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22nd April 2024

Giving ‘Too Good To Go’ a go!

Is ‘Too Good To Go’ the sustainable, money saving app that students need to download?
Giving ‘Too Good To Go’ a go!
Photo: Too Good To Go @WikiPics

One of the most important things about student culture is doing everything on the cheap, and, in a seemingly never-ending cost of living crisis, many of us are being cornered into eating on an unforgiving budget. Of course, there are some great options for saving money on food, such as the Students’ Union’s farmers market, and the reduced section of Sainsbury’s (beware, however, this one’s competitive!). However, with a staggering 18% of students claiming to have used food banks over the 2022/23 academic year, the more options, the better.  

Enter: Too Good To Go! Now this gem of an app has been around for some time, and granted isn’t perfect, however since downloading it, it has to be said that Manchester is the perfect spot to get the full potential out of the app. Too Good To Go is a company aimed at tackling food waste, giving users the opportunity to buy food at a reduced price that would otherwise be thrown away. This is undoubtedly a fantastic concept, with students being the perfect target audience, but upon trial, did it live up to the hype? 

Having attempted a few orders from Too Good To Go, it’s fair to say I’ve developed a pretty good insight into how worth it the scheme is, and what to consider when giving it a go. When opening the app, depending on the time of day, you’ll be able to see whether there are any ‘Surprise bags’ near you, with these bags ranging from leftovers from a restaurant or café to unsold supermarket items. Being located near these places will definitely make an impact on your options. You can also change the location, or have a look on the map to see where the most options are around the city, which is a great tool for planning ahead; for example, some friends and I knew we were heading into town after uni one day so reserved ourselves an Auntie Anne’s.

Photo: Jasminder Philora @ The Mancunion

So, in review of my orders, how did Too Good To Go do? I placed my first orders on the app in December, from the Trafford Centre after work, with both being great experiences. My first order was a box of six Krispy Kreme doughnuts, which came to £4.55 in all, so just under 76p per doughnut – not a bad deal, after a hard day’s work, and a great surprise for my housemate after I realised that I couldn’t eat six doughnuts before they went stale. My second order was also a success story, as I gave Barburrito a try, where there were options to order either a vegetarian or meat-based burrito for a pretty decent £3. With these orders, the nature of the ‘Surprise Bag’ obviously meant I couldn’t choose which doughnuts or burrito I wanted, but overall, both were great value-for-money experiences!  

Having started off on a roll, I was keen to check out the options in the city centre, so gave Auntie Anne’s a try. They offered a mid-afternoon collection slot, which worked perfectly around my sparse humanities degree timetable, and so I ventured into the Arndale for a post-lecture sweet treat. It’s safe to say that this was a quantity-over-quality experience this time around, as I received two pretzels and one portion of pretzel ‘stix’, which for £4.29 is roughly 30% of what you may usually pay for that order (according to UberEats’ prices). However, while this was a money-saver, the nature of eating leftovers did reveal itself here, with the pretzels bordering on stale, and one actually being quite burnt. This order definitely served as a reminder that, yes, the food was Too Good To Go, but the question of how much you’re willing to spend on food before it just isn’t worth the sentiment began to creep forward.   

Unfortunately, this point was only proved further in my last order from the app, as my housemate and I decided to try ordering a bit closer to home, from Didsbury’s Pizza Express branch. The app promised that for £4.95, you would either receive one main course, or three starters/desserts, which sounds like a great deal! Unfortunately, our experience wasn’t great. With the nature of this collection being the remains of a Friday night evening rush, we accepted that we wouldn’t be able to collect our orders until 22:30-22:45, but we kept going with the hopes of pizza, a selection of discarded doughballs, or “even a lasagne” in the app’s own words, but this wasn’t to be.

On collecting our orders, the staff were really friendly and helpful, giving us bags to carry our boxed up food home in, making that process swift and easy, however upon arriving home, we found we’d been given some breaded chicken, a pot of pesto, and a couple of sad looking tomatoes… not really the “scrumptious treats” (again, the app’s words), we’d hoped for. 

Photo: Jasminder Philora @ The Mancunion

What we had been given didn’t resemble a main meal, which was so disappointing, as I really want to stand behind Too Good To Go’s ethos of ending food waste. But this was a pretty clear reminder of the fragility of a business model like this; they rely on food waste to exist, so in essence, the root problem isn’t really being tackled but arguably capitalised on. 

So, would I implore you to give it a go? While I have had problems with Too Good To Go, and it has become obvious that each order is somewhat of a gamble, I would say yes. Of course, a more institutional solution to food waste in commercial food spaces would be incredible, but initiatives like these are a step in the right direction. While in a city with so many edible options, it feels like a great way to make use of high-street spots’ cheaper options, particularly around uni, where cafes such as Starbucks, Pret, and Cafe Nero offer bags throughout the day.  

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