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I’m a big fan of doing what you can to cut food waste. Reducing food waste helps to save money, When I learned about the TooGoodToGo UK app I knew I would be a big fan! I downloaded it, promptly forgot about it and then six months later I finally gave it a go!
The concept of the app is simple; you can purchase a magic bag (mystery bag!) from retailers in your local areas, for a low fee. For as little as £2-£3 you can get £8+ worth of produce that are nearing the end of their shelf life and would likely otherwise go to waste, by being thrown in the bin.
One of the first ever magic bags that I reserved was from Marks & Spencers, within a BP garage, and the quality was fantastic! See the photos below.
Since then I’ve purchased at least 1 magic bag from most retailers in my town and I’m going to share a little more about the app, how to use it, how to get a magic bag when they always display sold out and what the best times are to grab a magic bag.
Scroll down past the questions and answers if you’re looking to find out a little more about my own experiences using this app. Also, see below one of the Marks and Spencers bag I received.
The total value was around £13-£14 and I paid £4. The items were all still fresh and that butter chicken with the potato crush was absolutely delicious!
Where can you find the TooGoodToGo app?
How does TooGoodToGo work?
You download the app, for free, then you set your location (either using location services or a map if you’re wanting to look at other areas you may be travelling to) and you can see all of the retailers in your area.
Select browse and then you can use a variety of filters to find options, things such as ‘hide sold-out’, specific categories of food, diet preferences, collection time frames and more. It’s really easy to use this, especially if you’re going to be in a particular part of a busy town or city at a set time.
For example, when I’m in London from 10am – 2pm for work purposes I’ll have a look during those times to see if there is anything that I can collect.
You can set the search range from 3km right up to 30km. The increments are 3km, 5km, 10km, 15km and 30km so there is a great range if you’re willing to travel further for some bargains.
You pay for magic bags on the app when reserving, and then you need to be there within a set collection time to pick up your items. Some windows are as little as 5-10 minutes and others are 1 hour, usually at the end of either breakfast, lunch and dinner or the end of the shops trading hours.
Be sure to read the descriptions to see where you collect items from. Often it is just inside the store itself, other times you’ll have to go to a side entrance or particular area of the store for your collection such as customer service.
What you do in store to collect your magic bag:
When you arrive in store you just let them know you’re there to collect a magic bag, show off your collection code, they’ll ask you to swipe to confirm collection and then hand your magic bag over to you. It’s really simple and usually just takes a couple of minutes in total.
Where is TooGoodToGo available?
In the UK the available companies are hit and miss. I live in a fairly busy town and there are 10+ retailers listed within 3km of my house. There are 15km within 5km and over 30 within 10km so there is a great variety.
If there is a retailer that you love who isn’t using the scheme you would always mention it while you’re in store and see if they’re willing to sign up to pay to use the service.
How does TooGoodToGo make money?
The businesses that are listed on TooGoodToGo pay an admin fee to have membership and then an additional single fee each time they sell a magic bag according to Google!
You only pay the fee of your magic bag, there are no processing or handling fees to you as the purchaser.
Is TooGoodToGo worth it?
Personally I would say yes. If you have a particular brand that you love, such as Greggs, and they are located close to your home then you can reserve a nice magic bag for a treat lunch or dinner.
With the contents being varied it CAN be hard to know you’ll definitely get something you enjoy, but I’m a fussy eater and almost always find good things in my bags!
You tend to pay 1/4 – 1/3 of the value of the contents of the items in your magic bag, which makes it a bit of a steal. Providing you get something you actually like of course – as it’s all a surprise until you collect your bag.
What is the best TooGoodToGo magic bag?
Personally I would say the best ones are Yo! Sushi, Greggs, Marks and Spencer in BP garages and Morrisons. You get a LOT of items, way above the quoted value usually, and they are often still fresh or just passing their best that day!
I do find the sell by/use by/best before dates are still the date of the purchase, but products from Marks and Spencer and Yo! Sushi in particular are always great quality still and we’ve had a few dinners from these now.
Greggs often provide an abundance of different goodies with breads, cakes, sandwiches and pastries all in the one Magic bag. It is rare to collect a bag from Greggs and find they are rubbish, which is probably why they sell out so fast where I live!
What is the worst TooGoodToGo magic bag?
For me the absolute worst one would have to be Costa, who ALWAYS seem very, very tight (more on that further down this post!) and they cancel orders fairly frequently too. Usually with 5-10 minutes to go until the collection slot, which often means I’m already on the way to collect it.
When you have a cancelled order it states ‘No food to rescue today’. It’s great that the business didn’t actually have any food waste, but frustrating that the cancellation notice is usually so close to the start of the collection slot.
If you want to cancel your order you have to do so at least 3 hours before collection, so someone else can be offered the chance to purchase that magic bag.
What happens if you’re unhappy with a magic bag?
Recently I ordered a Costa Coffee magic bag, which was stated as £10 of items for £3. When I collected the items I received items with the value of £7, and one was completely stale…!
I did go on the app, and make a complaint to TooGoodToGo. They asked me to send a photograph of the items, which I did so, alongside the prices from their menu (they didn’t ask for this but it illustrated my complaint), to show that I didn’t receive the quoted value. I received a full refund of the price I paid, which I was very happy with.
If it had stated £7 of items for £3 I would not have purchased them, but more importantly one of the items was inedible and I’m sure they would have noticed when packaging this, especially as it wasn’t in an exterior bag before being placed into the magic bag so someone would have touched it directly when bagging it up.
When is the right time to get a magic bag on TooGoodToGo?
Sick of seeing that places are hidden or always sold out? You’re probably not visiting at the correct times to bag yourself a mystery bag.
In the past I read quite a few reviews and not one seemingly had the correct details for this. Here they are direct from the horse’s mouth so to speak:
As this is the default I believe it could change, I have seen some bags on sale within 2 minutes of the end of the collection window in October 2021, so perhaps it is an option that can be changed by retailers.
The best times to get a magic bag:
Weekdays are the best days to get yourself a magic bag by default because of this. If you’re looking for a bag that typically has a collection window of 6pm – 7pm then the day before you want a magic bag you’ll want to be on the app waiting at 7:14pm. Refresh at 7:15pm and you should see the next days slots available.
Be fast though, as some popular bags tend to sell out within 1-2 minutes! Of course the more people know about the correct time slot to get a magic bag the faster you’ll have to be. Gatekeeping sucks though so I’m happily sharing!
Make sure you’ve got your payment method already added, or Apple Pay, or similar, set up on your phone to help speed up the checkout process. I’ve never lost a magic bag while paying, as once you’ve clicked on it and pressed reserve I think it is reserved then for a short window of time giving you sufficient time to process your payment.
You CAN reserve more than one bag, but with the short date on items it’s unlikely you’ll have a need for 2 or 3 bags from Greggs for example, unless you’ve got a lot of family to feed!
My thoughts on TooGoodToGo:
I love that the app is free and you only pay when you’re purchasing a magic bag. Also, when I’m travelling I love looking at different local stores the day before, or on the morning of my travel, and seeing if I can find myself a bargain.
I’ve had bargain lunches in London, from just £3, and I’ve had delicious trays of cakes and goodies on a Sunday afternoon to share with my family too from local independent retailers that I would not have even heard about if it wasn’t for the app. Lots of random companies are on there now including Brewdog, Greene King, Paul, Budgens, Londis, hostels, chain pubs and much more.
The app works really well. I’ve NEVER had an issue with a single order, besides stores cancelling at the last minute of course.
There are lots of locations in my town, but lots of people on my Instagram tell me that they can’t see any bags where they live. I find every few months more and more retailers join, so definitely download the app and check back from time to time.
The pick up times can be a little limited, which is not ideal when I’m travelling, as one train delay could mean I miss the bag, and no refund is received if you don’t turn up to collect.
Random mystery bags…
Magic bags can be VERY random. You could get a store where they use common sense and divide items between the bags for a good variety, or you could end up with 15 bagels that you’ve got no freezer space for!
Some companies don’t have the best customer service, for example when I’ve been to collect a Morrisons bag within a petrol station, twice, they didn’t know what I was talking about either time and I had to wait for someone else.
I’ve once been asked to come back by Greggs too, which is not ideal when there is a collection window, but I did receive the bag outside of the window, I just couldn’t confirm that I had collected it.
Apart from the cancelled orders by Costa, and the one time they didn’t give me the right value, I’ve not had any issues. I love the excitement of the magic bag and if there is something that I’m not going to make use of then I make sure to list it on Olio so that it doesn’t end up going in the bin.