April 19, 2024


The Food community

Great for People Who Don’t Cook

4 min read
  • I use the Too Good To Go app to score cheap meals from restaurants and grocery stores.
  • The food-waste app specializes in “magic bags” that contain mystery items.
  • Every magic bag I’ve bought has cost less than $5.

I’ve been using the food-waste app Too Good To Go to score cheap restaurant meals for several months.

I’ve eaten delicious food I might otherwise have never tried, from restaurants I’d never been to. I’d recommend the app to anyone who doesn’t like spending time in the kitchen: it’s much cheaper than ordering takeout and you get lots of variety.

Too Good To Go

The contents of a £3 ($4.06) mixed deli box I got on Too Good To Go.

Grace Dean/Insider

Restaurants, food kiosks, and grocery stores sell surplus products on the app to make a little money on food they’d otherwise throw away.

I’ve placed more than a dozen Too Good To Go orders since last summer, with independent restaurants as well as chains like Starbucks and Costa Coffee.

The most popular type of order on the app is a “magic bag.” The contents of a magic bag are a mystery until you collect it because it tends to contain items the vendor hasn’t been able to sell that day. Some vendors offer vegan and vegetarian magic bags.

The magic bags are what makes the app so fun for me. You never know what you’re getting, and I love the anticipation and surprise.

Too Good To Go

One magic bag got me three huge slices of pizza from an independent pizzeria. These normally sell for £2.50 ($3.38) each – but I got three for that price.

Grace Dean/Insider

It does, however, mean you sometimes get disappointed. One time I placed an order at Costa Coffee and got two bacon rolls and a pack of sandwiches, when I’d been hoping for some sweet treats to share with friends. Another time I went to a café and was hoping for something savoury, but ended up with three desserts.

The contents of magic bags vary a lot even if you order them from the same restaurant. But sometimes you’re able to choose. At a recent collection from Starbucks, I got to select from a range of sandwiches.

Too Good To Go

A magic bag from Costa Coffee I got on Too Good To Go for £3 ($4.06).

Grace Dean/Insider

Too Good To Go provides users with an approximate value of food at menu prices but I often find that this underestimates savings. One Starbucks order I placed came in at £3.59 ($4.85) and the app said it was worth £10.75 ($14.54) — but I was given two sandwiches and three muffins, which together retail at closer to £16.50 ($22.31).

Sometimes it’s hard to tell exactly what a particular food is, as vendors often don’t say what’s in a magic bag.

The way you collect the food varies a lot, too.

When I order from coffee chains I usually get pre-packaged sandwiches and salads alongside fresh pastries. But once when I bought two magic bags from a deli-style cafe, I collected two boxes loaded with chickpeas, plain pasta, pasta in sauce, salad, red cabbage, olives, falafel, tuna, chicken tikka, potato salad, and coleslaw.

Too Good To Go

A magic bag I got on Too Good To Go from a deli for £3 ($4.06). I bought two at the same time, and both came with slightly different contents.

Grace Dean/Insider

An important thing to remember is that vendors list food on Too Good To Go because it’s about to expire. Pre-packaged products come with dates on them. But for some items, it’s a judgment call as to whether they’re safe to leave for a couple of days.

Too Good To Go

A magic bag I got from a cafe on a university campus on Too Good To Go for £1.75 ($2.37). Bakery products often come in paper bags and don’t have expiry dates.

Grace Dean/Insider

I’ve learned a few tricks during my time using Too Good To Go.

One is to pay attention to when businesses add listings, because sales are on a first-come, first-served basis. Some vendors add listings at a similar time each day, so knowing when this is can get you ahead.

Another is to think about when businesses are likely to close. When I get a magic bag from a university-campus store on a Friday afternoon, I always come home with heaps of groceries, because it gets rid of surplus stock before closing for the weekend.

I use Too Good To Go when I’m low on ingredients or want to treat myself to something different. But as someone who loves to cook, I know I could probably make cheaper and healthier meals myself.

Too Good To Go

A Too Good To Go haul from a shop on a university campus that cost me just £1.75 ($2.37).

Grace Dean/Insider

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