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21 Mar 2022

Which shops offer the best value for money on lunchtime meal deals?

The cheapest store we looked at offers a main meal, snack and drink for £3
A woman selecting a lunchtime meal deal

If you don't have the time or inclination to bring food from home, lunchtime meal deals offer a good way to budget as you know how much you'll spend each day. But which stores offer the best value for money and what products do they include?

If you bought the cheapest meal deal every working day, you'd end up saving around £60 a month compared with buying a meal deal from the priciest shop we looked at. And buying from shops and cafes that don't offer a meal deal will usually cost you more still.

Here, Which? rounds up the cost of some of the UK's most popular lunchtime meal deals and gives tips on saving money on your lunch.

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Where can you get the cheapest lunch?

Here we've listed all the major lunchtime meal deals alphabetically. They all offer a main lunch item, drink and snack. Links take you to more details on the retailers' websites where available.

ShopCost
Amazon Fresh (London only)You pay for the main item and then it's £1 extra for a drink and snack
AsdaIt's 3 for 2, so you get the cheapest item free
Boots£3.59 regionally or £4.19 in selected London stores and airports
Co-op£3.75
Morrisons£3
Sainsbury's£3.50
Tesco£3.50 or £3 with Clubcard

Prices and details checked 11 March 2022.

The cheapest meal deal on offer is from Morrisons at £3. You can also access the £3 Tesco meal deal if you have a Clubcard, but if not it'll set you back an extra 50p.

We can't definitively say which store is priciest, as the amount you pay at Asda and Amazon Fresh will vary depending on what you choose. If you chose the cheapest options at these two stores then Co-op would come out as the priciest option, at £3.75 - but given that your main item at Amazon Fresh could be a fancy sushi pack at £5, this could end up being a lot pricier.

Below, we explain each scheme in more detail.

Amazon Fresh

Amazon Fresh stores, of which there are 17 in London, are till-less and use 'Just Walk Out' technology to track what you've picked up while shopping. Your Amazon account is then billed after you leave the store.

Amazon's 'Food for Now' meal deal offer is slightly different from most of its competitors, in that it doesn't charge one set price: you pay for your main item, which could cost anything from around £2 to £5, then add an extra £1 for a drink and side.

On the plus side, this offers flexibility, but on the downside it makes precise budgeting trickier.

Amazon told us it has a 'large variety' of food on offer including breakfast bowls, sandwiches, salads, wraps and sushi.

Meal deal cost: could vary from under £3 to over £6.

Do the prices differ regionally? No - all stores are in London currently.

How does it cater for different diets? Amazon told us it has several vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options, including a No Duck Hoisin wrap, No Hog Roast and Apple sauce sandwich.

Can you save extra money? First-time shoppers at the Kensington and Southwark stores can get £10 off their shop.

Asda

At Asda, which offers three items for the price of two, most sandwiches cost around £2.25 while a drink costs anything between £1 and £2.50 - so the snack will usually be the lowest-priced item that you get for free.

Asda told us there were 153 fresh options, 104 snacking options and 151 drinks to choose from.

Cost: could vary from £3 to £5.

Do prices differ regionally? No.

How does it cater for different diets? Its website has vegetarian options and a vegan option. We've asked Asda if they can confirm the full range with us.

Can you save extra money? To max out on value for money, you could just buy three sandwiches rather than one main, one side and a drink.

For example, if you bought three chicken and bacon sandwiches at £2.25 each, it would only cost you £4.50 and you'd save £2.25. To make up for the lost snack, you could break a second pack open and have three sandwiches one day and another three the next (provided that doesn't take you past the sarnies' use-by date).

Boots

Boots' meal deal allows you to choose a main, side and drink for £3.59. The exact items you can choose from will vary from store to store but in total around 500 items are included in the offer, meaning potential savings of up to £4.91, according to Boots.

According to the retailer, the most popular combo is a chicken sandwich, Walkers Max Paprika Crisps and Innocent orange juice.

Cost: £3.59.

Do prices differ regionally? The meal deal costs £4.19 in London and in airports.

How does it cater for different diets? Over half of Boots' mains and snacks are suitable for either vegetarians, vegans or those on a gluten-free diet.

Can you save extra money? You can use your Boots loyalty card to collect points on your spending.

If you work in London but live outside, you could consider buying your meal deal before you get to work to get the cheaper non-London price.

Co-op

The Co-op offers lunch-hunters a main, side and drink for £3.75 and says that in total over 300 items are included in the deal.

Cost: £3.75.

Do prices differ regionally? No, but they may vary in petrol forecourt stores.

How does it cater for different diets? Co-op offers a fully vegan meal deal with five options to choose from at any one time, including sandwiches, wraps, salads and snacks from its plant-based range, GRO. It offers one gluten-free main, the GF Egg Salad Sandwich.

Can you save extra money? Yes, if you're signed up to Co-op unlock, which applies 2p in every £1 spent on own-branded products to your personal membership wallet. Co-op also donates a further 2p for every £1 spent to community causes.

Students can get 10% off.

Morrisons

Morrisons' lunch deal is one of the cheapest, offering a main meal, drink and snack for £3. The supermarket says that in total over 180 items are covered by the meal deal.

Cost: £3.

Do prices differ regionally? No.

How does it cater for different diets? Morrisons says it offers two gluten-free mains, one gluten-free snack, two vegan mains and two vegan snacks. It also offers a range of vegetarian options.

Can you save extra money? You can download the MyMorrisons app for personalised rewards, but there's no guarantee you'll get money off meal deal items.

Sainsbury's

Sainsbury's meal deal covers over 500 different products, including (in selected stores) hot food, Costa Coffee and breakfast options such as fresh bakery items and hash browns.

Cost: £3.50.

Does the price differ regionally? No.

How does it cater for different diets? The meal deal includes gluten-free and vegan products from Sainsbury's Plant Pioneers range.

Can you save extra money? You can scan your Nectar card to earn points when shopping at Sainsbury's and could use your points to pay for your meal deal if you wish.

Tesco

Tesco recently put up the price of its lunchtime meal deal from £3 to £3.50, but it still offers the original £3 price to Clubcard members.

It currently offers hot drinks from Costa Coffee machines as part of the deal, but this is set to end in June.

Cost: £3.50 or £3 with a Clubcard.

Does the price differ regionally? No.

How does it cater to different diets? Tesco told us it offers plant-based options including vegan takes on classics such as the Plant Chef Vegan BLT and Vegan All-Day Breakfast sandwich. It also has gluten-free and Halal options.

Can you save extra money? Yes, with a Clubcard.

Top tips for making the most of your meal deal

Save items for later

If you're only popping into the shop because you fancy a bottle of water or a smoothie, think about upgrading to the meal deal and save items for later in the week (as long as you're sure you'll definitely use them).

For example, Innocent coconut water - which is usually priced at £2.49 - is included in the Tesco meal deal. If you're a Clubcard holder, you could add a main and snack for just 51p extra, paying £3 in total.

Check loyalty apps

Many shops have loyalty apps which might offer deals on different days of the week, or allow you to collect points which can be exchanged for a free item later.

For example, for every nine items within a single category that you buy from Greggs, you get the next one free if you use the app.

Greggs also offers a meal deal priced at £3.45 for a sandwich and hot or cold drink but no snack.

Look beyond meal deals

While not all shops offer a lunchtime meal deal, some sell cheaper food overall.

For example, Aldi doesn't offer a meal deal but sells egg and cress sandwiches for 91p, popcorn for 55p and milkshakes for 59p - meaning you could create your own 'meal deal' for £2.13, which is 87p cheaper than a Morrisons meal deal.

And if you know what time of day your local store tends to reduce its sandwiches, it's worth stocking up as they can be eaten until their use-by date later in the week.

Use a cashback or reward credit card

You can earn money back or loyalty points if you buy your lunch with a cashback or reward credit card.

Just remember to pay back what you owe in full each month to avoid cashback gains being wiped out by interest charges. It's also worth checking your credit card or debit card provider's app to see if it offers any specific cashback deals at the retailer you're buying from.

For example, American Express is currently offering 10% cashback if you spend over £30 at Morrisons, while Halifax is offering 5% cashback up to a maximum payback of £10.

Set yourself a monthly budget

The good thing about lunchtime meal deals is most have a set price, so it makes it easy to budget for the month.

If you decide to get the cheapest meal deal (£3) five times a week, that will set you back around £60 a month.

Of course, bringing your own food from home will usually work out cheaper, but this isn't always an option.

If you're trying to bring down your household costs, check out the following free advice from Which?: