Even before the pandemic kept us locked in our homes for weeks at a time, the delivery and takeout business was booming thanks to apps that make it super easy to see restaurant offerings, select a few, and get them delivered in under an hour.
The convenience is astronomical, but so is the cost. If you’ve been thinking of deleting Uber Eats and Seamless from your phone in order to keep your habits in check, don’t do it just yet. There are a few ways you can save money and still consume delicious restaurant eats.
Put on your walking shoes
There are a lot of costs associated with food delivery that have nothing to do with the price of your Friday morning bagel or Saturday night pizza. You’re paying taxes and a delivery fee along with your tip.
The tip and the delivery fee are both associated with how much effort it takes a third party to physically bring you your order. They travel long distances, sometimes through snow or rain, so always—always—tip if you order delivery.
You can, however, avoid the delivery fee if you just go get the food yourself. It’s still plenty convenient to see all the menu items in one place, take your sweet time picking one, and pay with the touch of a button. The only slightly inconvenient part of this method is the walking, but it’s cost-effective and healthy, so it’s not all bad. Sure, spring for delivery when you’re sick or if it’s nasty outside, but if it’s a nice night and you’re in good health, take a little walk! Most delivery apps allow you to toggle between delivery and pick-up options easily, so just remember to tap the right button.
Keep push notifications turned on
Push notifications can be annoying, but they can also be helpful. There’s a reason they exist, and when it comes to delivery and takeout apps, that reason is partially to save you money.
Uber Eats and Postmates are notorious for their frequent, limited-time discounts, which they advertise through emails and push alerts. Make sure your notifications for those apps are turned on and always give a real email address, even if it’s your designated spam email, so you never miss a coupon.
You can earn single-use coupons on most of the apps by giving out your referral code to your friends, but of course, it’s 2021 and the majority of your friends already have all the apps, too. It still doesn’t hurt to try.
Take advantage of perks
Some apps, like Uber Eats, have different kinds of rewards programs and ever-changing specials. You’ll see them right away when you open your apps, typically, and they can range from restaurant-specific discounts once you meet a certain cost threshold or money off for choosing takeout over delivery.
In some cases, you might have to spend money to save money. For $9.99 per month on Grubhub, for instance, you can enroll in Grubhub+, which entitles you to unlimited free delivery when you order more than $12 worth of food at a time, plus other membership perks specific to certain restaurants. If you order once a week or more, the cost of that membership is less than the cost you might expect to pay for a your delivery fees, which can range from $0.50 to several dollars.
Use money-saving apps
There are a few apps out there designed not only to get you fed, but to save you money. Take Too Good to Go, for instance: This app is taking on the problem of food waste by partnering with restaurants to get you the unsold food that would otherwise be tossed out. You place an order for a “surprise bag” with one of the participating restaurants and are given a set time to go pick up your food, which, depending on the restaurant, could be anything from a whole meal to a big bag of bagels or pastries. You don’t get to pick what you receive, but you do get a lot of bang for your buck, since most of the surprise bags cost between $4 and $6. Plus, you get to feel good about stopping goods from being wasted, which the app’s creators say happens to ⅓ of the world’s food.
If you want to save money and still get delivery, there’s Club Feast, which is kind of like a bulk-buying system for food. You buy your credits upfront in bulk, then spend them throughout the week on marked-down meals.
Laura Phillips, Club Feast’s head of growth and marketing, explained the concept like this: “Restaurant delivery that only costs $6.99 per dish. Schedule ahead and spend less for the same meals you would get on any other platform. Note, there is a delivery fee ranging from $0.49 -$2.49 and a $1 small order fee if only ordering one dish.”
The program never charges restaurants any fees and doesn’t take commission from them to be included, which is noteworthy because many of these third-party apps do take a cut of each restaurant’s earnings. Phillips said the company wants to help restaurants make more money and help users save some.
“With pre-planning and our more affordable price, you don’t have to feel guilty about ordering out. It’s our mission to change the way people eat by democratizing access to the luxury of food delivery, while allowing your favorite local restaurants to thrive,” she said. “Food delivery is becoming a staple of modern life. I see its use as a daily service expanding everywhere as the nature of work as well as the way we eat continues to evolve.”
Food apps got really big, really fast—and took your money and restaurants’ full earnings—with them. With new disruptors like these, you can feel slightly better about the whole thing.
The final option might not save you much money in the long run, but can save you a little guilt: Try to order from restaurants directly whenever possible to save them the money they pay to the big-name apps.