I Tried Too Good To Go, a Food Waste App. Here's What Happened

Too Good To Go counter

Too Good To Go

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Too Good To Go counter
Too Good To Go

Fighting Food Waste

It’s a staggering statistic: In the United States, 40% of the food produced every year is ultimately wasted, both in restaurants and our own kitchens. Fortunately, there has been a recent surge to combat food waste while saving money, resulting in apps that help businesses get rid of a daily surplus by offering leftover food to customers at a discount. One of those apps is Too Good To Go, which made its U.S. debut two years ago and has steadily become available in cities across the country. I tried the app a few times over the course of a week to discover how I could fight food waste at a local level. Here’s what I found.

Related: The Grocery Waste Chain: What Happens To Items That Don't Sell?

Too Good To Go bag
Too Good To Go

What Is Too Good To Go?

Too Good To Go operates with a simple goal: Eliminating food waste. The app was founded in Copenhagen in 2016 and first launched in the United States in 2020, making its debut in New York City after finding success in countries around the world. The self-described social impact company connects customers to surplus food from restaurants, grocery stores, bakeries, and other food businesses, with these businesses offering a “surprise bag” filled with leftover food and items that may have just passed their expiration date. Each bag is listed for a discounted price — think $5 for $12 worth of food. 

Related: I Ordered Groceries From Misfits Market and Imperfect Foods — and Here's How It Went

Too Good To Go order screenshot
Erin Kuschner

How Does It Work?

Signing up is simple: Just download the Too Good To Go app and register for an account. Once you’re logged in, you’ll be able to adjust your settings so that the app can locate participating businesses within a specific distance, as well as those that are offering pickup times within your preferred time frame. Businesses are often listed under categories like “Recommended for you,” “Pick up now,” “Pick up for lunch,” “Vegetarian surprise bags,” “Groceries,” “Baked goods,” and “Pick up for dinner,” but there’s also the option to “see all” and scroll through every participating food business in your area. Find a meal or produce haul that interests you? Reserve and pay for a bag, then head to the business at the stated pickup time to claim your food.

Related: 50 Food Storage Tips to Make Your Groceries Last as Long as Possible

Too Good To Go produce
Too Good To Go

Which Businesses Participate?

It varies from city to city, but where I live in the Boston area, Too Good To Go offers a healthy mix of supermarkets and small convenience stores, breakfast and bagel spots, pizzerias, sandwich shops, and a variety of international restaurants, including Mediterranean, Caribbean, Israeli, and Mexican restaurants. You won’t find upscale restaurants on the list, nor will you be scooping up surprise bags from national chains, like McDonald’s or Shake Shack. The businesses involved are mostly small eateries and markets, making it easy to shop local while you rescue surplus food. If you’re curious about what you might find in your surprise bags, take a look at Reddit’s Too Good To Go forum, where customers post photos of their hauls.

Related: Here's How Much More You'll Pay for Organic Groceries Across America

Too Good To Go drop off
Too Good To Go

My First Haul

My first pickup using Too Good To Go was from a local market in my neighborhood called City Feed and Supply. After selecting City Feed on the app, I paid $4.99 for a surprise bag worth $12 and was instructed to pick it up between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. (This was a nice surprise — many businesses in my area don’t offer a long time frame, instead giving you a one- to two-hour window to pick up your food.) Once inside the market, I showed the cashier my order ID and she handed me a paper bag full of produce. I asked if the app, which launched in Boston shortly after its New York City debut, was popular at City Feed. “Absolutely,” she said, noting that many people pick up two bags of produce at a time. 

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Too Good To Go City Feed
Erin Kuschner

Produce for Less

I could see why some people doubled up on their orders: Once I got home and opened my bag, I realized I had received a pint of strawberries, two green apples, one orange pepper, leeks, and a wrinkly jalapeno — all for just under $5. True, some of the produce was on its last legs, but I chopped up the strawberries and froze them for smoothies; used the pepper and jalapeno in a bolognese sauce that night; and enjoyed the leeks and the apples in the next couple of days. 

Too Good To Go Happy Market & Spirits
Erin Kuschner

Timing Is Everything

Using Too Good To Go to pick up a meal from a restaurant proved to be trickier. The number of participating restaurants within a reasonable walk from my home/work were few and far between, and many of the ones further away had pickup times that were either in the middle of the work day or late at night (think 10 p.m. to 11 p.m. — not my usual dinner hour). One afternoon, I signed up for a surprise bag at a Caribbean restaurant that offered a pickup time in the early evening, but when I got there the restaurant was closed. Thankfully, Too Good To Go is fairly accommodating when it comes to issuing refunds, and my payment was quickly canceled. On another visit to a market, I arrived a few minutes before the designated pickup time, and my bag wasn’t ready. One of the cashiers quickly threw some items — a head of broccoli, a bag of stir fry vegetables, a bag of shredded cabbage, brussels sprouts, and some carrots — into a bag. It all worked out, but had I arrived when I was actually supposed to, I may have received a more varied bag of produce. 

Too Good To Go friends
Too Good To Go

Who Is Too Good To Go for?

The element of surprise makes it necessary for Too Good To Go users to be flexible. In some ways, I like the challenge of not knowing what I’ll be receiving and turning it into a meal, like I did with the bolognese sauce. But you might also be faced with surplus produce or meals that you don’t actually like; I’m not entirely sure what I’ll be doing with that bag of shredded cabbage. Users with allergies will find it tricky to maneuver as well. Too Good To Go offers a vegetarian and vegan option in its settings to filter out businesses, but I have a gluten allergy and was unable to find many restaurants that could confirm gluten-free meals. Finally, some of the late-night pickup times could prove cumbersome for users, though students and late-night diners might find it suits them just fine.

Related: 21 Creative Ways to Spice Up Leftovers

Too Good To Go bread
Too Good To Go

Is It Worth It?

The vast majority of businesses on the Too Good To Go app receive a rating out of five stars from users, and people can share what they love about their experience with particular vendors, noting “friendly staff,” “great value,” “great amount of food,” etc. When using the app for the first time, I recommend ordering from businesses that tout 4.5 stars and above. It doesn’t guarantee you’ll get something you love, but the odds will be in your favor. And when an order hits right, it can feel like you’ve scored an incredible deal, as most Too Good To Go purchases are around $5–$8 for $12–$15 worth of food. Your best bet? Keep an open mind, remain flexible, and take heart in knowing that you’re helping rescue surplus food. 

Too Good To Go gathering
Too Good To Go

Where Can You Find Too Good To Go?

Since its inception, Too Good To Go has spread to more than 17 countries, including the United Kingdom, France, Denmark, Spain, the Netherlands, and Canada. In the United States, users can find the app in New York City, Jersey City, Boston, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Chicago, and Washington, D.C., with more cities on the way. It’s making an impact, too: According to the company, Too Good To Go saves more than 100,000 meals every day. 

Fresh multi-colored vegetables.

Other Ways to Save Surplus Food

As mounting concern grows around the topic of climate change and the environmental impact of food waste, companies in the food rescue space are continuing to pop up. Similar to Too Good To Go, Food For All is available in New York City and Boston, and connects diners with more than 200 food businesses that sell surplus food. YourLocal, currently available in New York City and Denmark, invites stores to offer deals on excess food to nearby customers before closing time. Operating on an even more local level, Olio is an app that allows individuals to post their own extra food, inviting neighbors to come pick it up at an agreed upon time. It’s currently being used in 51 countries. 

Related: Where You Can Order Groceries Online With an EBT Card