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Food & Drink

11 ways to save money on takeaways

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Ah, takeaways – they hold a very 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.

But when you're living off your Maintenance Loan, can your budget really stretch to fast food indulgences? Yes, it can... if you know how to order the smart way.

We've put together these top tips to help you save money while ordering your favourite comfort food.

WARNING: cheap takeaways should be enjoyed as part of a cut-price 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 Just Eat, Deliveroo and Uber Eats have some great perks, as well as being 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 will often run discounts and promotions to stand out from the crowd.

    However, these services have their fair share of downsides too. Just Eat, for example, sneaks in a 5% service charge (50p minimum and capped at £1.99) which conveniently came in just before credit and debit card fees were banned. Plus, it's charged on top of the delivery fee.

    Deliveroo and Uber Eats charge as much as £3.49 for delivery (or more!), depending on the restaurant and location.

    What's the solution? While the delivery fee may be unavoidable, some takeaways run special offers for people who order directly rather than through a third-party site or app. Since they no longer will have to give away a portion of the sale, they'll be happy to give you a slight discount.

    These services will sometimes offer free delivery, either sitewide or for specific restaurants only – that's just one of our cheap KFC hacks.
  2. Get cashback on your takeaways

    We know we just told you not to use online takeaway sites, but that's only because they tend to be more expensive than going direct. If you can get it online and save some cash, you should go for it!

    And, as it happens, there is a way to get cheap online takeaways. 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 up to scratch, check to see if the sites are running any promotions at the moment.

  3. Get a refund if your delivery is late

    We've all been there: it's Friday night and you're starving. You order a takeaway online (yes, we know we advised against these services, but none of us are perfect) and it gives you an estimated delivery time, only for your food to arrive a good hour later than originally promised.

    It's totally understandable that cooking and delivering the food can take longer during peak times. However, all we ask is that the estimated delivery time reflects that, rather than making promises that cannot be kept.

    In the event that 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 make sure to check out their website first. Also, 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 in your pyjamas and dressing gown, but it'll keep costs low (and nobody will judge you if you turn up in your PJs). As well as dodging the delivery costs, you may end up buying less food as you're not trying to hit the minimum order total.

    Plus, adding in a bit of exercise before you eat is always a welcome benefit. Not to mention that you'll also be doing your bit for the environment by keeping your carbon footprint low.

  5. Order enough for lunch and dinner

    pizza boxes

    Paying someone to make your dinner is always going to 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, make sure you don't order so much you'll have to throw food away. Food waste has a big carbon footprint, and it'll just be wasted 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.

    Not only will making your own fakeaway save you money, but your creations will probably be a lot healthier too.

    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 just £2 per portion.

    You can also pick up the Takeaway Secrets book to get all of 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've got some form of transport to get around, getting a part-time job as a delivery driver can be a great way to earn a bit of extra cash. You'll probably even get free meals out of it!

    Even if you don't have a car, companies like Deliveroo have started hiring staff to do deliveries by bike. You could earn up to £120 a day!

    Not only will this mean you get lots of free food when money's tight, but 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. Often, some free food will be thrown in too.

  8. Special offers on takeaway menus

    Keep your eyes open for special offers coming through your letterbox. If you live in a student area, you'll probably receive tons of takeaway menus every week.

    Before you throw them away, see if there are any good offers available. 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, make sure you ask about deals and double-check the prices if you're ordering online. Unsurprisingly, they're not always automatically added.

    Also beware that sometimes the special offers don't actually 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.

    For example, McDonald's offer a free cheeseburger, Mayo Chicken or McFlurry if you show your student card when you buy a meal. That's just one of the many ways to get free McDonald's.

    Domino's, meanwhile, offer 35% off orders over £25 when you order online – also one of the tricks for getting cheap Domino's.

    The savings might not be huge, but they're better than paying full price.

  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, you'll find a wide range of choices.

    Marks and Spencer regularly runs a 'Dine In For 2' deal that will get you a main course, side dish, dessert and a bottle of wine for around £12. Plus, it should be enough to serve two people. Posher than a takeaway, and probably cheaper too.

    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 way easier said than done, but splurging on a big greasy takeaway at 4am will massively increase the cost of your 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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