That’s Not What I Ordered!

Last week, we talked a bit about what minimalists eat. I thought maybe the post would get people thinking about food (and it did) but I didn’t anticipate that a lot of those people would be the ones I live with every day!

My sister and I spent an hour yesterday weighing the pro/cons of various fad diets we’ve seen come and go in our lifetime (remember the Grapefruit Diet??). My 12-year-old niece asked me if I thought it was time to stop being a vegetarian, just before we had a heart-to-heart on why not all carbs are bad. Angie spent an afternoon at the DMV talking to folks about the benefits of online grocery shopping. My mom told her doctor that she attributes her improved health to eating less meat. And me…well, since that post, I’ve decided we’re no longer going to dine out.

Now, I would love to tell you that my decision was based on some higher ideal. I’d love to show you how dining at home saves money (it does) or how it’s healthier for you (it is) but while all these things are true, we’re calling it quits on restaurants for another reason – quality.

The last few times that Angie and I have gone to a restaurant, the quality of food, the quality of service, and the quality of the experience have all been lacking. The sad part though, we’ve gotten so used to this being commonplace that we find ourselves making excuses for it, as if it is somehow our fault we receive poor service. What do we expect from a place like that? It’s not exactly a 5-star restaurant. Maybe the server was having a bad day. They were just too busy. We should have known better than to stop in at dinner time. 


If someone hires me to write a grant for them, it doesn’t matter if my cat threw up on the bed that morning, my car wouldn’t start, and my best friend’s first cousin broke up with her boyfriend. I can’t turn around and say – well, if you wanted it done on time, you should have gone with a $60/hour grant writer instead of me. You get what you pay for! And if I have 5 clients all with deadlines on the first day of the month, it isn’t on them to come back when I have more time. It’s on me to learn to prioritize (or say no, if I can’t do something!)

So why do we accept sub-par quality from a restaurant, especially ones that fall in the category of fast food or fast casual? Because we expect that cheap equals bad? Let me tell you – there’s nothing cheap about paying $10 for a salad at McAlister’s or $8 for a burrito at Moe’s or $9 for two frozen custards at Culver’s. Yet, every single one of these places has been a disappointment to us for one reason or another, all of which can be summed up in one word – quality.

You might say, Culver’s was the last straw though. My mom wanted to go there specifically to try their frozen custard. She saw an ad and being a dessert nut, she thought it would be delicious. We ordered two caramel cashew sundaes and what we got instead was a plain dish of vanilla custard, a cone of vanilla custard, and a few cashews in a separate cup. When I asked about the mix-up, I was told that “they weren’t allowed to mix add-ins for a cone”. Okay, that’s all well and good but we ordered two sundaes – which were prominently displayed on the menu board, dripping in caramel and cashews. Despite the fact that we were in the right, the manager wanted to argue with us  and we ended up with two vanilla custards and a handful of cashews.

Now, I understand that a lot of folks would have persisted until the restaurant got the order right. Under normal circumstances, I might have too but after one round, I knew I was going to lose. The manager was the one who prepared our desserts and there was no convincing her that she had done it wrong or that we weren’t asking for something they couldn’t do. It was a mess and instead of a sundae, I got a headache.

And a new perspective on dining out.

Our budget is smaller than it has been in years so every dollar is important. I don’t want to give them away in support of poor quality products or services and I definitely don’t want to give them away for something I didn’t ask for in the first place. And that doesn’t just apply to restaurants. Throughout my life, I’ve lost a lot of dollars to poor quality goods and services and I don’t want to do it any more. Frugal living just doesn’t make allowances for wasteful spending.

I expect, because we’re human, there will be the temptation to dine out again in the future (especially after we’re over this recent rash of bad experiences), which is why I’m writing about this today. You all are now our accountability partners. If I even so much as mention a restaurant (that isn’t work related), you have my permission to call me out on it. 🙂

Have you banned a particular restaurant, service-provider, or retailer for poor service? Or maybe you’ve banned restaurants altogether? How’s that working for you? Are you ever tempted to return? We’d love to hear your story!

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 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.