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London Food on the Cheap

UNITED KINGDOM | Tuesday, 11 November 2014 | Views [1280]

London has recently been ranked as the most expensive city in the world (surpassing even Hong Kong), but that surely doesn't stop travelers from visiting or even moving to the city. Whether the draw is summer work, sightseeing, or history, almost 4.9 million people visited the city in the between July and September according to this article, making London also the most visited city in the world.

Most expensive and most visited make for a very ironic combination. As a newcomer to London, I can attest to the cost factor, especially for food and housing. But fortunately, a visit or even a longer stay need not melt your life savings. So for those on a budget or simply interested in eating on the cheap, here are tips my husband and I have for finding food that doesn't require the amputation of a limb.

Tips for Eating On the Cheap

1. Shop at the grocery

Do not underestimate this. Sure you are on vacation and it is fun to eat out and splurge. But frequently doing so here may end your vacation quite early. Thus far we have managed to live off of a budget of roughly 20-30 pounds a week for food simply by shopping at our local grocery (Asda, Tesco, or Lidl, depending on the day). We stick with main staples like rice and potatoes but include a lot of fresh fruit, veggies, and protein by buying what is on sale that day. Granted, you may not be able to cook. But even so, for roughly 4 pounds you can get a loaf of good multi-grain/seed bread, peanut butter and jelly. Enough to make picnic lunches for a week if needed. Your pockets will thank you.

2. Look for deals

I'm not talking the 9 pound meal deal signs that seem to be everywhere. I'm talking about Groupon, 2-for-1 offers and the like. If you are planning on eating out, search online for deals in the area and see if you can save a few quid. Check out the restaurant before you go, but in general we have had good luck with this approach.

3. Eat outside of the centre

Our apartment is near Wembley Arena, about a 30-minute tube ride from the city centre.  Lucky for us, since all the restaurants we have seen in the centre are ridiculously expensive. In our area, there are plenty of hole-in-the-wall cafe, bars, and burger joints where we can get food for relatively cheap if we don't want to cook. Some of the places look a bit seedy, but if plenty of locals are eating there, you probably can too. Besides, some of the best kept secrets are disguised as sketchy corner pubs. So travel outside of the tourist area and take a few chances.

4. Ask about discounts/concessions

Almost everywhere we have been so far has some sort of discount for students, even 15% off the bill at our favorite burger place next door. While it isn't huge, it can add up, and it makes our burger-splurge that much easier to swallow (literally). Some have discounts for teachers, veterans, seniors, so asking can't hurt.

A burger at our favorite place, Handmade Burger Company! Best of all, buy on get one for a pound!A burger at our favorite place, Handmade Burger Company! Best of all, buy on get one for a pound!

5. Don't drink at a pub, or a club, or out at all

No, it isn't food, but people lose a lot of money here. Yes, a beer, wine, or cocktail is enjoyable after a long day of walking in the city. No you don't have to pay so much for it. Grab a 6-pack at a nearby grocery and head to a park. Often you can get a 4-pack for the same price as one drink in a pub, so this is a quick and easy way to save money. Plus, the greenery and parks of London are spectacular and well worth a visit. Watch the sunset in Hyde park over a few ciders. Or better yet, find a couch surfing group or a meet up at someone's house and bring your own booze. The memories will be much more unique and you won't have a meltdown the next day when you look at your credit card summary.


So those are just some of the tips we have so far. Granted, we have only been living in London for a short while now, so we are not experts on the subject. Other locals may or may not agree on the tips we have offered, but they are just our personal opinion.

How do you save money on food in London? Have we missed something important? Share your personal cheap eats tips!


Tags: budget, cheap, city, food, london, travel

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