Visiting a friend over the summer, I was surprised when he brought armfuls of baguettes through the door to his flat.
Perhaps, however, this was the life of a London student; come home from your artisan boulangerie with a bag like a Parisian porcupine before you head into town for authentic Italian chai mochachinos and Guatemalan patisserie. In response to a jibe, however, I was promptly informed about TooGoodToGo: new app reacting against Britain’s growing food waste. They aim to tackle the fact that one third of all food produced is wasted by getting restaurants, cafes and bakeries by selling their excess food for discounted prices. In fact, rather than being the big spender I’d first suspected, he’d spent less than I would have buying a sandwich.
To me, this seems like a stroke of genius – particularly for students, the idea of a heavily discounted full cooked meal from a quality restaurant is incredibly appealing. However, I left his disappointed. Seeing the struggle York has simply with recycling, I felt sure that TooGoodToGo would not have penetrated the northern granite.
And yet no! Downloading the app in vain hope, I found that the university bars had recently signed on alongside brands such as Riverside farm, Yo Sushi! and even Morrisons. For just £2, you can now get a full meal – does it therefore render takeaways, or even the inevitable trauma of uncatered student cooking irrelevant?
Drawing names from a hat, I got takeaways from the Piazza and Vanbrugh dining, and soon found that there were flaws to my plan. There are simple problems that are soon realized – as the meals are left overs and have to be walked back, the food is soon cold, and for a vegetarian or someone with dietary requirements, there is no option to avoid these as you receive your ‘mystery bags’ unless you order from a place specifically catering to these. The standard of meals are also highly dependent on how hungry the original customers have been – in the course of testing the app, I had starkly different experiences.
Firstly, for two pounds I bought a magic bag from the Piazza. The magic bags are really a game of luck, as you pit your wits against fate – you essentially get a mix of the best food left over after service. Consisting of a chicken curry, rice and a desert of a sugar-soaked ‘yum yum’ drenched in chocolate sauce, it was unbelievably good value. Fruity, creamy and wholesome the curry was filling, and caused envy in my flat as they struggled to prepare their own meals. The pastry was a surprise addition and rounded off the meal nicely – I can imagine takeaway companies charging two pounds for that alone.
However, it appears that the diners of Vanbrugh have much healthier appetites than those on Hes East, as I opened my mystery bag to a selection of not quite so choice offerings. Chips, mac and cheese and a healthy covering of baked beans, while an excellent hangover cure, did not quite match up to the Piazza’s offering. However, the pasta sauce was gooey, warming and the breadcrumb crust added welcome texture. The chips and beans were also of a good standard, although it is perhaps telling that it is difficult to give a more detailed review than simply stating their existence.
While this may be judged harshly in contrast to buying a takeaway, it is important to acknowledge that this healthy portion was bought for only slightly above half the price of a Salt and Pepper cheesy chips. For this, it is unbelievably good value – indeed, my housemates were still jealous, and it compared well in comparison to their efforts.
Therefore, although it does not render cooking and takeaways irrelevant, this does not mean that I will not be ordering TooGoodToGo again. Alongside being a valiant attempt to combat Britain’s shameful contributions to the climate’s problems, in time it seems certain that it will provide a vital participant in a student life. While it does prove problematic in some areas, and is highly dependent on the night ordered, I’m sure most would still choose a meal provided with minimal effort to the equally expensive (and in my experience, equally unpredictable) alternative of cooking for yourself.
In-text images by Iwan Stone. Featured image by Love Food Hate Food Waste NZ.