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Food & Drink

11 ways to save money on takeaways

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 – we've all been there.

But when you're living off your Maintenance Loan, can your budget really stretch to fast food indulgences? Well, 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 do have some great perks – they're super easy to use and you can easily browse all your local takeaways in one place.

    And, to try and beat the competition, restaurants on the 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... and that's on top of the delivery fee charged by some restaurants.

    Deliveroo and Uber Eats, meanwhile, charge as much as £3.49 for delivery, depending on the restaurant and location.

    So, what's the solution? Well, 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. This is because they no longer have to give away a portion of the sale, so they're 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

    Ok, so 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 there's a way to get it online and save some cash, then we haven't got any beef.

    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 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 absolutely 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.

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

    In the event that your takeaway is late, you're well 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 and regs concerning refunds for late deliveries, so make sure to check out their website first (as well as our guide to complaining and getting results).

  4. Choose collection rather than delivery

    It's hard to face the icy wind in winter, but why not chuck on your big coat and walk down the road to pick your takeaway up in person, rather than forking out for delivery costs?

    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 some exercise before you eat will help you burn off some of the extra calories you're about to consume. Not to mention that you'll also be doing your bit for the environment by keeping your carbon footprint low.

  5. Order in bulk so your takeaway lasts longer

    pizza boxes

    Paying someone else to make your dinner for you is always going to be more expensive than making it yourself. But you can save costs in the long run by buying in bulk, as takeaways often reward larger orders with free delivery or a discount.

    If you end up with more food than you need, using your leftovers for lunch and dinner the next day will make the whole thing way more economical. And is there anything better than cold pizza for breakfast (P.S. if your answer to that is "everything is better than cold pizza", discover the best way to reheat it).

  6. Make your own fakeaway

    We realise that part of the attraction of ordering a takeaway is the sheer 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 easier on the arteries too.

    There's a whole load of budget-friendly recipes over on our student recipes page, including chicken enchiladas, stir fry and DIY pizzas (go for pre-made pizza bases if you're feeling particularly lazy).

    We also 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 – almost as good as the real thing for a fraction of the price!

    You can also pick up this Takeaway Secrets book from Amazon to get all of your favourite fast-food recipes.

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

    deliveroo cyclist

    Credit: Clare Louise Jackson – Shutterstock

    Find you tend to have a few hours free 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 – and you'll probably get free meals out of it too.

    Even if you don't have a car, companies like Deliveroo and other online delivery companies 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 a few bob in the process.

    They might also be willing to pay students to hand out flyers around campus – and often throw in some free food 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 masses of takeaway menus every week.

    Before you chuck them in the bin, have a quick glance to 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 – 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!). Basically, always do the maths before placing your order.

  9. Check for student discounts

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

    McDonald's, for instance, offer a free cheeseburger, Mayo Chicken or McFlurry if you show your student card when you buy a meal (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 definitely better than paying full whack.

  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 just stick in the microwave or oven when you get home.

    The prices of these items are often much less than you'd pay for 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 £10, and it should be enough to serve two people. Posher than a takeaway, and probably cheaper too.

    And, if you're eager 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 can 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 – as long as you're in a fit enough state not to burn the house down!

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

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


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