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Budget Eating in London

I am headed to England in 2 days. for the 1st 1/2 of our trip we will be in a cottage in Bath. We are cooking our meals. Then for the 2nd 1/2 in London. We have brought breakfast foods for the hotel, but trying to save money on Lunch/Dinner. Any suggestions. Looking thru travel books and seeing meals average $20US dollars, that isn't going to help us.

Posted by
495 posts

$20 is about £12 which is fairly reasonable for a restaurant meal but you can eat cheaper. I'll give approx prices in pounds as it's easier for me and leave the converting to you.

Ideas:

-Fast food. One of the set meals at McDonalds/BK/KFC run from about £3.80-£5. A portion of Fish and Chips will probably run about £4.50 to take-away. The Pizza Hut lunchtime pizza buffet (all you can eat) is £5.49, add a Pepsi (with refills) and you're still under £7.

-Pubs. I cringe every time someone asks about the "best pub for fish'n'chips" but pubs do fill a valuable niche for cheap, simple food as long as you don't expect gourmet. I'd expect to see dishes from £6 upwards. Wetherspoons are a large, cheap chain of pubs. Not necessarily a recommendation but they do have a web presence if you want an idea of what to expect.

-Pre-packaged sandwiches. These get surprisingly good reviews from Americans on the interwebs. The ubiquitous lunch of the busy worker they are available from specialist outlets (Pret a Manger et al.,) supermarkets (Tesco, Sainsbury's,) convenience stores (Spar, Londis,) chemists (Boots,) the list goes on... Expect somewhere between £2-£5 per sandwich.

Posted by
1251 posts

Leila - Try Pret-a-Manger thier sandwiches were fresh, good, and inexpensive. Also try stopping by Sainsbury or Tesco's. These were the places we used this past summer, our bill for a family of 4 was between £8-12.

Posted by
3419 posts

Leila- If you eat a good breakfast, you can stop at one of street stands or grocery stores for a light snack- fruit, salad, etc. Then enjoy a good supper. Pubs are good as are smaller resturants. There are the typical "American" and American style fast food places- KFC, McDonalds, Pizza Hut, etc. But be open to trying the "native" food (my hubby lives for UK fish and chips and I love the "pies"- sheppherds, steak and ale...etc. Also,we love to eat Chinese and Italian when we are in London -we find it superior to what we have here.

Posted by
1014 posts

All of the above are really good suggestions for cheap meals. You can also buy bread, fruit, cheese and drinks at a grocery store and eat lunch or early dinner in a park or back in hotel. Just do not buy more than you can eat. Most hotels in Europe have no refrigerator. Also, Wetherspoons are a large, cheap chain of pubs is correct and better than that, they have 2fer meals for lunch and early dinner. Alcohol in Europe is really expensive. A beer can be 3 or 4 pounds, which ='s 4.50 to 6.00 per pint. You can buy bottled/canned beer and drink in room to save a bit. However, I would go to a pub at least once or twice for the ambience. They are a unique part of British culture and should be sampled.

Posted by
875 posts

I agree that the premade sandwiches are a great deal for lunch and/or dinner. I was amazed at the variety and the quality! We also liked Pizza Express -- 2 Caesar salads, 1 large pizza and wine for 23 pounds.

Posted by
29 posts

Oh my goodness you guys are awesome! So quick with the replies. On other forums, my question was sitting there for days. Thank you so much. All of your help has lessened my anxiety. Now I have another question, but will post it in another topic.

Posted by
356 posts

If you are willing to eat a little outside the restaurant's most busy period you can get great set meals and pre-theatre menus. It's not too difficult to find a two-course meal for under £10.

Posted by
780 posts

Tesco Express (mini versions of the larger grocery chain) sell premade simple sandwiches for 2 GBP each. That, combined with 2 for 1 sodas, and 2 for 2 GBP mix and match fruit cups, gave my husband and I a simple and fun picnic lunch.

Posted by
29 posts

Wow! Linda thanks! I have been printing this page so we can take it with us. With your great responses. I am going to wait until the day I leave to print out the page. Every response has been so useful. When I get back I will tell you where we ate and what.

Posted by
3580 posts

In London I eat at: a Chinese buffet near Leicester Sq, Indian deli-type places with small meal deals and soup-of-the-day, the Salvation Army cafe near St. Paul's, anyplace that has freshly baked pasties (PASS-tees). Good sandwiches can be found in small grocery stores as well as in the other places mentioned. In Victoria Station the top level has a food court. I especially like the jacket (baked) potatoes with choice of topping. And, then, there is always St. Martins-in-the-Fields church for snacks, tea, lunch, sandwiches, etc. Pret-a-Manger has various nutritious snacks. They have a nut and dried-fruit bar that I like. To save money on food, stay away from the expensive coffee houses. Drinks lots of java at breakfast, then have tea in your room later in the day. I like to buy some biscuite (cookies) to have with tea "at home."

Posted by
345 posts

I'm all about shopping at M&S Simply Food, Sainsbury's, and Tesco. And being that they're about high turnover, you can frequently get items marked down at the end of the day. The two of us often ate (too much) for 5-10 pounds, and that was the total grocery budget for two for the day.

I personally wouldn't bring breakfast, as you can get items cheaply and plentifully, and it's part of the fun.

What I wouldn't give for a couple of salads from M&S, a cloudy lemonade, and a strawberry trifle. Mmm.

Posted by
29 posts

What is a cloudy lemondade?

I also got a coupon for Toby Carvery for a 5pd mean w/a ice cream sundae-Thanks Linda

Posted by
29 posts

Ember Inn has a 2 meal for 7pd offer. There is one 2 miles from our hotel. Does anyone know if English Pubs allow take-home?

Posted by
44 posts

Menus for restaurants are posted outside the restaurants-you can check those and find a restaurant that might be in your budget. I had an excellent Indian dinner for 8.95 (sorry I don't know how to make the pund sign). Other nights I went to Pret a Manger (3-4 pounds) or got sandwiches from Sainsburys for about 1.40 each, and I also stocked up on my water for the next day-they had small bottles for 33p.

Posted by
3419 posts

I agree that you don't need to bring breakfast items. You can get granola bars- same brands as here- if you want them- pop tarts, too. But I'd suggest fresh muffins, crossiants, etc. You can buy them the evening before as you head in for the night, along with some OJ boxes. I always take extra gallon and quart ziplock bags, some twist ties, plastic cutlery and a few napkins (then I grab a few extra when we eat at McDonald's,etc.) My husband always has an evening snack that we get at Tescos or Sainsburys or M&S- usually muffins, nuts and some kind of chips. We get extra muffins for the next morning. Most of the train stations also have "Whistlestop" quick groceries- they have good fresh bread products etc. and all of the stores mentioned carry indv. portion cheeses, sodas, juice, as well as instant raman noodle type foods. But allow yourself to enjoy pub grub at least a few times.

Posted by
1035 posts

Everyone has already listed the places where we ate in London, but I wanted to post a question. Is it just me, or does the food at the McDonalds in England taste better? My wife thinks I'm crazy, but the buns are well toasted and the food is warm. Not to sound too much like a crank, but it reminds me of how McDonalds tasted when I was a kid.

Posted by
29 posts

Hmm. Maybe it is the tourist in me, but I always check out McDonalds everywhere I go. Went to PEI a couple of years ago and they had lobster sandwiches. Japan had this chocolate dessert that I couldn't stop eating. So I will definitely see what differant things they have on the menu.

Posted by
172 posts

Try the Wagamama Noodle Bar chain of restaurants. Cheap, filling, and most important, delicious! They are all over the place.

Posted by
643 posts

We ate at McDonald's in Knightsbridge and it tasted exactly as it does at home. And I regretted eating there about a couple hours later when all the chemicals were still sloshing around in me. Never skip a pub meal, I always say. Nothing that a good bangers and mash washed down with a pint of ale can't do for ya.

Posted by
78 posts

Nando's is a restaurant chain that serves delicious flame-grilled Portuguese chicken, and more. When my daughter studied in London last year, we visited her twice. Each time we enjoyed dinner together at the Nando's on Gloucester Road. Her college friends especially loved the fact that they offered unlimited refills on soft drinks, a rarity in London.

Go to:
http://www.nandos.co.uk/index.cfm

Bon Voyage!
:)

Posted by
10344 posts

"Bon Voyage!"

Okay okay--I think we've done our job on this thread, we can move on. Welcome back would be more appropriate than bon voyage. (As Robin just said) Leila said in the original post she was departing Sept 16.

Never hurts to take the 20 seconds to skim the OP and other replies.

Posted by
780 posts

I agree with John about Pasties. Cheap, portable, delicious. Alot of Pasty shops in and around the tube stations - West Cornwall Pasty shop is my favorite one.

McDonalds does taste the same except for the breakfast Mcmuffins - they use real bacon and not canadian bacon (called Gammon in Britain)

Posted by
1590 posts

When we visit London, we buy food at The Marks and Spencer "Simply Food" stores (there are lots of them in central London) and picnic in our hotel room or in the park. (Remove evidence of hotel room picnics afterwards, since they aren't allowed in many hotels.) We ate at the Sherlock Holmes Pub one night. It was a fun spot and our dinner was very reasonable.

Posted by
345 posts

I found this summer that there are consistently markdowns in grocery stores at the end of the day. Food seems to have shorter dates than we do here, and with higher turnover, if you're too late in the evening the shelves can feel somewhat barren. Any markdowns I bought were still fresh, and often fresher than what I would pay regular price for at home.

I was thinking yesterday about why shopping hasn't been satisfying since I came home... part of it was just foods I was missing, but a large part was missing the daily shopping and walking home my dinner/breakfast/snacks. Buying a cartload and driving home is nowhere near as satisfying.

Posted by
349 posts

I have heard of some stores ( tesco ) closing out there sandwhichs at half price at 5 or 6 pm might be worth asking .

Posted by
29 posts

I am back. So busy here at work. Thank you guys for all of your help.

We did really well in saving money eating. Pret A Manger is my new favorite place and I just found out they have a whole bunch of them in New York City. I hope to be there next month. I might stock up on some of the sweets.

We ate 2 nights at a pub. Found a great 7pd deal that included a drink. I didn't have Fish & Chips, but had a great Steak Pie. There was a McD's right near our hotel and I had a chicken sandwhich there that we don't have in the states.

Posted by
349 posts

do you like Indian food it is one of the better food deals. When they ask mild or hot? Hot does mean HOT!!

Posted by
837 posts

I would definitely second the Marks and Spencer recommendation. They have sandwiches, salads, prepackaged meals to heat (if you have a micro), lots of good stuff for breakfast, packaged salads, and good buys on wine. Also a good array of desserts.