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Food & Drink

11 ways to save money on takeaways

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Ah, takeaways – they hold a special place in every student household. But is it possible to order your favourite food without breaking the bank?

fish and chips pizza and chinese food

Credit: stocksolutions (left), Lenscap Photography (middle), Heath Doman (right), Yusif.Khalilov (icons) – Shutterstock

Treating yourself to a takeaway can be the highlight of your week – especially if you're getting over a hangover, busy or just can't be bothered to cook.

The problem is that takeaways can be pretty expensive treats. But, while it will usually still work out as the cheapest option to cook food from scratch at home, it is possible to cut the cost of food orders.

We've put together our top tips to help you save money on takeaways.

Cheap takeaways should be enjoyed as part of a balanced and budget-friendly diet (including loads of free food!).

How to get cheap takeaways

These are the best ways to get cheap takeout food:

  1. Avoid online takeaway services

    deliveroo website on phone

    Credit: InkDropCreative – Depositphotos

    Takeaway sites and apps like Uber Eats, Just Eat and Deliveroo have some great perks and are super easy to use. You can browse all your local takeaways in one place in a few minutes.

    To try and beat the competition, restaurants on these sites often run discounts and promotions.

    However, these services have their fair share of downsides too.

    Just Eat, for example, has a 10% service charge (£0.99 minimum and capped at £1.99) when one of their couriers delivers the order. When the food place does its own deliveries, or you collect the order yourself, the service charge is £0.50.

    Deliveroo and Uber Eats also charge service fees, calculated based on the order amount before discounts or promotions are applied. There might be extra fees if your order is too small and costs below the restaurant's 'minimum'.

    And these fees don't include delivery – so the cost quickly adds up. This is where it can help to order directly from the restaurant, rather than through a third-party site or app.

    Some takeaways run special offers and discounts for direct orders. And if the restaurant's nearby, you might be able to collect the order to cut out delivery fees.

    You might still be able to save money by ordering via Uber Eats with the student discount (£10 off). Compare prices before ordering.
  2. Get cashback on your takeaways

    As we covered in the last point, online takeaway sites can be more expensive than going direct.

    However, there is a way to get cheap online takeaways. If you can get cashback on your order, it could be cost-effective.

    Cashback sites like Quidco and TopCashback often have offers where members can get cashback on Just Eat, Pizza Hut and Domino's takeaways.

    We have a full guide to understanding cashback sites. So, once you're familiar with how they work, check if the sites are running any good promotions.

  3. Get a refund if your delivery is late

    We've all been there: it's Friday night, you're hungry and your takeaway hasn't arrived by the estimated delivery time.

    Understandably, cooking and delivering the food can take longer during peak times. However, it's fair to expect the estimated delivery time to reflect that.

    If your takeaway is late, you're within your rights to ask for some (or all) of your money back. We wouldn't recommend complaining to the delivery driver (it usually isn't their fault). Instead, get in touch with the takeaway service or the restaurant itself.

    Each company has its own rules concerning refunds for late deliveries, so check their T&Cs first.

    And, for more tips, read our guide to complaining and getting results.

  4. Choose collection rather than delivery

    It's hard to face the icy wind in winter, but you could save a lot of money by collecting your order instead of paying for delivery.

    It can seem impossible when you're all cosy at home, but it'll keep costs lower.

    Plus, adding a bit of exercise before you eat is always a welcome benefit. Not to mention you'll be reducing your carbon footprint compared to having the takeaway delivered.

  5. Order enough for lunch and dinner

    pizza boxes

    Paying someone to make your dinner will always be more expensive than making it yourself. But you can save money in the long run by buying enough for dinner and lunch the next day, as takeaways often reward larger orders with free delivery or a discount.

    Is there anything better than cold pizza for breakfast? P.S. If your answer is "everything is better than cold pizza", discover the best way to reheat it.

    When doing this, don't order so much you'll have to throw food away. Food waste has a big carbon footprint, and it will be a waste of money.

  6. Make your own fakeaway

    We realise that part of ordering a takeaway is the lack of effort required, but hear us out on this one.

    Making a fakeaway will save money, and your home-cooked will probably be healthier.

    There are loads of budget-friendly recipes over on our student recipes page, including:

    We spoke to a student chef who told us how to recreate your favourite KFC, Nando's and Wagamama meals at home for around £2 per portion.

    You can also pick up the Takeaway Secrets book for your favourite fast-food recipes.

    Meal delivery services like HelloFresh and Gousto often have fakeaway options too.
  7. Become a takeaway delivery driver

    Do you have some free hours in the evenings? If you have some form of transport to get around, getting a part-time job as a delivery driver can be a great way to earn extra cash. You might even get free or discounted meals out of it!

    Even if you don't have a car, companies like Deliveroo allow people to do deliveries by bike or scooter.

    This means you'll be able to keep fit and earn money in the process.

    They might also be willing to pay students to hand out flyers around campus.

  8. Special offers on takeaway menus

    Look out for special offers coming through your letterbox. If you live in a student area, you'll probably receive tons of takeaway menus.

    Before you throw them away, see if there are any good offers. Some companies offer a different deal each day, including freebies for spending over a certain amount (e.g. free prawn crackers with orders over £10).

    When placing your order, ask about deals and double-check the prices if you're ordering online. Unsurprisingly, they're not always automatically added.

    Be careful, though, as there's a risk the special offers won't work out cheaper (this is rare, but it can happen!). Always do the maths before placing your order.

  9. Check for student discounts

    Totum student discount card

    We've said it once and we'll say it again: always check whether the takeaway offers a discount or freebies for students.

    As mentioned earlier, students can get £10 off at Uber Eats.

    Domino's, meanwhile, offer 50% off orders when you order online (also one of the tricks for getting cheap Domino's).

  10. Supermarket takeaway alternatives

    Many supermarkets now offer their own versions of popular takeaways. You can buy everything packed up in a box, ready to stick in the microwave or oven when you get home.

    They're much cheaper than a real takeaway but are almost as tasty and more convenient. Whether you prefer Indian, Chinese or Italian food, you'll find a range of choices.

    Marks and Spencer regularly runs a 'Dine In For 2' deal that gets you a main course, side dish and starter or dessert for £12. Plus, it should be enough to serve two people.

    And in terms of drinks, we've found some good cheap wine under £5. Or you can save money further by getting non-alcoholic alternatives.

    If you want to get food from a supermarket quickly, you could always try same-day grocery delivery apps.

  11. Avoid the drunk takeaway

    We know this is easier said than done, but splashing out on a big greasy takeaway at 4am will massively increase the cost of a night out.

    Everyone needs to eat when they've had a few (doing so is a good way of tackling your hangover) but you could try making something at home instead. Just make sure you're in a fit enough state not to burn the house down!

    And if you do indulge in those post-night-out hunger pains, try not to go too crazy. Instead, buddy up with friends so you can share the food between you.

Don't forget that the cheapest takeaway is the one you make yourself. These fakeaway recipes are just £2 per portion.

Owen Burek


Owen is the founder of Save the Student, the leading student money website he started in 2007. He's passionate about educating young people about personal finance and ways to make extra money. Owen has appeared on BBC News and writes for major publications including The Guardian, Entrepreneur and HuffPost.
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