What is the Olio app? How to stop waste, get free food & reduce your shopping bill!

This post may contain affiliate links.

If you’ve heard about the Olio app and would like a little more info – here’s everything that you need to know to help you to get started. Including: What is the Olio app? How does it work? Is it free? How much food can I request? And lots more! So, here’s how to stop waste, get free food and reduce your family’s weekly food shopping bill!

What is the Olio app?

Olio is an amazing food saving app – redistributing food that’s near its use-by or best-before date. Not only is this a brilliant way to be more eco-friendly and reduce food waste, it’ll also do wonders for your bank balance but reducing your food shopping bill too. So, if you’re trying to live in a more frugal way, and save money, the Olio app is a great place to start!

Improving our sustainability is so important, as so much food has previously been wasted from our UK supermarkets – perfectly good food that didn’t need to be binned – this initiative is a brilliant scheme. The Olio app was started in 2015 and has really grown since!


How does Olio work?

People collect surplus food from supermarkets, or list things from home that they haven’t used, and you can select which items you want and organise collection. Similarly, you can get involved listing things that you won’t use up from your own kitchen, rather than letting it go to waste.

woman with phone looking in fridge, frugal mum olio food app guide, what is olio, how does it work


Is the Olio app free / how does Olio make money?

The Olio app is free to use, though they’ve had to recently start including adverts to cover the costs – these appear when you request an item. You can pay a small yearly / monthly subscription to avoid the adds, or watch them to use the app for free.

In order to have revenue to keep the service running, they rely on ad funding and user subscriptions to make money. They do charge the larger companies for their services – but this wasn’t enough to keep the app running so they had to introduce other means of making money.


How do I use the Olio app?

Once you’ve downloaded the app and signed up, you can check to see what’s being listed near you. All of the items are listed according to distance from your house – with a map to see where abouts the location is.

If there’s something that you’d like, you simply request it and let them know when you’d be able to collect. If the item is unavailable, the lister will let you know. If it is available, you’ll agree a collection day / time and they’ll give you their address and any collection instructions – it’s as easy as that!

Best-before food items can be collected within a longer period of time, but use-by items must be collected that evening – the day of their expiry.

olio food waste advert, frugal mum olio food app guide, what is olio, how does it work


Where is the Olio app available?

At the moment, Olio is a UK service but I suspect more countries will follow suit (and may even have their own versions already) as everyone tries to be more eco-friendly and reduce food waste.

Whether there is food listed nearby to you will depend on which local supermarkets are involved with the charity, and where the food waste collectors volunteering to support the service live. If there’s nothing near to you, it’s likely that your local shops aren’t working with Olio.


Which supermarkets use Olio?

Local to us there are listings from Tesco, Bookers (wholesaler), Iceland, sometimes Waitrose and smaller companies like One Stop. Sainsburys is also listed on the Olio website, along with a few other stores, but we’ve not seen that in our area. Tesco seem to be the main big supermarket working closely with Olio.

The supermarkets also work with other food collection charities, like food banks, which will often get priority – so if there’s nothing listed locally one evening it’s probably because the charity has collected instead.

food in shopping basket, frugal mum olio food app guide, what is olio, how does it work


When are Olio items listed?

Most food items will be listed later in the evening – we find that it’s about 6pm for Iceland as it closes earlier, and then around 9pm for the larger supermarkets. This is because the stores don’t give the food away until the end of the day, and then the lovely person collecting it has to get it home, organised and photographed.


How much food can I request from Olio?

The general vibe is that you can request a few items per person that you’re collecting from – journeying out to get it has to be worthwhile after all. We usually don’t request more than four / five things, but often the collector will have lots of things to get rid of so they’ll ask if you’d like anything else, or give you some extra bits when you go to collect if no-one else has requested them.

Sometimes we’ll organise collection of best-before items for the next day. If I’m heading out with the kids, I’ll collect from a few Olio locations on our way out / back so (though it’s only a few things from each lister) the amount collected soon adds up.

Christmas Eve was our best collection ever I think! I stupidly didn’t photograph it because it was such a busy evening, but we requested a few things and (where no-one else had requested anything from the lister) she gave us loads of free food! We had four packs of sausages, Tandoori meat, 4 Heck burgers, green beans (which I used for Christmas dinner!) baby sweetcorn, 2 packs of Quorn snacks and loads of other bits.

woman on phone, frugal mum olio food app guide, what is olio, how does it work


Can Olio volunteers keep food & how much can I keep?

You can sign up to be a food waste collector and, of course, if you’re the person doing the Olio collection from the supermarket you’ll get first pick of what’s there. They suggest that you take no more than 10% for yourself, but with a bigger collection this will still be a lot. On top of this, you’ll likely have stuff leftover that isn’t collected, and so you’ll be able to keep that food too.


Is Olio good – how can I make the most of the food?

We’ve had some amazing bits from Olio – meat, sausages, fish, bread, fresh pasta sauce, butter, yoghurts, gluten-free products, fruit and veg.  When products are at their use-by dates, freeze them to extend their life and plan the following week’s meals around what you’ve collected.

  1. Bacon – make a carbonara or have a fry up
  2. Sausages – pair with chips, mash or pasta, or rustle up a toad in the hole
  3. Fish – stretch it out for the whole family by pairing with mash for fishcakes
  4. Pre-cooked chicken – serve with pasta for an easy dinner

It’s also a great way to try things that you wouldn’t usually eat or can’t afford.

With best-before products (such as bread, fruit and vegetables) if it looks good eat it! Most items will be perfectly fine, and anything not quite at its best can be used for sauces, soups, smoothies and treats like banana bread! Bread can also be revived with a ten second blast in the microwave, blended for breadcrumbs, or grilled with cheese or garlic (or both!) if its a little stale!

Have a look at my leftovers post: Budget food shopping: Leftover recipe ideas to reduce food waste & save money on your family’s shopping bill! There are loads of tips and recipes for using up what you’ve got, and making the most of produce that’s past its best. With the cost of living at an all time high, it’s definitely time to get creative in the kitchen!

There are always free wraps and sarnies on Olio too – collect and freeze for the week for free, easy lunches – most varieties will freeze and defrost perfectly.

woman cooking in kitchen, frugal mum olio food app guide, what is olio, how does it work


How is Olio different from the ‘Too Good To Go’ app?

All of the food items on the Olio app are completely free – no money is to exchange hands. Though both the Olio and the ‘Too Good To Go’ apps share the same sentiment (both helping to reduce food waste by giving food near it use-by / best-before date a second chance) the ‘Too Good To Go’ app is for purchased items. Though, these will usually be heavily reduced compared with the original price.


How much money will I save by using the Olio app?

If you live in a town or city, you’ll be able to access Olio most days if you need to, and collect within a reasonable distance. We live in a quieter area, but there are usually listings a few times a week. If I’m heading to the larger nearby town that week, I’ll also look to co-ordinate collections then too, to get a bit more choice.

Whilst use-by items must be collected on the evening that they’re listed, best-before items can be collected the next day. Depending on what we need and what’s been listed, we save on average £10-£20 each week using Olio – though we’ve probably saved £40+ on occasion. And, as someone who tries to be eco-friendly, I love that we’re able to make use of food that would otherwise go into the bin and reduce our shopping bill too.

woman holding change in her hands, frugal mum olio food app guide, what is olio, how does it work


How can I help / become an Olio volunteer?

Firstly, you can sign up to be a food waste hero and collect from stores yourself, to share items with others. We’ve not been able to get a regular weekly slot, but we do take any random slots that appear – often last minute.

Also, you can support the charity by spreading the word to others and helping them to grow the Olio Community, particularly if it’s pretty quiet in your local area. To get started visit the Olio app for more information on how you can help.


What about dietary needs?

If you can eat bread / pastry products you’ll never go hungry with Olio around! Because of the short shelf life, there are always lots of yummy treats to enjoy. We’re not vegan, but there always seems to be a good amount of vegan food too. And, for the kids and I, the gluten-free products are fantastic – they often come up, and with it being so expensive it really helps. Some months I’ll hardly buy any gluten-free products at all.

This lot was a really good ‘loot’ (as we refer to it 😂 the kids love Fortnite!) – gluten-free hot dog rolls and scones on one day, and then all of these bits on another… We had £20 worth of GF products for free – my freezer was full! Another time, I went to collect two loaves and the lady gave me six!

olio food waste collection frugal mum kitchen, frugal mum olio food app guide, what is olio, how does it work

Whilst the general consensus is to request just a few items from each lister, in reality they have loads to get rid of and we find people often offer or give you more. I requested two products and, since no-one else had requested them, the lady gave us everything GF that she had.

Another day, my husband thought he was collecting carrots and bread on his way home and came back with this lot… It took us ages to work our way through the £6 giant Lurpak!

olio food waste collection frugal mum kitchen, frugal mum olio food app guide, what is olio, how does it work


What does Olio mean?

In you’re curious as to what Olio means, it’s amiscellaneous collection of things’ – which just about sums up what you’ll find when you visit the Olio app.


Is Olio just a food app – what else is listed?

Whilst we love Olio for the free food, as it helps to reduce our outgoings, there’s also a section for borrowing items (such as bread-makers) from local people, and a free marketplace area.

On there you can request clothes, books, furniture and anything else that people are getting rid of – one person’s trash is another’s treasure! We picked up a brand new thermal lunch bag the other day, and were super lucky to get a Ninja Blender (worth £100!) from down the road too!

decluttering ad for olio, frugal mum olio food app guide, what is olio, how does it work

If you’re having a clear out, check out my post: Cleaning, decluttering & organising? Use my free, printable 30 day checklist! You can list items that need to find a new home in seconds on Olio! They’ve now added a paid marketplace too, so you can even list the things that you don’t need to make some extra cash too.

frugal mum olio food app guide, what is olio, how does it work, 30 day decluttering guide


What other food waste apps are like Olio?

As well as the ‘Too Good To Go’ app, there are other companies also working hard to reduce food waste and save you money on your shopping. (Though some of the apps focus more on helping you to reduce food waste, and bin less, in your own home.)

In the UK we throw away a shocking 7 million tonnes of food and drink per year! And, a recent article reckoned that the average British household throws out more than £65 worth of food every month – around £800 annually – so that’s definitely another area that we can address to combat the rising food prices in the UK.

So, if you’re interested in exploring more food apps, check out:


Want to save even more money on your food shopping? Check out:

Feed your family for less: 27 budget food shopping tips to save you money! (with free printable meal planner!) 

frugal mum shopping tips, how to save money on food shopping, groceries, weekly shop, small budget, title image for article


Trying to live a more frugal and sustainable lifestyle?

To really make a change to your family life and finances, try to look at even more ways to live a more simple, frugal lifestyle. For lots of tips to help you to save money, reduce stress, clear debt and save time – you’ll want to check out my article:

The Ultimate Family Frugal Living Guide: 25 simple tips to save you money!

ultimate family frugal living guide, frugal mum tips, 25 ways to save money, simple lifestyle


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You May Also Like