Sushi, artisan bread, fresh soup and more donuts, pastries and sandwiches than I can count. In the past week I have not cooked once – all my meals come from shops, bakeries and restaurants. As a result, I can no longer zip up my jeans.
But instead of making an extravagant expense, I saved myself a small fortune.
How, you may ask? It’s all thanks to an app that aims to reduce the 9.5 million tons of food we waste every year.
Too Good To Go allows users to purchase and collect bags of unused food from over 15,000 businesses at a massively 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 massively discounted price
The catch is that you don’t know what you’re getting until you unplug a so-called ‘magic bag’. You can get lucky and receive an impressive amount of delicious food. You could also end up with a selection of goods that you would never dream of buying. In other words, it’s a lucky dip.
With the chance to pick up bargain goodies from companies like M&S, Waitrose, Pret a Manger and Leon, it’s no wonder Too Good To Go has become something of a middle-class braggart.
It was launched in the UK in 2016 and sells 500,000 bags of food every month.
But was Too Good To Go too good to be true, I wondered?
BREAKFAST: Fun, £9 of food for £3.
LUNCH: Greggs, £10 of food for £2.59.
I download the app and enter my location and pin information.
Living in Brighton, I’m spoiled for choice of dining options, and I’m excited about my first magic bag as I join the seven million other users in the UK.
The app works by showing you what’s available: now, later, or tomorrow. The food bags are limited so it’s a first come, first served issue.
I start by reserving breakfast at Pret and a lunch bag at Greggs.
Users are given a very limited window to pick up their bags and, being a novice, I haven’t considered the logistics.
I can pick up my Pret breakfast from 10-10:30am but I can’t pick up my Greggs bag until 2:30pm even if they are next to each other – I have to go home and then come back.
At Pret I get a packet of porridge, a vegetarian sandwich and a croissant with cheese and tomatoes. All in all a fantastic filling start.
Later, I join three women who are waiting at Greggs for their magic bags. “I’ve been doing this for three months and Greggs gives the best value bags,” one of them recalls, adding: “Don’t worry about M&S - they’re as tight as anything.”
Claudia said she was spoiled for choice with dining options and began trying the app by reserving breakfast at Pret and a packed lunch at Greggs. Pictured: eating Greggs
I take my bag home and get out: six white baguettes, two yum yum donuts, two ice-cold raspberry donuts, a baguette with chicken and bacon, and two large jam sandwich cookies.
I freeze the baguettes and scoff at the rest because I feel too full to reserve a discount dinner.
The problem with evening meals is that as it is unsold food it is not available until 9:30pm.
As much as I love my local chippy, do I really want to eat cod and chips this late?
BREAKFAST: The Flour Pot Bakery, £14 of food for £3.50.
LUNCH: Costa Coffee, £10 of food for £3.
DINNER: Third Avenue Bakery, £13.50 food for £3.50.
The Flour Pot Bakery is a small chain of artisan bakers where I happily paid £4 for a single loaf of bread. This morning I pay £3.50 and pick up a bag of a wholemeal baguette, a sunflower rye bread, two Danish pastries, two chocolates and two croissants. That really is a magic bag.
I’m still in my pastry coma when it comes time to pick up my lunch from Costa.
Claudia said Starbucks is popular with app users for offering lavish bags, and she agrees after getting £10 worth of food for £4
Compared to the Flour Pot, my large mince pie, two Bakewell slices, an icy cinnamon roll, and (oddly) a lollipop and carton of fizzy candies are disappointing. I hate Bakewell slices and I’m afraid I’ll end up throwing away the food I had to save.
Later, at the independent Third Avenue bakery in Hove, my £3.50 gives me a sourdough bread, a Danish apple, a cheese scone, a raisin scone, a cinnamon roll and an almond croissant. It’s delicious, but it’s not really ‘dinner’.
LUNCH: Fun, £14 of food for £4.
SNACK: Starbucks, £10 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 at Little Waitrose, ten kilometers away at a Shell garage. At 10 p.m. I pick up my bag: 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, yogurt, bread, baked beans, custard, noodles and fresh vegetables for £3
But, what is this? The food is all ‘yellow stickered’ meaning it’s already been massively reduced.
‘You have to remember that while we want to offer good service and value for money, our main goal is not to throw food in the trash. So yes, you get food with yellow stickers from supermarkets,” says director Paschalis Loucaides, who informs me that Too Good To Go earns £1.09 on every magic bag sold.
LUNCH: Greggs, £10 of food for £2.59.
SNACK: Caffe Nero, £15 of food for £3.09.
DINNER: Morrisons, £11.50 of food for £3.
Another diet-breaking but very generous bag from Greggs is followed by a race across town to Caffe Nero. The saleswoman is clearly in a generous mood and offers toasted sandwiches, sandwiches, a panini and two chocolate brownies. He’s supposed to give me food worth £10, but it’s closer to £15.
I then hasten to be in Morrisons before 6:30 pm. The assistant hands me two bags that are so heavy I can barely lift them. Back home I am amazed at my loot: 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 for a struggling family.
Claudia admits she became strangely addicted to the app on her last day, despite being disappointed with M&S’ yellow sticker items
BREAKFAST: FCB coffee, £12 worth of food for £3.99.
DINNER: Yo Sushi, £10 of food for £3.50.
MIDNIGHT PARTY: M&S, £12 worth of food (but the yellow sticker prices came to £5.18) for £4.
My last day using the app, which I am curiously getting addicted to. I go to an FCB coffee unit at Brighton station, where I pick up a Cheddar plowman, a sausage roll and two cheese and ham croissants and a Danish pastry.
And then to Jo! Sushi, where I meet Grace, a college student who tells me Too Good To Go has been a lifeline for her.
I’m in my tray of salmon and tuna sushi when I see a Leon dinner and a Marks & Spencer bag available. Which one to choose?
Who doesn’t love M&S food? I’m reserving a £4 bag and hoping to get some delicious favorites – but sadly it’s just another yellow sticker disappointment. My jerk chicken sandwich has been reduced to 64 pence and a box of mince pies that I have to eat that day doesn’t bode well for me.
There is a Victoria sponge, a potato salad, a croissant and three jam donuts.
I add up the yellow sticker prices and discover that I have not saved a cent. I should have listened to that lady in Greggs.
TOTAL: £166 FOOD FOR £48.76