Sushi, artisan bread, fresh soup and more doughnuts, pastries and sandwiches than I can count. For the past week I’ve not cooked once — all my meals have come from shops, bakeries and restaurants. As a result, I can no longer zip up my jeans.
But rather than being on some extravagant spending spree, I’ve actually saved myself a small fortune.
How, you may ask? It’s all thanks to an app that aims to reduce the 9.5 million tonnes of food we waste annually.
Too Good To Go allows users to buy and collect bags of unused food from more than 15,000 businesses at a hugely discounted price.
Claudia Connell (pictured) gives her verdict on the Too Good To Go app, which allows users to buy and collect bags of unused food at a hugely discounted price
The catch is you don’t know what you’re getting until you pick up what they call a ‘magic bag’ from the outlet. You could get lucky and receive an impressive haul of delicious food. You could also end up with a selection of goods you’d never dream of buying. In other words, it’s a lucky dip.
With the chance to bag cut-price goodies from businesses such as M&S, Waitrose, Pret a Manger and Leon, it’s no wonder Too Good To Go has become something of a middle-class brag.
Launched in the UK in 2016, it sells 500,000 bags of food a month.
But Was Too Good To Go too good to be true, I wondered?
BREAKFAST: Pret, £9 worth of food for £3.
LUNCH & DINNER: Greggs, £10 worth of food for £2.59.
I download the app, and enter my location and debit card details.
Living in Brighton, I’m spoilt for choice of food outlets, and am excited about my first magic bag as I join the seven million other users in the UK.
The app works by showing you what is available: now, later or tomorrow. The food bags are limited, so it’s a question of first come, first served.
I start by reserving breakfast from Pret and a lunch bag from Greggs.
Users get a very limited window to pick up their bags and, being a newbie, I haven’t considered the logistics.
I can collect my Pret breakfast from 10-10.30am but I can’t collect my Greggs bag until 2.30pm, even though they are next door to one another — I’ll have to go home, then come back.
At Pret, I get a carton of porridge, a vegetarian breakfast roll and a cheese and tomato croissant. A fabulously filling start, all told.
Later, I join three women waiting for their magic bags at Greggs. ‘I’ve been doing this for three months and Greggs give the best value bags,’ one of them tells me, adding: ‘Don’t bother with M&S — they’re as tight as anything.’
Claudia said she was spoilt for choice of food outlets and began trialing the app by reserving breakfast from Pret and a lunch bag from Greggs. Pictured: Food from Greggs
I take my bag home and pull out: six white baguettes, two yum yum doughnuts, two iced raspberry doughnuts, a chicken and bacon baguette and two large jam sandwich biscuits.
I freeze the baguettes and scoff the rest, feeling too full to reserve a discount dinner.
The problem with evening meals is that, because it’s unsold food, it isn’t available until 9.30pm.
As much as I love my local chippy, do I really want to be eating cod and chips so late?
BREAKFAST: The Flour Pot Bakery, £14 worth of food for £3.50.
LUNCH: Costa Coffee, £10 worth of food for £3.
DINNER: Third Avenue bakery, £13.50 worth of food for £3.50.
The Flour Pot Bakery is a small chain of artisan bakers where I have happily paid £4 for a single loaf. This morning I pay £3.50 and collect a bag that contains a wholemeal baguette, a sunflower rye loaf, two Danish pastries, two pains au chocolat and two croissants. That really is a magic bag.
I’m still in my pastry coma when it’s time to collect my lunch from Costa.
Claudia said Starbucks is popular with app users for offering generous bags, and she agrees after getting £10 worth of food for £4
Compared with the Flour Pot, my large mince pie, two Bakewell slices, iced cinnamon bun and (weirdly) a lollipop and a packet of fizzy sweets is underwhelming. I hate Bakewell slices and I’m afraid I end up binning the food I was meant to rescue.
Later, at independent bakery Third Avenue in Hove, my £3.50 gets me: a loaf of sourdough, an apple Danish, a cheese scone, a raisin scone, cinnamon bun and almond croissant. It’s delicious but it’s not really ‘dinner’.
LUNCH: Pret, £14 worth of food for £4.
AFTERNOON SNACK: Starbucks, £10 worth of food for £4.
DINNER: Little Waitrose, £15 worth of food (reduced to £7.79) for £5.
My first bag is lunch from Pret — three piping hot chicken katsu curry soups and a meatball wrap.
Starbucks is popular with app users for offering generous bags, and I agree: I get muffins, cookies and a spinach and falafel wrap.
In the evening I reserve my first supermarket bag from Little Waitrose, which is at a Shell garage six miles away. I pick up my bag at 10pm — an avocado and feta salad, a pack of onion bhajis, a chicken and tabbouleh salad, a ready meal of chicken in satay sauce and a pack of Quorn cocktail sausages.
Claudia said the bags she got from Morrisons were filled with cheese, ham, a meat pie, vegetables, milk, yoghurt, bread, baked beans, custard, noodles and fresh vegetables for £3
But, what’s this? The food is all ‘yellow-stickered’, meaning it has already been hugely reduced.
‘You have to remember that while we want to provide a good service and value for money, our core aim is to not put any food in the bin. So, yes, you will get yellow-stickered food from supermarkets,’ says managing director Paschalis Loucaides, informing me that Too Good To Go make £1.09 on every magic bag sold.
LUNCH: Greggs, £10 worth of food for £2.59.
AFTERNOON SNACK: Caffe Nero, £15 worth of food for £3.09.
DINNER: Morrisons, £11.50 worth of food for £3.
Another diet-busting but very generous bag from Greggs is followed by a race across town to Caffe Nero. The sales assistant is clearly in a generous mood, offering up toasties, sandwiches, a panini and two chocolate brownies. He is meant to give me food worth £10 but it’s closer to £15.
I then dash to make it to Morrisons before 6.30pm. The assistant hands me two bags so heavy I can barely lift them. Back home, I marvel at my haul: cheese, ham, a meat pie, vegetables, milk, yoghurt, bread, baked beans, custard, noodles and fresh vegetables — all for £3.
A bag like this would be a godsend to a struggling family.
Claudia admits she became weirdly addicted to the app by her last day, despite being disappointed with the yellow-sticker items from M&S
BREAKFAST: FCB coffee, £12 worth of food for £3.99.
DINNER: Yo Sushi, £10 worth of food for £3.50.
MIDNIGHT FEAST: M&S, £12 worth of food (but yellow-sticker prices added up to £5.18) for £4.
My last day of using the app, which I’m becoming weirdly addicted to. I head to an FCB coffee unit at Brighton station, where I pick up a Cheddar ploughman’s, a sausage roll and two cheese and ham croissants as well as a Danish pastry.
And then to Yo! Sushi, where I meet Grace, a student who tells me Too Good To Go has been a lifesaver for her.
I’m tucking into my tray of salmon and tuna sushi when I see a Leon dinner and a Marks & Spencer bag have become available. Which to choose?
Who doesn’t love M&S food? I reserve a £4 bag and hope I end up with some delicious favourites — but sadly it’s just another yellow-stickered disappointment. My roast chicken sandwich has been reduced to 64p and a box of mince pies I have to eat that day are not much good to me.
There’s a Victoria sponge, a potato salad, a croissant and three jam doughnuts.
I add up the yellow-sticker prices and discover I haven’t saved a penny. I should have listened to that lady in Greggs.
TOTAL: £166 OF FOOD FOR £48.76