Last night I came home to an empty house and a bare cupboard. No leftovers in the fridge, nothing easy to whip up, just a cold house, a sad fridge and a couple of skinny carrots mouldering in the vegetable rack. It was Friday night too, and cold and rainy – all the makings of a takeaway trap were there. Now I love a good takeaway once in a while but I don’t want to do it often. As well as the cost there’s also the fact that takeaway meals tend to be low in nutrients and high high high in fat, but last night, frankly, I couldn’t face chopping onions and so I gave in, ordered baby spit roast chicken and aloo saag from my favourite Indian restaurant and suddenly the night seemed a whole lot warmer. (And there was a Barry Manilow extravaganza on BBC4 as well – heh heh, we all have our guilty pleasures). So, I reckon the money I spent on last night’s takeaway was worth it, but it’s not something I do often. The mark-up on takeaway food is outrageous. When I read this piece on how takeaway outlets snag a 900% profit on pizzas I resolved to try a bit harder to avoid the takeaway trap. (I also resolved to set up a pizza shop!!)
So, in true Skint-style, I’ve been thinking of ways to save money on takeaways whilst still enjoying that chicken. Here’s what I know:
- Make some of it at home – Last night, I made the rice while waiting for the mains to be delivered. It’s easy to cook rice in the thirty to forty minutes it takes for delivery – £3 saved with no real effort. Same applies to garlic bread when ordering pizza. Spread bread with some butter and a clove or two of crushed garlic then pop it in the oven for twenty minutes while waiting for my Four Seasons is no hassle at all.
- Check for deals before ordering – It’s often assumed that the restaurant deals at sites like moneysavingexpert only apply if you’re eating there. Actually though, many of the deals are available as takeaway, like these ones, currently on offer at big chains such as Pizza Express.
- Check delivery charges before ordering too – These can vary greatly between outlets and they rarely tell what they are, unless you ask. I find the nationwide justeat site not only handy to learn about new takeaways in my area but it also shows the delivery charges right up front so I know how much extra will be added onto the bill.
- Put some away for tomorrow – With Indian and Chinese takeaways the portions are often too big for a single meal. By dividing them in two straight away and keeping some for the next day you not only have another way to save on lunches but save yourself from pigging out on the takeaway in one go too.
- Have some tricks up your sleeve – For me, the trigger to phoning for a takeaway is a Mother Hubbard-style bare fridge. That’s why I like this recipe generator from RealSimple. It gives a great range of suggestions on what to do with one egg, a bread ender and an old onion, or your personal equivalent – and all the recipes are guaranteed to be ready in less than fifteen minutes flat.