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.

What Do Minimalists Eat?

“Stop showing me pictures of food! I’m starving to death and that looks delicious!” my sister said yesterday, as I scrolled through the photos on my phone.

“You can have this deliciousness in your life too,” I teased , stopping on a picture of our dinner from the night before – stir-fried veggies sizzling in a cast iron skillet. “It’s available every day, right from the very store where you work.” (She works at Aldi.)

“Right! After you cook it!” she scoffed. “I honestly don’t know how you have the time or money to eat like that every day!”

I’m not picking on my sister. In fact, she’s not the first person to wonder what and how we eat. Month after month, the most searched terms on this site are always “minimalist diet”, “minimalist meal planning” and “what do minimalists eat”. The short answer there is food. Minimalists eat food.

My sister considers herself a minimalist and she most frequently dines at the drive-thru. She works full-time and has a 16-year-old son with a bottomless stomach to feed, so it’s easy and convenient for her. My mom, also somewhat a minimalist, could eat peanut butter and bananas every day, with the occasional bowl of soup thrown in for good measure. Minimalism isn’t really about what you eat.

But…

As minimalists, Angie and I believe in simplicity in all things. For us, good health is the cornerstone of a simple life and food is the fuel that powers good health. From the multitude of medications that clutter your cabinet to the doctor’s appointments that take up your time, from the drain on your physical energy to the stress on your family, there’s nothing simple about battling chronic disease. I’m not a doctor (nor do I play one on this blog) but I do believe that many of the diseases we face today – diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure – are related to what we eat. If eating well reduces the risk of these diseases, that’s about as simple as it gets. So…with that being said…

We eat food, mostly plants, the occasional piece of fish, and whatever my mom makes for us on those rare occasions when she cooks. This might include meat but more often it’s a dessert. She loves to bake and we’ve just learned to accept that. We eat three meals and two snacks a day, consisting of mostly the same menu items all the time.

We make most of our food from scratch – including non-dairy yogurt, sourdough bread, and crackers – but this did not happen overnight. It has taken us almost 5 years to get to where we are today. After watching Food, Inc. in 2015, we started reducing our meat consumption. Next we cut processed foods. The quick meals and packaged cookies were easy but it took a lot longer to cut out things like chips and cereal (which are still sticking points for us at times). Then we joined a CSA to increase our exposure to different veggies. For most of our lives, the only veggies we knew were potatoes, carrots, green beans, broccoli, and salad fixings. We now eat more veggies than I can list. Which led to the garden. The next step in our food journey was to grow part of our own food. Last year, we grew tomatoes, squash, peas, eggplant, okra, blackberries, peppers, onions, sunflowers, and microgreens. Recently we started eating more fermented foods for good gut health.

We don’t follow any particular diet. No Keto, no GAPS, not even the Mediterranean Diet. We generally eat what we want, even chocolate chip cookies. We don’t really practice moderation either. I have, in the not so distant past, eaten an entire pizza by myself. Okay, so it was only 10 inches and it was homemade, but the point is…we don’t put much thought into what we eat anymore and it seems to be working just fine.

A typical menu in our home might look like this:

Breakfast

  • Oatmeal with apples, blueberries, or cranberries and nuts (sweetened with honey)
  • Sourdough toast or an English muffin with jelly and fruit
  • Non-dairy yogurt, a banana, and dry toast
  • Sourdough waffles, pancakes, or apple fritters with maple syrup

Lunch 

  • Soup and salad*
  • PB&J or a veggie wrap with homemade potato chips
  • Grilled hummus or grilled cheese sandwich with a salad or raw veggies

Dinner

  • Pasta with any one of a variety of sauces, including marinara, pumpkin-goat cheese, sweet potato puree, stir-fried veggies, or olive oil and garlic
  • Mexican, including veggie burritos, mushroom fajitas, fish tacos, or just a bean and rice bowl with salsa
  • Veggie stir-fry with brown rice
  • Veggie plate, comprised of whatever is in season or pulled from the freezer, with biscuits (lately it’s been pumpkin or sweet potato biscuits)
  • Homemade pizza
  • Baked potatoes with vegetarian chili

*Soup and salad is our go-to lunch combo. We make a big pot of soup every Sunday – either vegetable, black bean, tomato, potato, or chili. We pair it with whatever salad items are in season. In winter, that may only be lettuce, carrots, and celery 🙂

Every lunch is served with a fruit, usually an apple or orange. Our snacks mainly consist of air-popped popcorn, fresh fruit, dried fruit, peanut butter and crackers, or occasionally, that dessert my mom made for us.

Keeping our menu items roughly the same all the time helps tremendously with shopping and meal prep. At the end of last year, we started ordering bulk groceries once a month online (and picking them up curbside) and shopping weekly only for fresh foods. So far, this has really worked in our favor. We spent only $90 on bulk groceries (from Walmart/Sam’s Club) in December and less than $100 on fresh foods, including a produce box from Misfit Market (something we’ll discuss in more detail next week). The fresh foods also included items for two holiday meals, so I imagine the cost will be even less this month.

My sister is right about one thing. Eating well does take time, but I’d argue that the amount of time it takes to prepare a healthy meal is nothing in comparison to the time it takes to recover from being sick. We spend 1-3 hours every Sunday morning in the kitchen prepping for the week ahead. We pre-chop our veggies for salads and stir-fries. We also make soup, spaghetti sauce, beans, rice, or bread products in bulk (depending on our needs). A lot of this we freeze for those times when we want a quick meal. With our prep work done, dinner usually takes 30 minutes or less to prepare.

So what do minimalists eat? We eat food from the garden, the Farmer’s Market, the grocery store, and sometimes even restaurants. We eat organic when we can. We eat food that’s fun to prepare and fun to eat. Yes, chocolate can be good for you! We eat pizza. We even eat birthday cake…at least twice a year anyway. But always, always…we try to eat food that nourishes our bodies and our minds and gives us the best shot at a long and happy life.

Are you following a particular diet plan? Does it work for you? What are some of the most frequent menu items in your home? Do you bulk shop? We’d love to hear your thoughts and/or questions.