How To Score The Best, Cheapest Food From Local Restaurants

A little bit of research will net you some of the best deals in your city.

These days, food waste is on a lot of people's minds. The USDA says that anywhere between 30 and 40 percent of all food goes to waste in the United States, which is an alarming amount. Restaurants have to look at it a different way: Anything that gets thrown out is not only a financial loss, it's also the loss of potential profits. That's the problem that mobile app Too Good To Go is trying to solve.

Too Good To Go allows customers to purchase surprise bags of leftovers and surplus food from restaurants, convenience stores, and grocery stores at steeply discounted prices. You can get a bag of food for $4 to $6, and part of the fun is not knowing exactly what you'll get from each spot. Though you don't get to control what you order, it's an affordable way to grab a meal, and restaurants get to recoup at least a little bit of cash from product that would otherwise have ended up in a dumpster.

We tried using the app and managed to score quite a haul, but as you can imagine, your mileage can vary greatly. Depending on the day and the restaurant's inventory, you might receive anything from stale, day-old doughnuts or a generous pile of perfectly good barbecue. But if you really want to use the app to get the most quality food for the least money, listen to the seasoned experts over on Reddit.

How Reddit helps you score cheap and delicious food

When in doubt, turn to crowdsourcing. Eater Chicago recently delved into the endless hunt for the best Too Good To Go deals here in our city; it's a great piece, and it's an interesting read even if you aren't from Chicago. Eater found that a lot of people are navigating the app not only by consulting the in-app star rating of each restaurant, but also looking for valuable intel on Reddit.

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The Too Good To Go subreddit features customers' successes at different establishments. Users will post photos of what they got at each spot, some of which show impressive quantities of good-looking stuff. Most users include how much each purchase cost in the title of the post (such as this one), and many will weigh in on how the deal ultimately tasted.

While a lot of the information also comes from international Reddit users (Too Good To Go is a Danish app that initially launched in Europe), if you do a simple subreddit search for your city's name, you might find that someone has posted about a place near you. Combine that information with a pretty reliable star rating (superfans say anything closest to five stars is ideal, but not less than 4.5), it's much more likely you'll hit something good.

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Timing is everything

The thing is, if you're trying to hawkeye a particular restaurant's Too Good To Go offering, you might have competition—chances are a lot of other users want that stuff too. Most restaurants only release a few bags, usually at the end of the night, so that five-star restaurant near you is likely to sell out of its goodies almost instantaneously.

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Eater Chicago explains that some enthusiasts even set phone alarms reminding them to open the app for certain restaurant drops. And even getting a bag that way isn't guaranteed. But hey, as any Too Good To Go expert could tell you, half the joy is in the thrill of the hunt.

If you've got a little bit of extra time today and the idea of cheap restaurant food sounds intriguing to you, read the Eater Chicago article to see how TGTG superusers are getting the most mileage out of their pocket change. There are some pretty great tips in there; you can potentially score a bunch of food for dirt cheap, and you can pat yourself on the back for helping a restaurant put its excess food to use.

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