Save money on takeout (and maybe do good) with Too Good to Go

18

I got a tip a while back from a member of our Frequent Miler Insiders Facebook group about a cool app called Too Good to Go that I’ve used a number of times on trips to major cities over the past year. Lately I’m really starting to dig this app and I have come to realize that beyond the United States, this app can also be used in a number of European countries. I love the concept, enjoy the adventure, and have been generally pretty impressed with the value. This won’t be for everyone, but I think it’s worth downloading the app if your travels take you to cities where the app has a presence. To be clear, we have no affiliate relationship here, nor am I aware of any referral deal with Too Good To Go — I’ve just enjoyed using this app lately and thought that some readers may find it as useful and fun as I have.

What is Too Good to Go?

Too Good to Go bills itself as an app built to reduce food waste. The basic concept is that you pay $3.99, $4.99, or $5.99 (tax inclusive, price varies by restaurant) for a surprise “grab bag” from a restaurant or in some cases even a local grocery store that you pick up within a specific window of time (usually around closing time). The restaurant gives you some of their leftover items that would have otherwise gotten thrown away. This app doesn’t exist in many US cities yet, but in places where they have a presence, there are a broad range of restaurants including both some traditional full-scale restaurants as well as pizzerias, pastry shops / cafes, food trucks, and more.  The idea is that you get more than $5 worth of food, food waste is reduced, and maybe the restaurant picks up a new customer since presumably most of the people using the app are “locals”.

Where is too good to go?

Too Good to Go doesn’t provide a simple list of cities within the app, but you can “browse” around the map and see that most of the major US east coast cities are included. I only yesterday realized that Too Good to Go actually started in Europe, so you can additionally use this app in quite a few major European cities (including many Germany cities and even traditionally expensive Scandinavian cities like Copenhagen and Oslo).

According to an article I read last fall, it was (as of that time) available in Austin, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, the D.C. area, New York, parts of New Jersey, the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, Portland, Philadelphia, Providence, Seattle, and a few more places. Since the fall, I’ve seen them expand from just New York City to also include Long Island, parts of Westchester, and even a bit farther north of New York City and also cover a lot of the northeast corridor between major metropolitan areas.

Additionally, as noted above, you can find it in quite a few European cities. According to Wikipedia, the app was originally developed in Denmark and grew to have a presence in France, the UK, Austria, and Spain. As noted above, I found it in cities beyond those countries as well.

Does Too Good to Go code as “restaurants”?

Yes, in my experience so far, my purchases from Too Good to Go have coded as restaurants. I’ve paid with my Amex Gold card via Google Pay within the Too Good to Go app and it has coded for 4x for restaurants and also triggered the 20% statement credit at restaurants that was part of the welcome offer when I applied for the card.

How good is Too Good to Go?

Again, there is a wide range of restaurants and offerings can vary form day to day in terms of what you’ll get, when the pickup window is, which restaurants are participating / available, etc. I’ve found this a fun way to try out a place in the neighborhood where I’m staying for just a couple of bucks or to pick up a surprise snack. It’s a gamble because you may end up getting, for example, just side dishes from a restaurant. However, on the whole, I’ve been happy with the portions I’ve gotten, the value as compared to cash cost, and the adventure of picking some random place to pick up leftovers.

On my recent two trips to New York City (last Thursday and over the weekend), I used Too Good to Go a few times.

On Friday morning, my wife had a video conference from 9:30am-10:15am, so I paid $3.99 for a Too Good To Go order from a food truck / food cart called Greek on 6th with a pick up window of 10:15-10:30am (note: that’s the shortest pickup window I’ve seen. Usually the window is at least 30 minutes and sometimes it is an hour or more). I showed the app when I got to the food cart and the guy opened a brown paper bag and proceeded to fill it with 6 different nice-sized pastries. The value was good considering the size of the baked goods and those that I tried were pretty tasty. It wasn’t the best I’ve gotten from Too Good To Go, but I didn’t feel like I made a bad deal.

On Sunday, I did better. After overspending by quite a bit on breakfast at the Conrad New York Downtown, I wasn’t interested in spending another $84 on breakfast on Monday. I looked in the Too Good to Go app for a bagel shop and found one in Rockefeller Center. That’s not right around the corner from the Conrad Midtown (there actually was a participating bagel shop much closer), but I knew my wife and 4yr old were going to visit the Lego Store at Rockefeller Center anyway, so it was easy enough for them to pick up the order. Black Seed Bagels provided an assorted mix of a half dozen bagels and two small containers of cream cheese — certainly not a bad deal for $4.99 (if that doesn’t sound like a deal, consider the fact that I paid $10 for a medium-sized tub of cream cheese from another bagel shop on Monday). The cream cheese from the bagel shop was enough to cover two full bagels — so I essentially covered breakfast for myself for Monday morning for $4.99 and I also had a bagel on Sunday and a couple more at home this week.

Just a peek into my bag of bagels, which included one everything bagel, one poppyseed bagel, one salt bagel, one plain bagel, one cinnamon raison bagel, and a pumpernickel bagel. Keep in mind that whatever they offer could change from day to day.

Late on Sunday night, I decided to try a pizzeria a few blocks from the Conrad Midtown. There was pizza closer to the Conrad, but I was curious as to what I’d get for $4.99. When I arrived at Fiorentina Pizza, they told me I could pick any 2 slices I wanted. A number of the specialty slices were $5 to $6, so you could score a moderately decent deal (there are a number of pretty busy specialty slices not shown here).

I asked for one slice of cheese (not a good value, but I’m a purist and want to know what their base level pizza tastes like) and he gave me 2 slices of cheese and said they’d count it as one. I added a “Grandma” Sicilian slice. My net value wasn’t the highest it could have been (the three slices would have been $9.95), but it was more than enough to satisfy a midnight craving for pizza after the Mets game.

I have also used Too Good to Go on several previous trips to New York City and mostly been pretty happy. Customers can rate restaurants on a scale from 1-5 and leave feedback about what they liked, so you can kind of get an idea as to which restaurants offer good value for the money. I think it’s worth also checking Google reviews. When things are rated on a scale of 1 to 5, I normally avoid anything with a rating less than 4. Fiorentina Pizza had a 3.9 rating in the app. However, on Google, they have 4.6 stars our of 5 with plenty of reviews. I almost skipped it because it had what I perceived to be a lowish rating in the Too Good to Go app, but I’m glad I didn’t. Here are some example listings:

That last one above is the restaurant inside the Moxy hotel in Chelsea, a Marriott property. I picked up a surprise bag there on a trip to New York City in March. For $4.99, I got a loaf of freshly baked bread, a scone with clotted cream, and some really tasty bar-shaped baked good.

I wouldn’t have necessarily bought this exact combination of items, but I kind of enjoy the surprise of not knowing exactly what I’m going to get at this price point.

To find participating vendors, once you load the app, you can let it geolocate you or you can enter a city name and then scroll around the map.

The app can show you lists of restaurants:

But personally, I prefer to hit the “browse” icon at the bottom and scroll my way around the map, pinching and zooming to see what’s available in different neighborhoods.

The color coding system shows whether and how much is available. Blue dots have 5+ bags available to be purchased. Yellow dots have fewer than 5. Grey dots are sold out for today (you can choose to hide sold out restaurants if you want). The app is fairly intuitive to use from there. Note that you can buy more than one bag in most cases if you want more food.

As noted above, Too Good to Go also exists in quite a few European cities. I checked a number of random cities and thought it was cool to find lots of participating venues in cities like Oslo and Brussels (shown below) as well as most major German cities, parts of Austria, and more.

And even within the US, it is mostly only available in major cities, though offerings have been expanding. For instance, in addition to New York City, I now see a number of locations in Long Island.

Overall, I find Too Good to Go to be a cool concept. I enjoy the sense of adventure in a cheap grab bag and while experiences are sure to vary even from the same restaurant on different days, I think it’s a nice option when I want something but might otherwise be tempted to tell someone to “surprise me”. While I wouldn’t count on Too Good to Go to replace meals, and I wouldn’t want to travel somewhere only to eat bakery leftovers, I think it can be a cool way to save a little bit of money and a little bit of food waste at the same time. I’m really glad that a member of our Facebook group mentioned it because I’m really enjoying it. While the app isn’t available in the rural area where I live, I look forward to my next trip to a larger city and whatever surprise bag it brings.

5 6 votes
Post Rating

Subscribe
Notify of
guest

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

18 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Susan

I think this may have been my recommendation and I’m glad you’re enjoying it! I have fun with it in Chicago and have used it in Europe as well. It’s definitely for the adventurous.

Biggie F

Good timing. Picked up a couple of deli-style bakery desserts (e.g., cheese cake) for $5 in Midtown Manhattan at lunch today … 1995 (midtown Manhattan) prices in 2022 – I’ll take it.

Speaking of which: Last night split a $98 Manhattan restaurant week bill on two registered (I hope!) MCs, which will cover the tip.

Nick, keep these coming!

Landon

My experience after about 40 TGTG bags is that orders from bakeries and cafes are fantastic (fresh, delicious, high quality products that just happened to not sell that day), orders from grocery stores are terrible (products no one wants that are near or beyond their expiration date), and orders from restaurants serving full meals are unpredictable (some good, some awful).

Overall I highly recommend trying it. You’ll get some duds, but they’re worth sorting through for the great bargains and getting to try new eateries at a discount.

YoniPDX

Thanks for sharing

Portland has 100+ locations- with lots of foodie locations participating – sadly we lost so many great places during COVID.

Tried it this AM – got a bakers dozen ($4.99) of various Henry Higgins boiled bagels ($1.75 ea) – I’ve used my mobthly Amex GH credit at Henry’s in the past when COVID limted ones choices.

But the real overlooked deal is $3.25/$5.25 for a pound of Cream cheese/with Lox to top them with a schmear for under $10. Trader Joes charges $2.99-$5.99 for 4-6oz of various topping

BDLS

Cool idea. Thanks, Nick.

Mary

Thanks for this! I had never heard of this app. Downloaded it and found a high-end market and several excellent coffee places and bakeries nearby are participating. I’ll definitely be making use of it!

Paul5795

Another interesting article. I mentioned it to my wife, and she said “I have that app on my phone.” “Have you ever used it?” “Nope.” We will have to give it a try.

Gil

I live in the West Village of Manhattan, where there are a plethora of participating eateries, and have used this app several times a week for more than a year now. I have my favorites and ones that I avoid. As you mentioned, keep an eye on the ratings. Also, you can see what other people said that they have received.

Weather

Where can you see what people said they received? I can’t find the full reviews, just the score and highlights.

CSF

People post pictures of their bags on this reddit: https://www.reddit.com/r/toogoodtogo/

SgFm

I use this in a suburb of Boston. It’s generally limited in what’s on offer around me, but there’s one gem that my partner and I consistently have been more than happy with, an artisan baker. However, I tried it when I was in NYC last year, and was seriously disappointed. I would recommend paying careful attention to ratings for each seller. And, as mentioned by another poster here, pickup times tend to be very limited, and for some restaurants later in the evening.

Rena

I have had good experiences with restaurants but bad experiences with groceries (moldy vegetables) with this app. So be cautious about groceries!

Nikolay

I have been using the app for over a year now (in Washington, DC) after getting a tip from my brother who lives in Europe. The platform is reliable, pickup is easy, the cancelation policy is very reasonable/generous and the concept is well-intentioned. The highest quality spots usually sell out the minute their stuff becomes available. The real value for me has been in using it at various CSAs.

diane

First, I have used this program, it is wonderful however the pickup times for many of the restaurants most times are to late to take advantage

Anonymous

No more free leftover food for the restaurant staff to take home then?

LarryInNYC

Not sure why this got downvoted, seems a reasonable question to me.

I’m going to guess that, in many places, late-shift staff will have already taken their pick before the rest gets bagged up for sale.

LarryInNYC

To be clear I also have no experience. I’m engaging in that most common internet pursuit — completely uninformed speculation.