We waste a lot of food in the United States. From unsold coffee shop pastries to grocery staples past their sell by date, we end up tossing away perfectly edible meals and ingredients every day—according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, around 30-40% of the country’s food supply becomes food waste. Much of that food is tossed simply because of protocol, not because it’s actually dangerous or even unappetizing. Several startups have noticed that much of this wasted food only needs to be connected with consumers who would like to make use of it. As a result, several apps now exist that let you save food from going to waste and save money in the process.
Last year Too Good To Go started service in Chicago and staff writer Angela L. Pagán tried it out for herself, committing to the 3 Day Too Good To Go challenge. Over the course of three days, Pagán used the app as the sole source of all her meals. The catch with Too Good To Go is that your order ends up being a “surprise,” since local restaurants partner with the app to offload whatever they didn’t sell during the day.
Over the course of the three days, Pagán’s haul included leftover Halloween cupcakes, five muffins, six jumbo slices of pizza, pulled pork, mashed potatoes, and more—and the total cost of all the food purchased over those three days was just $35.93.
Since then, many other apps have followed, each with their own specialties and systems:
- Flashfood: This app focuses on eliminating food waste from grocery stores. With this app, you know what you’re getting—once you enter your location and pick a nearby store you’re able to browse deals through the app. On the day I scrolled through, a Meijer in a nearby suburb was offering an assortment of breads, meats, dips, and bakery items for at least 50% off, plus the option to order a random collection of produce as a “Fruit Box” for $5. You place your order through the app and have until the end of the day to pick it up.
- OLIO: This app follows the format of OfferUp or other community-based apps where all the deals are done from one user to another. After creating an account, you’ll be able to see who else with an account is in your area and what foods and other goods they have to share. While local businesses can get in on the action, this model is mainly made to spread the wealth when someone has an extra robust harvest from their home garden or baked one too many cupcakes—and in the spirit of generosity, many of the items on the app are being given away for free.
- Treatsure: While this app is currently only available in Singapore, it’s worth downloading for your travels (and certainly worth keeping an eye on, as the model is almost guaranteed to be replicated elsewhere). The focus of Treatsure is specifically on buffets in restaurants and hotels. Through the app you simply choose a restaurant or hotel you’d like to get food from, and you’ll see a designated time to stop by that location. Once you get there, you show your Treatsure receipt and get a box that you can fill up with as much food as the box can fit.
There are also a handful of apps that connect food businesses and nonprofits fighting food insecurity, putting surplus meals and groceries directly into the hands of those who need them most. Food-related companies and nonprofits can create accounts to connect and share resources:
Even if you’re just using one of these apps for one meal a week, every little bit counts in eliminating food waste. The deals you can score while doing it are just an added bonus.