Eating cheaply in the UK


While I know this topic isn’t terribly exciting, it is the reality of this bit of ridiculousness that I have decided to embark upon. While I get to experience meeting new people, going to museums and basically just roaming about soaking in the culture and life that is the U.K., there is also the day to day mundanity of life I must attend to. And it can be a bit scary on the financial end of things. London ain’t cheap. Especially since the pound is worth more than the American dollar. (Although the exchange rate became a bit better after Brexit. Not that I’m pleased with Brexit, but I can’t help the fact that my money increased slightly in value) To put it simply, it costs me $1.30 to “buy” one British pound. This is one bit of my journey that while not very glamorous, is nonetheless an important aspect.(At least to me, and its my blog. So there. )

Since I jumped into this with limited financial resources, I have to be very judicious with my food budget. I’ve only paid to eat out about 5 times in the past two months, and three of those times was when I was staying in a hostel in Kensington without access to a kitchen and ended up at McDonalds. A value meal costs £4.49. Good old McDonalds…between that and the free continental breakfast at the hostel, I was able to fill my belly.

All of the other places I have stayed have had kitchens, so I have been able to buy food and cook my meals. (For those of you in the UK, much of this next bit you obviously know. Bear with me, or just hop on down to the next post. I wont be insulted.) There are two options for food shopping…a local shop, or a chain grocery store. Sainsbury’s is the chain that so far has been the closest to most of my house sits, with an occasional foray into Tesco’s or The Co-Op if I am nearby. I must admit, I find a trip to a new grocery store to feel like a “mini adventure”. There are so many little things that are so different from stores at home. For example, eggs in the US are in the refrigerated section, whereas here they are not, and seem to be placed willy nilly. I spend 10 minutes roaming around only to find them on the end of an aisle on the bottom shelves underneath the ramen noodles. The chain stores are best for meat and pre-packaged items(and wine), while I have had great luck at local shops finding inexpensive fruit and veg. Depending on what part of London you are in, many of the local shops have outside stalls, selling bowls of various fruits and vegetables for only £1 each. For example, a “bowl’ of tomatoes would contain about 8-10 small salad tomatoes. I admit, we aren’t talking heirlooms here, but sliced in half and thrown into the frying pan briefly with a slice of bacon(£2 for 8 slices), they are rather tasty. Add a fried egg(£1.20 for 6), and a tangerine also purchased from a £1 bowl, a cup of coffee(£2.30 for a bag of ground) and there is breakfast! Same breakfast every single day. It is very similar to what I used to eat at home, except the bacon is not American bacon, (which is called “streaky bacon” over here), it is called “back bacon”, and is more like a small slice of ham. And very yummy.

If I have lunch, is almost always a few slices of luncheon meat(salami or prosciutto which you can get in £1 packs), crisps(potato chips, £1-2 per bag) and another tangerine.

Dinner is either the above (especially if I had to forgo lunch due to excursions), or pasta and sauce. A jar of pasta sauce is .90p,with a bag of fusilli costing about the same. I lucked out yesterday and was able to buy on sale a pack of three garlic baguettes for only £1!

The only other thing I buy is wine, and I can usually find a fairly decent bottle of a Malbec or Italian red for under £6. Here in East Dulwich, I’ve found a bottle of Malbec called ‘Chukkers” in a local shop called “Barry’s Food Store for £4.50.

So, there you have it. I spend approximately £20-£40 per week on food, which comes to around $25-$50. While no one would consider my meals “gourmet’, they fill the belly and allow me to save my money for all the other essentials of life on the road.