Photo: Too Good to Go

Montclair area restaurants and shops are participating in a new food app that reduces food waste called Too Good to Go, and I’m a fan.

Food waste is a significant problem in the U.S.—up to 40% of produced food goes uneaten each year. Food banks and charitable organizations, including local institutions Toni’s Kitchen and Human Needs Food Pantry, do their best to redistribute surplus food. Still, too much good food gets thrown away, which makes the hunger problem worse. Food waste is also not good for the planet, accounting for 8% of all greenhouse gas emissions.

The Too Good To Go app offers a solution by allowing customers to order directly from participating restaurants that have unsold products at the end of the day that would otherwise be thrown away. It reduces waste, helps the planet and gets you good food for way less!

How it Works

Download the app and check for “Surprise Bags” of food from restaurants and shops near you. You can adjust the distance you’re willing to travel to find participating restaurants. The bags are a “surprise” because you don’t know what you’re buying until you pick up your order. Remember, Too Good to Go is about helping reduce food waste, so you’re getting what the restaurant or shop didn’t sell that day. A surprise bag is typically one-third of the price that the food would usually cost. The average bag is $4.99 but can cost less or more. The service is free for customers and businesses, but Too Good to Go takes a commission on every transaction.

Several local restaurants and shops have joined Too Good to Go. Currently, I’ve seen Surprise Bags from Hot Bagels Abroad, Millburn Deli, Java Love Coffee Roasters, Da Vinci’s Brick Oven Pizza, Mattarello Bakery & Cafe, Montclair Diner, Sweet Kitchen and The Little Daisy Bake Shop, among others—and business owners have been happy with the program.

Jodie Thorz, co-owner of Java Love, says they signed up with Too Good to Go because they believe in the mission to eliminate food waste, which seemed like a win-win. Java Love has been managing the app for about a month, and so far, they love it since it has saved so much food waste.

“We sell out of our surprise bag daily and can always add more bags if we have too much left at the end of the day. It’s also a win for consumers. With inflation and the cost of food skyrocketing, this option gives people a chance to buy high-quality food at steep discounts,” Thorz says and adds, “My daughter, who is in college, also signed up as a customer and gets great food deals from local markets.”

Jennifer Snyder, owner of The Little Daisy Bake Shop, has been participating in the Too Good to Go program once a week on Saturdays to test it out and says it’s been great. “Customers think it’s fun to get a surprise bag of treats, and it’s really good for our business.”

What I Tried

My first attempt to get a surprise bag wasn’t successful. I ordered from Java Love Coffee & Roasters and was all set to pick up my goodies the following evening, but I received this message that there wasn’t enough surplus food to make a surprise bag that day. Bummer!

Luckily, I was able to score a bag the following week, and it was worth the wait. For just $4.99 ($5.32 with tax), I received four delicious treats: an apple tart, scone, chocolate chip croissant and a huge cowgirl cookie.

My next attempt was with Mattarello Bakery & Cafe on Bellevue Avenue. I secured my order in the morning and was told to pick up my surprise bag between 6–7 p.m.

Opening up our “surprise bag” was like Christmas morning. I received two slices of cake, Rum and Cannoli, which were delicious. But, in all honesty, I was hoping for Mattarello’s amazing pastries, like their Sfogliatella or Lobster Tails, but alas…I had to eat cake.

That’s the catch about using Too Good to Go. You get what you get, and you don’t get upset. If you’re a picky eater, then this app may not be for you.

What I Like

Food insecurity is an issue that I am passionate about, so I feel really good using Too Good to Go. I also love food, so I’ll never turn down cheap eats from my favorite restaurants and shops.

The surprise aspect was really fun, especially for my teenager. In fact, I’ve found several TikTok accounts that “unbox” their Surprise Bags. Apparently, we’re not the only ones who like the concept.

What You Should Know

You need to check Too Good to Go often to secure a surprise bag. Once a restaurant or shop opens up availability, the bags sell out quickly. Despite trying to get a Little Daisy Surprise Bag on a Saturday for two weekends, I had no luck.

Too Good to Go is pick-up only and has a specific time depending on the restaurant’s hours. If you won’t be able to head over for a bag of leftover bagels from Hot Bagels Abroad at 1:30 p.m. on a weekday or leftover food from Montclair Diner at 8 p.m., you’ll miss out on several surprise bags.

Ultimately, the Too Good to Go app is a fun, eco-conscious way to save on food and a way to fight against food waste and hunger in our community. It’s a win-win for businesses and customers—and that’s always a good thing.

Editor, writer, social media manager. Food, cocktail and coffee lover. Proud Jersey girl.

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