Get Super Cheap Food With Too Good To Go and Flashfood Apps

Stock photo shows a woman loading fresh groceries in her car
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Food waste is a huge problem in the United States.

Think of all the buffets, bakeries and grocery stores that toss out perfectly good food each day.

Two apps — Too Good To Go and Flashfood — are trying to change that by connecting businesses with consumers willing to purchase food near its expiration date at a steep discount.

It’s a win-win-win: You get cheap food, the restaurant makes a little money and less food goes to waste.

The biggest downside? Both apps are only available in select U.S. cities.

Here’s everything you need to know about Too Good To Go and Flashfood, including their service locations.

A graphic shows what the too good to go and flash food smartphone apps look like
Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder and Getty Images

What Is Too Good To Go?

Too Good To Go is a smartphone app that connects customers to businesses with leftover food.

You can choose a participating restaurant or store in your area, then order a “surprise bag” of surplus food at a discounted price.

Surprise bags cost $4 to $7 and contain food that would’ve otherwise gone to waste. These bags also cost about three times less than the original sales price.

Pay for it directly in the app, then pick it up from the store during a designated time window.

You never know what you’ll get in a surprise bag. It could be anything from four slices of pizza to 15 bagels to a box of organic fruits and vegetables. That element of surprise is what makes it exciting for the app’s roughly 54 million global users.

Too Good To Go is popular in Europe but it’s currently only available in 12 U.S. cities:

  • Austin
  • Baltimore
  • Boston
  • Chicago
  • Washington D.C. area
  • New York City
  • Portland, Maine
  • San Francisco Bay Area
  • Los Angeles
  • Portland, Oregon
  • Providence
  • Philadelphia
  • Seattle

Too Good To Go says it will continue to expand in the United States, where it is currently piloting partnerships with Safeway and Panera.

Pro Tip

Remember: Vendors list food on Too Good To Go because it's about to expire. While pre-packaged foods come with a printed expiration, other items do not, so always inspect the food when you get it.

Too Good To Go takes 25% of the profit food outlets make through the app. Businesses also pay a $89 yearly membership fee.

Store owners who want to participate in the app can sign up on the company’s website and be up and running within 30 minutes.

How to Use Too Good To Go In 5 Steps

  1. Download and install Too Good To Go from the Apple App Store or Google Play.
  2. Open the app and create an account.
  3. Add a credit card to the Payments section.
  4. Browse local stores with available surprise bags and pay for the bag within the Too Good To Go app.
  5. Head to the store and pick up your bag within a certain time window.

Too Good To Go also lets you request a refund if you run into issues with the business, and stores get removed if their rating drops too low in the app.

Tired of tossing out food? Here are 16 simple ways to stop wasting food and save money on your grocery bill.

What Can You Find on Too Good To Go?

Jeff Orlick, a resident of Queens, New York, has been using Too Good To Go since the start of 2022.

He loves it.

“I’m in New York, so there’s lots of great options,” he said.

Orlick has grabbed about 20 surprise bags since signing up. He’s scored everything from generous helpings of fish and rice from a high-end Japanese restaurant to dried up end-of-day pizza slices.

He’s never paid more than $6 for an order though, so he can’t complain.

“I’m just intrigued by the mystery bag,” Orlick said. “The idea is fun to me.”

It’s also given him the chance to visit new places, like a nice restaurant in a new food hall and “fancy bakeries.”

Bakeries are plentiful on the app in New York, and Orlick has come home with multiple loaves of bread and dozens of pastries from a single haul.

Because he freezes the baked goods when he gets home, Orlick estimates that a $4 bakery bag can last him one to two weeks.

When Orlick posted about Too Good To Go on Reddit, users were excited to try it. Most, however, lamented the app’s limited service area.

As one user put it: “It’s pretty much useless outside a few major cities.”

What Is Flashfood?

You know that discount rack of marked down bread, food nearing its best-by date and dented cans in the back of your grocery store? Flashfood is basically an electronic way for grocers to clear those items off their shelves faster.

The Toronto-based company, which launched in 2016, has partnerships with 727 U.S. grocery stores, including large chains like Meijer, Giant, Food Lion and SpartanNash stores, according to Flashfood. It had roughly 2.5 million users in August 2022.

You can get discounts of about 50% on food nearing its expiration date through the app. According to the company, consistent shoppers can save an average of $540 a year.

Company officials also said they’re working on allowing EBT (food stamps) as a form of payment in the near future.

Flashfood partners with grocery stores across Canada and in 17 U.S. states, but remember: The app is only available at certain stores and locations.

States with participating Flashfood stores include:

  • Delaware
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kentucky
  • Massachusetts
  • Maryland
  • Michigan
  • New York
  • Nebraska
  • Florida
  • Ohio
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • Virginia
  • Wisconsin
  • West Virginia

Flashfood plans to grow its U.S. store count in late 2022 following an expansion with a partner in the Northeast, said Louise Castonguay, content and community manager at Flashfood.

You can use the app to see what’s available at stores near you. Each item will display the original price along with the expiration date.

A store can list any item, including produce, meat, dairy, bread and snacks. Offers are updated frequently, so make sure to check back.

See something you want? Put it in your virtual cart and pay through Flashfood. Then go pick up your frugal haul the same day from the designated “Flashfood zone” area inside the store.

How to Use the Flashfood App in 6 Steps

  1. Download and install Flashfood from the Apple App Store or Google Play.
  2. Open the app and create an account.
  3. Add a credit card to the Payments section.
  4. Use the map to find a store in your area.
  5. Browse the deals and place your order through the app.
  6. Pick up your items from the store.

If you encounter a problem with your food order, you can email [email protected] or access the support link in the Profile section of the app.

Fruit and vegetable prices keep rising. Here’s how buying ugly produce can save you money.

Too Good To Go vs. Flashfood: Which Is Better?

Both of these apps attempt to combat waste by offering consumers discounts on food.

However, Flashfood and Too Good To Go take slightly different approaches.

Try them both out. You may find deals in your area on Flashfood, for example, but come up short on Too Good To Go. The service areas of these apps are still pretty limited.

Too Good To Go vs. Flashfood

Flashfood Too Good To Go
Cost to use app Free Free
Where does the food come from? Grocery stores Restaurants, grocery stores, food trucks, etc.
Can you pick the items you want? Yes No. You receive a surprise bag.
Average discount About 50% off regular price About 3 times less; bags cost about $4-$7
Pay in the app? Yes Yes
Service areas 727 U.S. grocery stores in 17 states 12 U.S. cities

How These Apps Help Fight Food Waste

About 30% to 40% of the United States food supply is wasted each year, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Billions of pounds of discarded food ends up in landfills each year — food that could have helped feed hungry families in need.

A lot of it is perfectly edible, but it can be time-consuming and expensive for businesses to store, transport or donate the items.

Too Good To Go and Flashfood position themselves as a solution to the growing food waste problem. They emphasize the positive environmental and social impacts of connecting businesses with people willing to purchase surplus food.

Flashfood said its app has helped divert ​​50 million pounds of food from landfills and saved shoppers more than $120 million on their grocery bills.

Meanwhile, Too Good To Go said its app has saved the equivalent of 508 million pounds of food from landfills across 17 countries since the program launched in 2016.

Rachel Christian is a Certified Educator in Personal Finance and a senior writer for The Penny Hoarder.