Could I buy the same produce at my local grocer for less than or equal to the cost of the box? For that answer, I went to Kroger. The same items would have cost us $26.40, but only 75% of them would have been organic. Is the trade off worth it? I don’t know.

Okay, maybe I do know. Deep down, I know that Angie and I would never buy just 3 apples or 3 pears. We’d buy a bag to get the best price. And more often than not, we’d buy them off the clearance rack (or we’d fish them out of the dumpster, where they are free). I also know that we don’t often shop at Kroger for organic produce, unless it is on the clearance rack. But on the other hand, I know, that on our own, we would never have picked up a Delicata squash (which was delicious) or tried a turnip again (because the last one we had tasted too much like a beet). So…there’s that.

In the end, I guess it all comes down to convenience and I kind of like the convenience of the Misfits Market box. Going to the store is a chore that I don’t enjoy like I once did. Ordering groceries, whether through a service like this or for curbside delivery, saves us time (and headaches) and though I’m not certain yet, I do believe in the long run, it will save us money too. There’s no impulse spending when you get groceries online. After the delivery of our first box, we were offered the option to customize any future boxes. While this removes the “surprise” from the transaction, it does help ensure that we get items that we will use and that will give us the most bang for our buck.

In a few months, we’ll be planting our summer garden and a friend of ours has talked about starting a new CSA this year, so we have our fingers crossed! In the meantime, we will probably continue with the Misfits Market box, at least until April when the Farmer’s Market opens. It’s a good option when you want organic produce but don’t want to shop the grocery store.

If you’d like to try a Misfits Market box for yourself, visit misfitsmarket.com and enter the code: COOKWME-PH6QSP to get 25% off your order. If you do order (or have used a similar service before), let us know your thoughts.

Dried Okra? I Need This in My Life!

This post contains affiliate links. 

We got out first dehydrator as a gift when we lived in Florida a few years back. I don’t know the brand name, but it was one of the “most recommended” ones on Amazon and came complete with a jerky maker, fruit leather maker, and more. We successfully dried one batch of apples (and ate them all while watching TV one night). From that point on though, nothing seemed to want to dry, no matter what setting we used or how long we left it.

When we moved, we gifted the dehydrator to my sister’s husband who only wanted it for the jerky maker. We were going though a dry spell (no pun intended) on food preservation anyway and it was just taking up space. At the time, we thought we’d never want or need another one, simply because our track record with dehydrating foods was so lackluster, but a few months ago, we watched a video on dehydrating okra.

Okra? Yes!

It was so fascinating to us that we wanted to try it. So we asked the only person we know with a dehydrator – a person who also happened to have grown 70 okra plants this year – to try it for us. I’m sure Angie’s mom spent a great deal of time drying okra for us, but by the time it arrived in the mail (it got lost), moisture had gotten to it and the okra was molded. It was time for Plan B.

We searched garage sales and thrift stores for a dehydrator but none were to be found, so one afternoon, I started looking on Amazon. The woman in the okra video was using a machine that had no temperature settings. It was plug-and-play, so to speak. Part of me thought, this thing can’t work. How’s it going to know the difference between drying apples and herbs? But, the decision was made when I saw the price of the dehydrator. We got an open box bargain for $30.

We don’t often buy new things and we’ve been limiting our online purchases this year (to cut down on packaging and our carbon footprint) so we waited until we needed a few other things before buying the dehydrator. Now you may be thinking it’s pretty silly to spend $30 to try something weird, like dried okra, especially when you can use your own oven as a dehydrator, and I don’t disagree. If we lived anywhere else, I might trust our oven to heat something for hours at a time but I firmly believe our oven is possessed. Once it came on in the middle of the night and would not turn off. Another time, simply turning it on blew the fuse. Though maintenance has fixed it (and even replaced it once), it still sounds like there’s an electrical fire waiting to happen in the wall every time we turn it on. And the apples we tried to dry, under careful supervision on 170 degrees, burnt to a crisp in 2 hours. Yet, it took more than 2 hours to cook two stuffed peppers a few weeks ago – on 350 degrees!

Minimalists, we may be, but when we have a plan to make use of something, we have no issue with getting it. So we did. Which leads me once again to do something I don’t normally do – recommend a product.

We bought the Presto Dehydro, a super simple 4-tier dehydrator. You literally layer the fruit or veggies you want to dry, put the lid on, and plug it in. The drying times in the book are fairly accurate. Though okra wasn’t on the list, it took about 7 hours to dry.

Was it worth it? Oh yes! Dried okra tastes like air-popped popcorn and makes a wonderful snack.

But that wasn’t the end of our drying adventure. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, we’re in the midst of dumpster season. The grocery store next door is tossing out good stuff with a vengeance and we are out of freezer space already. The dehydrator has been a lifesaver. So far, it has saved the lives of 20 pounds of bananas, 10 pounds of strawberries, and 10 pounds of apples. (We also dried 5 pounds of mushrooms, though they did not come from the dumpster.)

Unlike our other dehydrator (or even the expensive one that Angie’s mom owns), this machine returns a quality product, time after time. I love the fact that there’s no temperature setting. There’s no guesswork, no trying to determine whether 140 degrees is best for apples or 150 degrees. I can’t say it enough – you plug it in and let it go. At first, we set timers to check on things as they dried but then, we quickly learned that plugging it in right before bed resulted in perfectly dried fruits by morning. The temperature of the Dehydro is approximately 165 degrees.

Herbs are easy too. We dried a tray of fresh dill (on parchment paper) in the time that it took us to do the evening dishes – about 30 minutes.

Another thing that bugged me about our other dehydrator was the space that it took up in storage. This unit is larger but takes up less space because the trays nest inside one another and the unit can sit sideways in the box.

What about energy consumption? Our electricity rates are about 1/4 lower than the national average so it costs approximately 6 cents an hour to run our dehydrator. The national average is 7.2 cents. The bigger savings though comes when you compare the dehydrator to the oven. It costs 24 cents an hour to operate our oven. That means that we get 4 hours in the dehydrator for every hour in the oven. Not bad!

But, you want to know what really made the whole purchase worth it?

We took Addison to the Tennessee State Museum last week and walked over to the Nashville Farmer’s Market for a picnic lunch. That morning, Angie had packed her a little cup of dried bananas and strawberries. It was her first time to try them and her face lit up when she did. As she reached for more, she looked up at us and said, “I need these in my life.”

She’s four years old.

Where on Earth she picks up these things, I don’t know, but in this case, I couldn’t agree more. For as good as the okra turned out to be, there’s nothing in this world more tasty than a crispy dried strawberry chip. You really need to try it. You may find that you need them in your life too!