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What happened when TOBY WALNE tried out the lucky dip sites that can slash your grocery bills… and help cut the food waste mountain

Toby Walne pictured with his delivery of supermarket-rejected goodies Toby Walne pictured with his delivery of supermarket-rejected goodies

Toby Walne pictured with his delivery of supermarket-rejected goodies

As grocery bills continue to soar, a growing number of websites and apps are being launched to save you money and put a stop to unnecessary food waste – with just a few clicks of a button.

Here, Toby Walne looks at a selection to see how they can cut your shopping costs.

Oddbox

The website logo ‘Eat fresh, fight food waste’ explains that this might not save you much money on the shopping bill – but will at least help the planet. 

Up to a third of farmed fruit and vegetables never make it to our shop shelves as they are supposedly misshapen or the ‘wrong’ size, according to University of Edinburgh research.

Oddbox allows you to choose a box of unloved fruit and veg to be delivered to your home, with prices starting at £11.49 for an ‘x-small’ to £22.49 for a ‘large fruit and veg box’. On top of this is a standard £1.49 delivery charge.

 It is a bit of a lucky dip, but when I ordered a £17.49 medium box, inside was 900g of potatoes (5), 800g of swede (2), 150g spinach, 500g onions (4), 450g chicory (2), 600g courgettes (3), 400g tomatoes (2) and 400g Brussels sprouts. There was also 800g of apples (6), 800g oranges (5), plus half a kilo of grapes and a pineapple. 

The food was fresh and there was nothing particularly misshapen or out of the ordinary except unusually large tomatoes. It was enough to keep one person in greens for a week.

Comparing prices with Tesco, I discovered the same ingredients there cost about £19 – only £1.50 more. But once you added postage, it was about the same price. At Waitrose the same shopping cost slightly more, at £22. 

With Oddbox, I did get a warm feeling knowing I was buying groceries that might otherwise be thrown out for not passing a beauty parade. 

The firm claims to cover two-thirds of the country – but it would not deliver to my address near Bishop’s Stortford in Hertfordshire so the box was sent to my London office. Deliveries are between 7pm and 7am to a ‘safe spot’ outside the house. If you live in a dodgy neighbourhood, it might not be the best way to buy greens.

Alternatives to consider include sifting through the aisles of cut-price supermarket Lidl, where ‘too good to waste’ fruit and vegetable boxes containing 5kg of food sell for £1.50. Supermarket Morrisons also sells ‘wonky’ fruit and vegetables, while Tesco has a ‘perfect imperfect’ range.

VERDICT: Saves waste plus a small amount of money.

Oddbox allows you to choose a box of unloved fruit and veg to be delivered to your home, with prices starting at £11.49 for an ¿x-small¿ to £22.49 for a ¿large fruit and veg box¿ Oddbox allows you to choose a box of unloved fruit and veg to be delivered to your home, with prices starting at £11.49 for an ¿x-small¿ to £22.49 for a ¿large fruit and veg box¿

Oddbox allows you to choose a box of unloved fruit and veg to be delivered to your home, with prices starting at £11.49 for an ‘x-small’ to £22.49 for a ‘large fruit and veg box’

Too Good to Go

After a long day at work, it was not until 9pm that I visited food chain Leon in Central London to pick up dinner.

Having signed up to the free Too Good To Go app earlier in the day, I was shown dozens of locations across the capital where I might reserve a ‘surprise bag’ of goodies – paid for in advance online via the app. At Leon, I was handed a brown paper bag with no idea what was inside. 

This is because Too Good To Go is an app through which restaurants sell food at cut price that would otherwise go to waste and get thrown out. 

I was one of the last customers to arrive at Leon just before the restaurant shut for the day. I had paid £3.99, and on this occasion was given a chicken burger and vegetarian meatballs with brown rice worth a total of about £12. 

After a tasty dinner – with plenty of leftovers – I decided to keep using the app throughout the week.

For £2.50 each, my partner and I enjoyed a takeaway from a Toby Carvery in East London one evening. We plumped for the vegetarian option, which included carrots, roast potatoes, peas, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower cheese and gravy. Sadly, no Yorkshire puddings. Still, a hearty meal at a bargain price.

Although the app provided access to low-cost meals, it did not work all the time. I am fortunate to live and work in London near a number of eating places signed up to the app. In quiet locations, you might not be so lucky. 

There is no knowing in advance what will be available, so you should not be too picky and remain open to ideas. The lucky-dip approach would not necessarily suit someone with dietary requirements or particular tastes.

VERDICT: Great value for those happy with a lucky dip.

Olio is not a charity, but those signed up seem keen to do good and help those most in need. [File image] Olio is not a charity, but those signed up seem keen to do good and help those most in need. [File image]

Olio is not a charity, but those signed up seem keen to do good and help those most in need. [File image] 

Olio

This smartphone app offers free food from fellow subscribers who find it surplus to requirement and might otherwise throw it away. 

From Bishop’s Stortford, logging in on a Wednesday afternoon, there were plenty of essential groceries available to pick up for free. 

Subscriber Catherine offered seasonal hot cross buns, and a choice of Warburtons thick white sliced bread, thin bagels and a Hovis loaf. Studying the image, you could see a sell-by date of that day, but by putting the loaves in a freezer, they could last months until needed.

Although the goodies had been put up as available at 1pm that day, they were still free at 5pm – but 6pm was the cut-off point and I had no time to get there. The same ‘volunteer’ had already had a selection of pastries, rolls, doughnuts – even a bunch of bananas – snapped up. 

A fellow member, Rose, also offered free groceries – with an odd combination of coffee whitener as well as pea and ham soup. 

Another, Mel, had two grapefruits, houmous, garlic, pain au chocolate and three vanilla custard Danish treats listed as up for grabs until 10.30pm.

Sadly, these tasty offerings had been added at 10pm the previous night and had all been grabbed. The app showed me that they were taken at midday.

In order to get involved, I had to press the ‘request’ button and say the day and time of picking up – to get the address. Olio is not a charity, but those signed up seem keen to do good and help those most in need. I did not feel comfortable taking goods for free, knowing they could go to a more deserving home. But to ease any sense of guilt, I could have listed freebies of my own.

VERDICT: Good things can happen to those who share.

Gander

The app promotion is ‘Real-time updates on delicious reduced food near you’. There is also a boast that, on average, Gander shoppers save 56 per cent on their food shop. 

It claims you need ‘never miss a yellow sticker’ in your local shop – with online maps of where to get deals when the shop decides to put discounted labels on them near their sell-by date.

Gander says it notifies when your favourite store starts slashing prices in the aisles and allows you to filter the kind of food you might be interested in. ‘Feeling peckish? There are 25 delicious discounts near you right now.’

Gander says it notifies when your favourite store starts slashing prices in the aisles and allows you to filter the kind of food you might be interested in. [File image] Gander says it notifies when your favourite store starts slashing prices in the aisles and allows you to filter the kind of food you might be interested in. [File image]

Gander says it notifies when your favourite store starts slashing prices in the aisles and allows you to filter the kind of food you might be interested in. [File image] 

I was working in London, so expected great things. But after entering all my details, it was a surprise to receive the notification: ‘No results match your search at the moment.’ 

The same went for my home near Bishop’s Stortford. I emailed Gander to find out what was going on and ask why there were no offers in my area. While waiting for a response, I discovered a Gander online video of a shopper in Northern Ireland.

In Belfast, I could get a litre of goat’s milk half-price for £1, steak pieces half-price at £2.15, and half-price sausages for 90p from a local Spar grocery store. Further choices opened up when I widened the net around Belfast – with a total of ten nearby Spar and shops at petrol stations offering cheap close-to-expiry-date food.

Two days later, the company responded: ‘We haven’t any stores in London yet but are likely to have some later this year with well-known food shops. Currently we are in Northern Ireland, the Isle of Man, West Midlands, South Wales, Sussex, East Riding of Yorkshire, Jersey and Guernsey and parts of Scotland.’

VERDICT: Bargains for a limited number of shoppers.

Additional reporting: Rachel Rickard Straus

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