Food boxes that give more nosh for your dosh From croissants to curry, how you really can eat for less

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  • The average UK household throws away almost a quarter of their weekly shop
  • Food wastage is responsible for 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions
  • With food prices on the rise, there has never been a better time to save on food bills
  • The plan offers a ‘magic bag’ of food for about a third of the normal price
  • There are currently 15,257 businesses, including Pratt, Greggs, Costa and Leon.

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Hello, I’m here to get my magic bag,’ I say to the man behind the counter. ‘Ooh, here you go’, he replies and hands me a fairly heavy paper bag.

No, I’m not a secret Harry Potter fanatic looking for new magic tricks on Thursday mornings at 10 p.m.

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I’m in a small cafe in south London, and the magic bag in question is, in fact, filled with discounted food including two pastries, two bumper sourdough sandwiches and half a loaf of seeded bread. The whole carry cost me just £3.59 – about £9 less than the normal price.

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Cheap as chips: Amelia Murray picks up a food parcel from Simple Health Kitchen in London

So how did I get this deal? Simply by downloading a mobile phone app that connects hungry customers with local businesses looking to sell leftovers.

It aims to combat food waste – and the espresso cartel is one of thousands of cafes, hotels, restaurants and supermarkets signed up across the country.

According to the smartphone app Olio, the average UK household throws away almost a quarter of their weekly shop.

As well as a roughly £730-a-year blow to your bank balance, it’s also terrible for the environment. And as households face rising food prices, there has never been a better time to save.

The first step is to download a free smartphone app called Too Good to Go. Then enter your name, email address and card details to reserve deals. It is funded by businesses that pay a small fee of around £1 per bag sold.

There are 15,257 businesses listed, including household names like Pratt, Greggs and Costa.

There are more options in big cities. London has 4,549 stores signed up, while Manchester has 313 and York has 57 stores.

The To Good To Go plan lists 15,257 businesses, including household names like Pratt, Greggs and Costa.

The To Good To Go plan lists 15,257 businesses, including household names like Pratt, Greggs and Costa.

So-called magic bags of food usually cost between £3 and £7 – around a third of the normal retail price.

Grocery stores such as Londis and Nysa Local also advertise low-cost bags of the ingredients.

Morrison’s Deli in Catford offers a collection between 7pm and 10pm, which includes fruits, vegetables, cooked meats, baked goods and ‘maybe even cheese’.

They cost £3.29 for items worth £10. After you click to reserve your Magic Bag, you’ll be given a collection window, which can last all day or as short as 30 minutes.

When you arrive to pick up your bag, tap the ‘Collect’ button on the app and show the code provided.

You won’t know the exact contents of the bag until you arrive so be careful if you’re a vegetarian – although there are a limited number of veggie bags offered.

Seven ways to cut waste

  • plan ahead. Before you shop, check your cupboards and fridge, make a list of what you need, and stick to it.
  • Minimize waste by making frequent trips to the supermarket or grocery store instead of shopping in bulk once a week.
  • Challenge yourself to use up all the food from the previous trip before buying more. Schedule days to eat leftovers — which should be stored in clean containers to prevent forgetfulness in the fridge — or freeze them.
  • Check food use dates at supermarkets and buy products with the longest expiration dates to give you time to eat.
  • Use apps like Nosh and NoWaste, which help you keep track of what’s in your fridge and cupboards so you can eat it before it goes off.
  • Other apps, including KitchenAid and SuperCook, will help you make the most of your leftovers by suggesting recipes for meals based on the food you already have.
  • Check the temperature of your fridge. It should be between 0c and 5c (32f-41f) to keep the food fresh.

If you change your mind, you can cancel at no charge within two hours of collection time.

The idea is a win-win. Restaurants can make a little money selling leftovers that would otherwise be thrown away, while customers can make big savings.

But in practice, food parcels can be hit and miss.

After leaving the house to unpack my morning commute from The Espresso Cartel, I was overjoyed with the results.

The bread was fresh and the vegetables in the sandwich were still crunchy. The croissant and pain au chocolat were a bit dry, but they cured well in the oven.

I was also impressed by Chili Box, a new food stall near Shoreditch, east London. For £5, I got chicken biryani, lentils and some curry potatoes freshly cooked straight from the pan which would usually sell for around £16.

Smartphone app Olio .  The average UK household throws away almost a quarter of their weekly shop, according to

Smartphone app Olio . According to the U.K., the average UK household throws away almost a quarter of their weekly store

At the next cafe I tried to cancel my order because it had expired.

But another branch down the road promises freshly made vegetarian salad boxes – ‘think Dijon quinoa, Greek lentil salad, cauliflower rice and more’ – for £2.59. But I only got a small box of broccoli and boiled potatoes.

And when I picked up a £3.99 bag from another cafe chain, the Mexican bean wrap was too wet.

Another app, Karma, allows businesses to list which items are left over so you know what you’re buying. It has 500 restaurants listed, but I couldn’t find any deals near me.

The app Olio has about 4.78 million global users who list food products they no longer want others to collect for free.

Along with groceries, there were also some quirky items like wild boar from Fortnum & Mason – but ‘only a little bit’ – and a half-pack of Haribo Goldbier.

But whatever keeps us from wasting food – and our money – is a good thing.

It might be easier to carry it though. NS…

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