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In this episode of Making It Work, one woman tells us her secret for cutting down on food spending.

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Through weekly video essays, "Making It Work" showcases how *real* people have upgraded their personal or financial lives in some meaningful way. Making your life work for you doesn't mean getting rich just for the sake of it. It means making the most of what you have to build a life you love, both in your present and in your future. And while managing money is a crucial life skill for everyone, there's no one "right way" to go about it — you have to figure out what works best for *you,* full stop.

Video narration by Julie Brierley

Video by Grace Lee

Based on an article by Keertana Anandraj:

The Financial Diet site:

Making It Work. is sponsored by FICO.

Visit to learn more. I don't know about you, but pre-quarantine, I didn't think too deeply about the effects of my grocery consumption.

With so much time on my hands, however, I've begun to research and better understand where my produce comes from. I've also begun to support local grocers more intentionally. While farmers markets are obviously an easy way to do this, especially in the summer, I've recently discovered a number of low-cost companies that claim to reduce food waste by selling imperfect, misfit, or ugly produce to consumers directly.

These are items that are OK to eat, but often get discarded by grocery stores, since they don't appear as perfect or ripe as other items. Instead of tossing these perfectly good products, however, a multitude of different companies have re-branded these food items and deliver them to food-conscious customers at a lower cost. Over the past month, I've received three boxes from a discounted leftover produce delivery service.

I not only managed to save money on my groceries, but I've also been able to consume more high-quality produce than I typically would. I normally never buy organic produce, but this made it possible for me to do so at a price point I could afford. What's more, the service I use, Imperfect Foods, allows you to purchase dairy items-- such as milk, or yogurt, or eggs, and even meat.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, many restaurants have donated excess meat products that they ordered to the company, allowing them to resell it to consumers for a low cost. But these leftover food delivery services-- like Imperfect Foods, Farmbox Direct, Misfit Market, Hungry Harvest, or Full Harvest-- come with their own set of pros and cons. While they've worked for me, they are definitely not a one-size-fits-all all solution to saving money on groceries.

Pro-- you save money. For me, the biggest pro of using this kind of service has been saving money on my groceries. I'm able to have everything I want delivered to my door and access better quality produce than I typically would at a cheaper price.

On average, I've been able to save $15 to $25 a week on groceries. But given that the quality of the produce I'm receiving is higher-- namely organic, which I never used to buy-- the savings are even higher. Con-- you can't always get what you need.

However, you will occasionally be notified that certain items are no longer available. As such, I have run into a situation where essentials I've ordered for the week-- like milk or eggs-- don't get delivered, and I have to run out to the grocery store anyway. This is particularly an issue if you're planning your meals for the week, and a key ingredient isn't delivered, since it doesn't save you a grocery trip.

Pro-- you can customize your order somewhat. I like having a delivery box that allows me to pick and choose the items I want. But keep in mind that some of these companies don't allow that.

Instead, you receive a mystery box of an assortment of vegetables and fruits. You don't get to choose the produce you receive, and you don't have the option of adding on snacks, meat, or dairy products. I'm not an adventurous enough cook for this to work for me.

But certainly with all the time we have on our hands with the coronavirus, this is an opportunity to experiment with different foods and change up your grocery routine. Luckily, there are plenty of other food delivery companies that do allow you to customize-- such as Imperfect Foods, Hungry Harvest and Full Harvest. You can even find similar deals from your local farm, too.

While I live in a city and lack a car, if you have access to nearby farms, many will sell weekly produce boxes. And while you likely can't customize your produce directly from the grower, it certainly helps support food sustainability. Con-- your zip code can make things complicated.

Depending on where you live, this could be a pro or a con. For example, since I reside in northern California, my selection is excellent. I can order fruits like mangoes and vegetables like cilantro, in addition to meat selection that includes shrimp and fresh mahi-mahi.

My parents' zip code, however, offered much fewer items. As such, depending on your zip code, the quality and selection available in these boxes could vary. Con-- the practice is somewhat controversial.

All this being said, there is plenty online debating the genuine impact of these organizations. Moreover, as the popularity of these businesses has grown, so have questions about whether farmers are now selling produce to these companies, versus donating them to food banks, which would help resource insecure communities. However, as one author from the Atlantic put it, quote, "Just because ugly produce startups aren't doing all of the good doesn't mean they can't do some of it.

Maybe both things are true. These businesses, if well-run, can serve genuine needs for farmers and consumers that current agribusiness can't. They're also trying to retrofit a for-profit solution onto a supply chain that's classist, racist, and opposed to the integrity of community-based food systems.

The only real long term answer to those problems might be to rebuild the American food system as a whole." End quote. Ultimately, it's up to you to decide whether you want to support these companies or not. Personally, the selection is wide enough in my area, and the savings are enough, that I feel it's worth it.

During the summertime, I'm lucky enough to have access to multiple farmer's markets. So I still plan to buy the bulk of my produce from those sources directly, but companies like these can help during the off-season. No matter what your major financial goals are, monitoring your FICO score can help you stay on top of your credit and put you in the best position to achieve what's most important to you.

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