• Plastic sandwich box sales up 36% and sandwich bag sales up 25% at Sainsbury’s as DIY lunches increase in popularity
  • Trend reflects increasing tendency to check and use what’s in the fridge to make financial and environmental savings
  • National poll shows collapse in household expenditure on the £5.2 billion takeaway sector, with 52% of us cutting back or no longer buying them
British consumers are embracing the art of the “bring-your-own” (BYO) lunch culture in an effort to save money during the working week.
Sales of plastic sandwich boxes at Sainsbury’s are up 36% year on year and sandwich bag sales are up 25%.
The figures are released as evidence suggests that we are turning to our fridges and store cupboards in an effort to economise and reduce unnecessary food waste, and this certainly is not a bad idea.

Alison Austin, Environmental Manager at Sainsbury’s, said: “The cost of a homemade sandwich, using ingredients from the fridge and bread from the breadbin, is substantially lower than the prices at sandwich chains. Buying the ingredients on the weekend and planning ahead or using leftovers can save a huge amount.”

It is about time that people came to realize that they are being ripped off by the sandwich chains and sandwich bars and cafes. The cost of £1.90 and more for a simple Cheese & Onion Sandwich to me is not just excessive; it is daylight robbery.

A block of Basics Full Flavor Cheddar at Sainsbury's costs about £3.00 from which I can make an awful lot of cheese sandwiches. Add to that the cost of two slices of good quality bread and a couple of slices of onion and each sandwich would be probably less than 50pence, if that.

Britons who buy their lunch each day are likely to be spending as much or more as they would if they made their own lunches for a fortnight. For less than the cost of a £2.95 sandwich and £1 fruit juice, it is possible to buy enough food to make sandwiches for two for a week, as the following table shows. If leftover ingredients are used, the price effectively falls to zero.

According to the most recent available figures from the British Sandwich Association the market for commercial sandwiches in the UK is worth nearly £5 billion, with approximately 2.7 billion sandwiches bought outside the home each year.

YouGov research for Sainsbury’s also reveals that the Friday and Saturday night call to the takeaway is becoming increasingly rare as the DIY trend extends to other eating habits as the credit crunch bites. Instead, Britons are using what they have, supplemented with bought ingredients to make “fakeaways” - homemade curry, Chinese or pizza.

More than half (52%) of those polled for Sainsbury’s said that they had reduced significantly the amount that they spend on takeaway food or stopped entirely since the beginning of the year. More than a third (37%) have cut back their expenditure and 15 percent said that they have stopped buying takeaways altogether. The most recent ONS statistics revealed that Britain spends nearly £100 million per week on takeaways.

28% said that they now routinely use leftover meat and vegetables in curries and 26% use leftover vegetables in Chinese-style stir fries. Around one in four (22%) is more likely to make good use of leftovers as a direct result of the credit crunch and 20% said that they now throw away less food.

Sales of key ‘fakeaway’ ingredients are up at Sainsbury’s this year as households try to emulate Indian, Chinese and Italian restaurant tastes for a fraction of the cost. Vindaloo curry paste sales are up 33% year on year, plain poppadums are up 47%, light coconut milk is up 14% and Peshwari naans are up 16%.

Alison Austin added: “Fakeaways are here to stay. They’re created for a fraction of the cost of traditional takeaways, you know what’s going into them and they use up food that would otherwise be chucked out and sent to landfill.”

Alison continued: “A staggering third of all the food we buy is thrown out, according to recent research, so what tastier way is there to tackle an environmental problem and save a lot of money? Leftover vegetables and meat are ideal ingredients for curries, and pizzas lend themselves to a huge range of toppings. Cooking fakeaways at home is great fun and is the perfect way to love your leftovers.”

Better value Indian and Chinese ready meals, which were recently praised for their relatively low fat content by Which?, are also growing in popularity, reflecting the savings they offer over conventional takeaways. Sales of Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference pizzas are up 513% year on year.

Sainsbury’s five step guide to the fakeaway habit:
  1. Curries by their nature are a mixture of meat and vegetables. This makes bowls of leftovers from the fridge a perfect source for curry ingredients.
  2. Many leftovers are perfect for pizza toppings – leftover cheese, tomatoes, peppers, onions and mushrooms are perfect toppings, as are most meats. Always keep a box of ready-made pizza bases in the freezer.
  3. Most vegetables are also great ingredients for a Chinese-style stir fry.
  4. Keep a jar of stir fry sauce and pasta sauce in your cupboard for easy suppers on the go.
  5. Freeze any leftover tomato-based pasta sauce – it makes a great pizza topping.
by and Michael Smith (Veshengro), July 2008