After #MealDealGate saw Sainsbury’s go stale, where now for the best value lunchtime meal deal?

#MealDealGate. The biggest social media storm since, uh, last week.

This week Sainsbury’s scandalised the internet by dramatically reducing the options available in its £3 lunchtime meal deal. Bye bye Taste the Difference sandwiches. Welcome to the mundane. Although, apparently, it’s actually a better deal and we’re all fools.

This is what Sainsbury’s is saying on its Twitter feed: “We’ve worked hard to make our range tastier. The Meal Deal is still around and better quality and value than ever.”

Now before this story gets staler than a chicken and sweetcorn sandwich with no mayo, I thought I’d jump on the #MealDealGate sandwich-wagon and do some highly necessary research.

The investigation

I figured it would be interesting to see which of the big players in the lunchtime meal-deal market offered the best range and value for money…

Obviously a supermarket lunch meal deal isn’t THAT MoneySaving, but I’m sure we’ve all had that time when we’ve left our sarnies in the fridge at home, or even more likely, we just couldn’t be bothered (sweariness removed) to prep lunch for the next day.

So MSE’s trusty Coupon Kid and I decided to head out to the closest meal-deal places to MSE Towers and find which ones really work out best value for money. Pretty consistently a meal deal consists of a ‘main’ (sandwich, salad or pasta), a ‘snack’ (crisps, fruit, cake or chocolate) and a drink (duh). Here’s what we found…

Battle of the meal deals

In case that video didn’t play for you, here’s a handy table summarising the results…

Which supermarket has the best value meal deal?
Supermarket Meal deal cost (1) Best value combo (2) Saving
Boots £3.79 (London & airports, £3.29 elsewhere) or less Triple Chicken Sandwich (£3.25) + Trek Peanut Power (£1.25) + Prur Liquid Nutrition (yes, that’s a drink, £2.49) = £6.99 £3.20
Co-op £3.25 or less Chicken Curry (£2.80) + Berry Mix (£1.50) + Savse Protein Punch Smoothie (£2.89) = £7.19 £3.94 (3)
M&S £4.50 or less Chicken & Bacon Pasta (£3.75) + Purely Watermelon (£1.65) + Orange Juice (£1.70) = £7.10 £2.60
Sainsbury’s £3 or less Chicken & Tomato Pasta (£2) + Salt & Vinegar Kettle Crisps (75p) + Innocent Smoothie (£1.95) = £4.70 £1.70
Tesco £3 or less Chicken wrap (£2.35) + Monster Munch Pickled Onion flavour (84p) + Red Bull energy drink (£1.66) = £4.85 £1.85
(1) Price may vary in some locations. (2) Based on availability at stores near MSE Towers. (3) £4.26 if you have an NUS card and get 10% discount.

All the above won’t charge you more than the sum cost of the products you choose if they total less than the ‘meal deal price’. But there’s a pretty clear winner on potential value. Drumroll please… for the Co-op’s huge potential saving of £3.94. I’m sure a lot of you didn’t even realise this chain of convenience stores had a lunchtime meal deal…

Moving on, here’s my view of the selection on offer in each store…


It’s no wonder Sainsbury’s has removed all signage advertising its meal deal as it’s clearly ashamed of its paltry offering. It’s a sad day when the most mouthwatering option is a chicken and sweetcorn sandwich. On the plus side, the lunchtime queue for the tills was much faster moving than usual…


Often claimed to be the king of meal deals (anecdotally) I guess it really depends on the store you visit. Our local had a limited (albeit tastier looking than Sainsbury’s) selection, with two of its fridges closed. It could have been the time of day we visited, though, as it did work out much better value for money. Plus, don’t forget you can get a £1 Boots meal deal every Monday if you have an O2 SIM card…


A surprising winner for me in terms of choice and value for money. With a huge range of sandwiches, salads, drinks and snacks I did wonder why the shop wasn’t busier. And if you have an NUS card, you can save 10% on your shopping, bringing the meal-deal price down to £2.93 or less. Bargain! (*Note from editors: this is not a Co-op advertorial.)


I guess it depends if you consider £4.50 to actually be a ‘deal’, but we thought we’d chuck this one in as the ‘posh’ option. Like Sainsbury’s, M&S keeps its most expensive sarnies, drinks and snacks out of the meal deal.


You could argue the only good thing about the Sainsbury’s meal deal is that it makes the Tesco one look good. To its credit the drink and snack selection is pretty decent. It’s just let down by a very beige choice of ‘mains’.

Don’t just take my word for it

Of course, I’m just one man, so to conclude this very scientific investigation I decided to survey my MSE  colleagues to see what they thought.

Of those who responded, 39% picked Sainsbury’s as ‘best value for money’ while 39% thought Boots had the ‘best range’ (the winners in each of these categories). When it came to overall favourite though there was a clear winner:

So there you have it. While the Co-op wins on actual potential value for money, Sainsbury’s still is perceived top value for money (before you ask “Who are these people?”, to their credit they may not have visited Sainsbury’s post #MealDealGate), while Boots offers the best range and is overall class favourite.

Sainsbury’s. It’s your move.