How to Save Money on Takeout

posted in: Shopping Tips

We’ve been spending a lot more time at home this past year, and that means lots of home-cooked meals and more takeout than usual. At my house, we cook a lot – or more accurately, my husband cooks!  Even though we love a home-cooked meal, sometimes it’s nice for someone else to do the work. Plus, ordering in is a great way to support the restaurants we love. The downside of takeout? The toll it takes on our wallets. Here are some ways you can save money the next time you order in:

General Savings Tips

  • Choose pick-up instead of delivery to avoid delivery fees
  • Order at lunchtime and save your meal for dinner. Lunch prices are lower at many restaurants.
  • If you qualify, look for status discounts like student, senior, teacher, and military discounts.

Stay in the know

  • Sign up for email alerts from your favorite restaurants to be the first to know about seasonal offerings, savings events, and special offers.
    • Pro Tip: Create an email address exclusively for your alerts and newsletters to keep the clutter out of your main account.
  • Follow your favorite restaurants on social media to learn about promos and special offers. For instance, on March 9, Subway posted a Buy One, Get One ½ off offer on Instagram!
  • Download the apps of your go-to restaurants. Right now, you can get a free spicy 10-piece chicken nugget from Wendy’s when you download the app.
  • Sign up for restaurant loyalty programs to earn points towards free food & drinks. Most chains have one, and some of your local restaurants might too! Some examples:
    • At Carrabba’s, receive 50% off every 4th visit when you become a Dine Rewards member.
    • Get the Chik-Fil-A app to earn points with every purchase and a treat on your birthday (usually free food). You’ll earn more points per dollar when you move up through the tiers.
  • With Chipotle Rewards, earn 10 points per eligible $1 spent. You get a free entree when you hit 1250 points, a birthday gift, and they have great ways to earn more, like random extra point days and bonus points for trying something new.

Ways to save with some of the big players in the meal delivery game

  • With any meal delivery app that’s new to you, look for first-time user bonuses, free offers, and bonuses for referring friends. Here are some of the available offers:
  • Uber Eats: Get $25 off your first order with code US25WELCOME.
    • Check out the “Deals” section. Some restaurants offer promotional deals for customers who spend a certain amount, like “Spend $25, Save $5.” 
    • In the “Rewards” section, you can find loyalty rewards, like a $10 reward for spending a certain amount with one restaurant. 
  • Pro Tip: these offers tend to have expiration dates. 
  • Go to “Invite Friends” for a unique code that you can share with friends and on social media. When someone uses your code, they get $20 off a $25+ order, and you get $10 off a $25+ order.
  • DoorDash: When you sign up, you get 30 days of $0 delivery on orders over $10 AND get 50 percent off (up to $20 off) your first two orders with code US50OFF2. 
    • Check the “Offers” tab. Filter these further by offer type (delivery fee or discount) and by star rating.
    • Share your unique link (found in your account options) and get $5 in credits when someone signs up and places their first order over $10. Your friend gets $5 off too. 
    • Pro tip: DoorDash not in your area? See if Caviar is available. It’s owned by DoorDash, so a DashPass works there. 
  • GrubHub: Get Free Delivery on your first order of $15+
    • Check the “Perks” tab for cash value offers, discounts, and free delivery promotions at local and chain restaurants.
  • Pro tip: Use available filters, like filtering out delivery fees and filtering restaurants by price, high ratings,  and delivery fees.

If you order takeout frequently, consider a delivery pass program. 

  • Uber Eats Eats Pass: The 1st month is free, and every additional month is $9.99. Delivery is free and you earn 5 percent off when you spend $15+. You’ll get exclusive perks and offers for members, like no “busy area” fee when you spend at least $15.
  • DoorDash DashPass: You get a 1-month free trial, after which you pay $9.99 per month. You also save $4-5 on every order over $12. 
  • GrubHub GrubHub+: Your first month is free and every additional month is $9.99. You get free delivery on orders of $12 or more. 
  • Pro tip: Before joining, check your credit cards: American Express, Green, Gold, and Platinum card members can receive a complimentary 12-month subscription to the UberEats Pass. The Chase Sapphire Card, which offers 12 months of complimentary DoorDash DashPass.

Go discount hunting

  • Always look for cashback offers and promo codes for restaurants and meal delivery services with sites like or the Dosh app. Browse the site or add the free extension to your browser, which will automatically search for and apply promo codes. 
    • At the time of this writing, you can find promo codes on CouponCabin for 40% off your order at Papa John’s, and 20 percent off any iHOP purchase.
    • In the Dosh app, you can earn 5 percent cash back at local restaurants, including Bella Notte, Big Bowls Little Plates, and Napoli Pizza.
  • Check Groupon and LivingSocial for discounts on restaurant gift cards and promotional offers at local restaurants. At the time of this writing, Groupon is offering an extra 20 percent on local restaurant deals when you use the promo code SAVE.
  • Check for discounted certificates with local restaurants. You could find savings like a $25 gift certificate for only $10!
  • Buy a discount gift card at a site like At the time of this writing, you can get up to $10 cash back on a Darden’s gift card, which you can use at Cheddar’s, Olive Garden, Longhorn Steakhouse, and more, 1 percent cashback on an UberEats gift card, and more. 

Let your wallet do the work

  • Pay with a credit card that offers cashback and rewards on restaurant purchases like the American Express Gold, which offers 4 percent back on food. Other good cards include the Marvel Mastercard, Chase Freedom Flex, or Capital One SavorOne. 
    • Make sure to pay it off right away so the savings aren’t negated by interest!

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How to save money on takeout

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Trae Bodge is an accomplished lifestyle journalist and TV commentator who has specialized in smart shopping, personal finance, and retail for more than a decade. She has appeared on TV over 1,000 times; including Today Show, GMA3, NBC Nightly News, Inside Edition, and network affiliates nationwide. She has been named a Top Voice in Retail by LinkedIn, and her expert commentary has appeared in Forbes,, Kiplinger, Yahoo Finance, and numerous others.