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If you don't have the time or inclination to bring food from home to work, lunchtime meal deals can offer a good way to budget as their set prices mean you know how much you'll spend each day. But which stores offer the best value for money, and what items do they include?
There have been several meal deal price rises in recent months. Tesco upped its meal deal for twice in 2022, with it now costing £3.90 for customers purchasing without a Clubcard. Morrisons' deal went up 50p in May 2022 after previously offering one of the cheapest meal deals.
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.
Here we've listed all the major lunchtime meal deals alphabetically. They all offer a main lunch item, drink and snack. The links take you to more details on the retailers' websites where available.
|Amazon Fresh||£3.50 or £5 for a main, snack and drink|
|Asda||£3 - £5. It's 3 for 2, so you get the cheapest item free|
|Boots||£3.60 with a Boots Advantage Card or £3.99 regionally|
£4.50 in London with a Boots Advantage Card or £4.99 in London stores and airports
|Co-op||£3.50 with a Co-op membership or £4|
|Greggs||£3.60 - but it doesn't include a snack|
Prices and details checked 10 February 2023.
The cheapest meal deal is offered by Tesco, but only if you have a Clubcard. Elsewhere, you can get a meal deal with Sainsbury's and Morrisons for £3.50.
Below, we explain each scheme in more detail.
Amazon Fresh stores, of which there are 18 in London and one in Sevenoaks, Kent, 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 has changed since we first wrote about it in March. You used to pay the price of the main and was given the option to add on a snack and drink for £1, however the deal has now been switched to a main, snack and drink for £3.50 or £5 - depending what main you pick.
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 £3.50 to £5 depending on which main you go for.
Do the prices differ regionally? No – all stores are currently in London, aside from one location in Sevenoaks, Kent.
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, Falafel and Chargrilled Veg Wrap, Falafel and Roasted Cauliflower salad, and Soy Glazed Mushroom and Mooli Slaw Smoky Black Rice Salad.
Can you save extra money? There are often deals running offering you £5 off your first shop - keep an eye on its social media for promotions.
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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 96 fresh options including sandwiches, 97 snacking options and 140 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).
You can make savings through Asda's Rewards customer loyalty programme. It has a promotion running at the moment which will add £2 into your reward 'cashpot' if you buy a food to go item three times (until 19 August).
Boots' meal deal allows you to choose a main, side and drink for £3.60. The exact items you can choose from will vary from store to store but in total over 450 items are included in the offer, meaning potential savings of up to £3.85, according to Boots.
The retailer told us the most popular combo is a chicken sandwich, Walkers Max Paprika Crisps and Innocent orange juice.
Cost: £3.99 or £3.60 with a Boots Advantage Card.
Do prices differ regionally? Yes, the deal costs £4.99 in London and airport stores, and if you have a Boots Advantage Card and shop in London you can get yours for £4.50.
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 (including when grabbing a meal deal). And if you work in London but live outside the capital, you could consider buying your meal deal before you get to work to get the cheaper non-London price, and even use your collected points to purchase your meal deal.
The Co-op offers lunch-hunters a main, side and drink for £4 and says that in total over 300 items are included in the deal. However, you can access a cheaper price with a Co-op membership, which you can sign up to for £1.
Cost: £4, or £3.50 if you have a Co-op membership.
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 called GRO. It also offers one gluten-free main, the gluten-free Egg Salad Sandwich.
Can you save extra money? Yes, if you're signed up to Co-op's membership scheme, 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 who are Totum card/app-holders (the new name for NUS extra) will get a 10% discount, as do Young Scot cardholders.
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Bakery chain Greggs has a few lunchtime meal deals, but most of them just include one lunch item and a hot or cold drink. We've listed the deals below:
Does the price differ regionally? Yes. Greggs told us prices start from £3.60 but could vary depending on the shop and location.
How does it cater for different diets? Customers can opt for one of Gregg's vegan bakes or plant-based and vegetarian sandwiches.
Can you save extra money? Most of the deals don't include a snack. The one option that does is a hot sandwich with wedges, but these prices start from £4.80 - more expensive than many supermarket deals.
However, if you have a smaller appetite or don't fancy a big lunch, the bake and drink offer is the cheapest option at £3.10.
Morrisons' upped the price of its meal deal by 50p in May, after previously offering one of the cheapest deals.
It includes a main meal, a drink and snack and is now priced at £3.50.
Morrisons said: 'For the first time in over two years, we have made the difficult decision to increase the price of our meal deal by £0.50. We remain committed to offering our customers great value and at £3.50 our meal deal still offers our customers a potential saving of £2.90 based on the price of individual items.'
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 meal deal covers more than 500 different products, including (in selected stores) hot food, Costa Coffee and breakfast options such as fresh bakery items and hash browns.
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.
The Tesco meal deal costs £3.90 to shoppers without a Clubcard, and £3.40 to customers with one – this is up from £3.50 and £3 respectively.
However, Tesco has said more than 75% of meal deals are purchased by customers with a Clubcard membership.
Cost: £3.90 or £3.40 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 Falafel Houmous Wrap and Vegan All-Day Breakfast sandwich. It has gluten-free and Halal options too.
Can you save extra money? Yes, with a Clubcard.
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 91p extra, paying £3.40 in total.
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.
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 cheaper than all the offers in our table.
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.
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.
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 (£3.40) five times a week, that will set you back around £68 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?:
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This article was first published on 21 March 2022 and has been updated multiple times since then. It was last updated on 13 February 2023.