Cheap takeaways: 9 ways to save money on takeaway food

A woman collecting her takeaway food from another woman

There are plenty of ways you can cut the cost of your favourite takeout. We've rounded up our best cheap takeaways tips and tricks to save you money this month. 

Whatever your takeaway of choice, getting a restaurant to bring ready-cooked dinner to your home is one of life's simple pleasures. But, being the luxury that they are, takeaways can end up costing a lot of money. And, with the recent rise in the cost of living, that's something we could all do without as concerns rise about how to save money. Research by Mintel suggests that the UK's takeaway habits are more entrenched than ever, with 30% more consumers now opting for a meal delivery each week. A survey by Statista showed that we spent an average of £641 per person on takeaway food last year, compared to £452 in 2019.

The revolution of food delivery services such as Deliveroo and UberEats has seen the costs of your takeaway rise. There's also the increasing price of ingredients, which means restaurants have to put up their prices in turn. An investigation by takeaway platform Foodhub also identified that Brexit has played a part in this price hike. But there is plenty you can do to enjoy your favourite takeaway foods at home on a budget, not least by making your own versions, which is also an excellent way to have a healthy takeaway option.

"One of my best hauls was between Christmas and New Year buying unsold Christmas food that needed to be cleared," says Vicky Saynor, Waste Warrior for East Hertfordshire council who educates schools and community groups on food waste reduction. "I bought four whole ducks for £10 ( originally £100) and I made our favourite crispy duck pancakes, buying the pancakes from a local Asian supermarket (£5 for 50). Everyone got to have as many pancakes as they wanted, and we saved money as it would be £15 for the same dish from a local restaurant – and we'd need two for a family of six."

takeaway with sushi, tempura prawns and hands holding chopsticks

Delivery charges and inflated prices can make ordering a takeaway a real wallet buster

Cheap takeaways: How to save money

1. Order directly from the restaurant - avoid delivery apps

An investigation by consumer experts Which? showed that ordering takeaways from food delivery apps was on average 23% – and, at its highest up to 44% – pricier than going directly to the restaurant. Deliveroo was the worst culprit costing an average of 31% more. While UberEats orders were an extra 25% and Just Eat orders were 7% more expensive. The most expensive order of those in the survey was a Deliveroo takeaway from a Mexican restaurant, which cost 44% more than ordering directly from the restaurant.

And, while many restaurants do offer their food at the same prices, there are plenty – particularly those of smaller, independent eateries that put their prices up on delivery sites (no doubt to compensate for the commission charges). We compared the prices of a local Thai restaurant and found that a green curry that costs £9.95 if ordered on their website was £12.90 on Deliveroo. This applied across the board – for example, salt and pepper squid that cost £7.50 on the website was £8.25, while a starter of pork skewers rose from £5.95 to £6.50. And this is before the £2.49 delivery cost.

2. Collect instead of getting it delivered

Cut the cost even further by choosing to collect the order yourself. Picking up your takeaway is often free of charge which means you'll be saving yourself a few extra pounds when it comes to treat night. The delivery fees on UberEats and Deliveroo are variable depending on your location.

When we looked a Thai restaurant just under a mile away from us was charging £2.49 on Deliveroo, while McDonald's a kilometer away was £2.79 for delivery on UberEats – you could get a cheeseburger and a large fries on your order for less than that.

3. Seek out voucher codes for the delivery giants

If you are going to use the big delivery apps (and let's face it, sometimes we just want the most convenient option), look out for special offer codes. The more you use the apps, the less you are likely to receive these directly. You're likely to be sent them to tempt you back if you've strayed away. So, if you're a regular user, mix it up between the different companies rather than always use the same service. If you're new, there are always offers to encourage you to sign up.

Don't just wait to be sent offers though, seek them out. At the time of writing, Voucher Codes had a 40% discount offer for Just Eat, for example, plus there was a free £5 voucher for Deliveroo for anyone who spent £50 in JD Sports. Meanwhile, Vouchercloud had a code for £20 off your first order when you sign up for Uber Eats. You can also find a range of restaurant and takeaway discount codes for the likes of Domino's, Pizza Hut and more, through our sister website MyVoucherCodes.

There are often 'refer a friend' offers too – at the time we looked, Deliveroo was giving £10 off your next four orders when a pal signs up.

rice, Indian dips and samosas

Adding accompaniments like rice and samosas will really bump up the cost of your takeout

4. Avoid drinks and desserts

Tempting as it might be, ordering drinks and desserts that you could easily pick up in a store is definitely best avoided. A 1.5 litre bottle of Pepsi is £4.50 from Taco Bell on Uber Eats – you can get pick one up for £1.75 in Morrisons. Meanwhile, a tub of Ben & Jerry's Cookie Dough ice cream is £5.99 from Pizza Hut, and, when we checked, was £3.50 from Asda. Just forward the plan a little so that you already have these in the house.

5. Buy supermarket sides instead

"We treat ourselves to takeaway curries every now and again, but we never buy drinks, and buy less rice than one per person. I buy naan bread from the supermarket and pop those in the oven for 5 mins when the takeaway arrives," says Waster Warrior, Vicky Saynor, who is a champion of saving money on takeaway foods thanks to her savvy shopping and cooking skills. "It really saves some money." Indeed, two full-sized plain naans cost £1 in Sainsbury's, whereas our local Indian takeaway charges £3.05 for just the one.

6. Focus on the main dish

There are so many ways to reduce the cost of your order, simply by the choices you make from the menu. Focus on the big event, so use your money on your main course of choice (while avoiding anything overly spendy – that grilled lobster isn't going to keep those costs down, after all), and think about things you could accompany it with that you already have at home.

Do you really need that side of boiled rice, when you could make it yourself? Are you actually hungry enough for all those starters? Boiled rice is £3.05 in our nearest takeaway, so add two of those too, let's say, a portion of onion bhajis (£3.55) and a king prawn puree (£7.05) and you've added the princely sum of £16.70 on to your bill.

7. Make your treat night on a weeknight

Because why should we wait until Friday? Cook at the weekends when you have more time for pottering around the kitchen, and give yourself a weeknight boost instead – you will save money to boot. Just Eat has Cheeky Tuesdays where many of its restaurants offer 20% off. Or sign up to Meerkat Meals, which is rammed with special offers or 2 for 1 or 20% off from Sunday to Thursday. Or why not order at lunchtime to pep up your day a little? When we looked, Pizza Express had a £9.50 deal for a pizza wrap and a salad, available weekdays until 4pm.

600 calorie meals Prawn pad Thai

This homemade prawn pad Thai is delicious and super healthy

8. Cook a 'fakeaway' at home

Your own versions of classic takeaways can be just as good. Homemade takeaways are often tastier and better for you, plus you know exactly what you're eating. Sure, you have to do the cooking but, if you do a batch cook, you can freeze portions. That way you can simply defrost and reheat for the next takeaway night.

"My go-to dishes are classics like prawn pad Thai and chicken curry," says Vicky. "I buy a lot of yellow sticker items from the supermarket, like prawns, chicken breast, or thighs. Also veggies like onions, carrots, greens, and peppers and use those. I'll add frozen veg too; you get more for your money and it is regularly on offer in Tesco."

Cooking up all those tasty starters and side dishes at home is an option too. Make your own Chinese dumplings and crispy duck pancakes, or knock up a nutritious tarka dahl to go with your Indian feast. "We do our own pizzas. Making the dough is very simple, and cheap (flour, water, and yeast). Alternatively, you can buy pre-made dough. Mix a can of chopped tomatoes with herbs, then look in your fridge for toppings. We call them our fridge pizzas!" adds Vicky. Of course, you can pick up a decent pizza in supermarkets and stick it in the oven.

9. Choose a ready meal over a takeaway

Sometimes ready meals end up costing less than buying from a restaurant. For example, Pizza Express American Pepperoni is just £5 in Sainsbury's if making your own isn't your thing. That's at least £5 cheaper than ordering from Pizza Express. The supermarket ranges of ready meals are another money-saving option that can still satisfy your Thai, Indian or Chinese cravings. Or choose yourself a meal kit from your takeaway of choice. For example, Wagamamas do a katsu curry meal kit (£3.30 at Sainsbury's) so you can mimic their version at home for hardly any money.

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Lara Kilner
Food Writer

Lara Kilner is a writer and editor with two decades of experience in national newspapers, magazines, and websites. She writes about food, lifestyle, travel, health and wellness, and entertainment, and regularly interviews celebrities and people with interesting life stories and experiences. Her foodie content has included interviews with Jamie Oliver, Rick Stein, Queer Eye’s food expert Antoni Porowski, the Hairy Bikers, Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall, Raymond Blanc, Andi Oliver, Paul Hollywood, Prue Leith, and Nadiya Hussain.