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Safe, Practical, and Gut-Healthy Food Shopping Tips During the Pandemic

As many states begin to reopen, one thing is very clear. While things are looking hopeful, we’re still not out of the woods by a long shot. Among the many ways this pandemic continues to impact daily life is the ongoing challenge of keeping the kitchen stocked with fresh, gut-healthy foods

For those of us who don’t feel comfortable venturing out to the supermarket at this stage of the game, it’s become nearly impossible to snag online grocery delivery or curbside pickup timeslots. And even if you don’t mind regular trips to your local grocery store, the shelves aren’t always stocked with all the necessities.

If you’d rather play it safe until coronavirus is history, we have great news for you. You’ve got other options to bring wholesome, prebiotic-rich, and nutritious foods to your table. And there’s an added bonus: it’s easy to accomplish this in a way that supports businesses that are often local, ethical, and sustainable.

“Ugly” Produce Delivery

Most supermarket produce is absolutely gorgeous. But have you ever wondered what happens to fruits and veggies that are especially large, small, or misshapen—or those that pick up a blemish or two? More often than not, all that good food just gets tossed, along with perfect looking surplus/excess items. What a waste!

Thankfully there are organizations that rescue “imperfect” produce (that’s also usually organic or low pesticide), and sell it at discounted prices.

Each produce rescue company is unique, but boxes generally contain an ever-changing selection of whatever was rescued on any given week. Some organizations let you customize your order though—and many also offer additional pantry and grocery items. You can usually order a single box or sign up for an ongoing subscription.

You’d be surprised how nice most of this produce looks (and tastes!)—you may not even be able to figure out why it ever became rescue material in the first place. And boxes generally contain ice packs so everything arrives at your doorstep cool, crisp, and fresh.

Because of recent increased demand, a few great organizations aren’t accepting new customers right now, and are forming waiting lists. But since there’s also been lots of hiring and expansion in this industry, hopefully the wait won’t be too long. Here are a few of our favorite ugly produce companies:

  • Perfectly Imperfect Produce (currently accepting new customers), Offers 12 different box options, many of them organic and one even pre-cut for convenient cooking. Choose from large and small boxes with just fruit, just veggies, or mixed produce.
  • Imperfect Foods (currently accepting new customers). Once you set up a subscription you can choose your selection of organic and/or conventional items, which are priced a la carte for a completely customized order—although there’s a $30 minimum in some delivery areas. Imperfect Foods offers four box sizes for mixed produce and two sizes for all fruit or all veggie orders.
  • Bad Apple Produce (currently accepting new customers). Offers a choice of two boxes—one customizable, and the other containing an assortment of the current week’s rescue produce. Whatever rescue produce doesn’t get sold in boxes each week is donated to local hunger relief organizations and food pantries.
  • Misfits Market (currently waitlisting). Offers two different box sizes, an option to customize, and add on selections that include both produce and pantry items like whole grain pancake mix, soup mix, coffee, granola, and chocolate. The vast majority of their food is organic, and what isn’t organic is always non-GMO.
  • Hungry Harvest (currently waitlisting). Offers a choice of standard or organic boxes in three different sizes, and allows for customization, as well as the option to add other groceries like eggs, honey, sauces, and tea. 

If you’re unable to find an ugly produce organization that delivers to your area, consider ordering from one of the many organic and other small farm-sourced delivery subscriptions including:

Unfortunately, ugly produce delivery isn’t yet available in all parts of the country, although many of these services are doing their best to expand their range. Right now the east coast has the most options, with some delivery available on the west coast, and it’s most difficult to find this type of service in the midwest.

Local Farms

In many regions not yet serviced by ugly produce delivery (as well as other areas where agriculture is thriving), the solution to your grocery concerns could be as close as your neighborhood farm. Across the country, local farmers are stepping up to make shopping for food safe and easy during this pandemic. Most farmers were already offering CSA shares, which provide a regular (often weekly) sample of the farm’s offerings and may also include other grocery staples like dairy, meat, and eggs. 

If you’re not looking for that kind of commitment, many farms are now also offering individual online and telephone orders with very local delivery or contactless curbside pick up—as well as special hours when only seniors or those with vulnerable immune systems can come shop in person. Orders are often ready for pickup/delivery the same day or within a few days.

Grocery shopping at a single farm can often satisfy most or even all of your weekly food needs. In addition to a wide selection of fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs, many farms also stock dairy, eggs, meat, seafood, breads, pickled foods, and sometimes even local wines. And to make things even better, when you buy your food from a nearby farm, you’re helping to sustain local, family-run agriculture during this difficult time.

Online Pantry Options

When supplies are uncertain it’s vital to keep the pantry stocked with lots of non-perishables like whole grains, beans, broths, organic soup mixes, nuts, nut butters, dried fruits, spices, fermented foods, and plant-based milks in vacuum sealed containers. 

The kindest way to purchase these items online is to order directly from each manufacturer, but when that’s not possible (or if it just becomes overwhelming), these organizations have been managing to keep lots of healthy staples in stock—and some even offer paper goods and cleaning supplies:

  • Thrive Market: For a yearly membership fee of $59.95, Thrive Market offers discounted organic and non-GMO foods as well as toiletries, cleaning products, pet supplies, and more.
  • Vitacost: Order from a large selection of organic and non-GMO grocery items, paper products, cleaning/household products, and pet supplies.
  • Swanson: Purchase non-perishable groceries like tea, ACV, nut butters, nuts, baking ingredients, and much more.
  • Sari Foods: Stock up on organic, pure food powders to power up your smoothies and add an extra burst of nutrition to all your favorite recipes. 
  • Public Goods: A $59 annual membership fee allows you to purchase reasonably priced healthy foods and household goods with simple, minimalist packaging.

Organic Meat and Seafood

If your local farms don’t meet your meat and seafood needs, try these online organic, sustainable delivery options:

  • Greensbury: Offers organic grass-fed beef, sustainable seafood, and organic free-range poultry.
  • Wild Alaskan: Has subscription plans that deliver a variety of wild-caught, sustainably harvested, non-GMO seafood.
  • Butcher Box (currently waitlisting): Offers subscription boxes of heritage bred pork, organic free-range chicken, and grass-fed beef.
  • Vital Choice: Purchase sustainable, wild-caught Alaskan and northwest Pacific seafood including salmon, lobster, tuna, halibut, and shrimp.

With so many alternative ways to find wholesome foods, staying out of the supermarket doesn’t have to mean compromising your gut-healthy eating habits in any way. In fact, you may even find that you’re eating better than you used to before this pandemic came on the scene! To give your gut a little extra TLC, it’s also wise to replenish your intestinal good guys with a high quality, time-released probiotic formula—and to sprinkle a little organic prebiotic powder into your oatmeal or smoothies. Wishing you healthy and stress-free shopping and eating!


Roberta Pescow is a writer at Hyperbiotics and proud mom of two amazing and unique young men. Natural wellness is a subject she’s passionate about, so she loves sharing information that helps others discover all the ways probiotics support glowing health and well-being. To learn more about how a healthy microbiome can enrich your life, subscribe to our newsletter.

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