This iOS and Android app saves me loads of money on food – and helps the planet

And gets me some great tastes, too

I frequently peruse our lists of the best Android apps and best iPhone apps, trying to find new additions to my phone to play around with, but rarely do they bring such a big change to my life as Too Good To Go has.

I first heard about this app in lockdown, but when you hear me describe what it does, you’ll realize why I didn’t use it much when stuck indoors. However, someone recently re-introduced it to me, and I can’t believe I was missing out all the time.

Too Good To Go lets me combine three of my favorite things: saving money, helping the planet, and eating loads of really nice food – and I’d recommend you check it out too.

What is Too Good To Go?

Too Good To Go, according to its website, is an app that aims to help reduce food waste. 

You use the app to find local and eligible stores, cafes, restaurants and similar businesses. Each one will offer you certain time windows – some will have lunch rush slots just after lunch, and some will have dinner rush ones in the late evening, for example.

You’ll pay a small amount of money via the app, and will show up at the store at the respective window – then, you’ll receive a goody bag depending on what you ordered. You might receive some leftover lunch items from a cafe if you ordered the lunch option, for example.

(Image credit: Too Good To Go)

Why it’s great

‘So… you’re just buying food deliveries?’ I know what you’re thinking. Well, not quite – on Too Good To Go, you’ll usually pay between a quarter and a third of what the food is actually worth.

Why is it so cheap? Well, that’s because this is food that the outlet won’t be able to sell for much longer – maybe it’s at its sell-by date, or the internal rules of the place require them to only sell food prepared that day.

This doesn’t mean you’re getting gone-off food – it’ll still be fresh. But, for example, if you pick up a 10pm bag just before the store closes, it has to get rid of the food that evening, because in the morning it won’t be fit to be sold. Most shops would otherwise throw it away – but thanks to Too Good To Go, you can get it for a really low price.

I often pick up bags from my local Starbucks near closing time – I get four or five items for the price you’d normally pay for just one, and it’s often a nice mix between toasted sandwiches, pastries, and sweet foods like muffins or brownies.

But different restaurants, cafes and shops near me have different windows, so if I’m going to be too early or late for Starbucks, I could head for a different place instead. It’s lovely and versatile – I live right by a popular commuter train station, which has countless options.

(Image credit: Too Good To Go)

You’re sometimes given the choice to filter by dietary requirements – I’m vegetarian, so this is really useful, though it does limit the selection somewhat. But I’ve often found that, even if I don’t opt for a veggie bag (when the option isn’t there), I’m frequently asked about dietary requirements anyway, so snag veggie food without having to book it.

Saving money

You could make the very real argument that picking up bags of cheap Starbucks muffins isn’t ‘saving money’, since I wouldn’t be buying them from the shop on a normal day. So I’m still spending more cash than on an average day, just not so much.

However, Too Good To Go also covers grocery stores, and it’s here that I’ve saved loads of cash.

There are a few corner stores and grocery shops near me that let me book bags of random groceries that are soon to go off – recently, for just £3, I got £20 worth of food including loads of fresh vegetables, hummus, pasta and more. I got a few good meals out of this.

(I’m using UK currency and figures for this article, because I’m based there – but rest assured, the app is available in other places around the world, including the US).

(Image credit: Future)

As a human being, I do eat groceries, so getting them incredibly cheap was amazing. Sure, the food was on the verge of going off – but since I made sure to cook with it in the next few days, and gave some away to my flatmates, nothing went to waste.

I’ve also used Too Good To Go when eating out with friends – some ‘street food’ restaurants (basically classier fast food) let you pick up dishes at certain times, and I snagged two burritos for £6 when I was grabbing a bite with a friend. If I was paying full price, that’d be about £18-£20. Nice!

It’s really easy to use Too Good To Go to find these places too, since the app lets you play with loads of filters. You can view places on a map, filter by the type of food (groceries, meals, snacks), view by the availability windows so you can arrange for when you’re free – it’s great.

Too great, perhaps – I’ve now become obsessed with the app.

Saving the planet

Sure, Too Good To Go is great for my wallet, and also for my taste buds, but as the brand’s website says, its main purpose is to help the planet.

That’s because food waste is a big problem around the world – we produce too much food that doesn’t get eaten. According to Friends of the Earth, a third of the food that’s produced globally is either lost or wasted which, when you think about it, is a bafflingly huge figure.

(Image credit: Too Good To Go)

This figure includes, apparently, 240,000 tonnes of food wasted by UK supermarkets each year – that, according to some quick maths, is the same weight as about 60,000 Asian elephants (though I don’t think we sell those in supermarkets in the UK).

Obviously, this is something that Too Good To Go helps with – if you’re saving some cheap groceries from the landfill site, you’re actively stopping food waste.

Not only will that be less food getting dumped in a big pit, clogging up our lovely planet, but you’re sending the message to the food industry that you care about the food waste issue.

There are some smaller benefits that I’ve discovered: when I did that aforementioned grocery shop, I got loads of nice fresh ingredients that encouraged me to cook a dish to incorporate them all. This made me more experimental with my food (making the weirdest, but most interesting, lasagne I’ve ever concocted), and had me eating healthier, which is obviously also great for the body and the planet.

Plus, I’ve been frequenting independent businesses a lot more, usually just to pick up cheap food, but it’s encouraged me to go back even when I’m not using the app.

As a member of TechRadar’s phone team, I download apps all the time, but I rarely feel compelled to write long articles about them. However, Too Good To Go has inspired me with its mission to save the planet, and save money – and it really doesn’t hurt that I get to eat loads of nice food when doing so, too. 

By Tom Bedford

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