Saturday, February 22, 2014

Eating on a Budget: London


While I normally have a food plan at school, in London I am on my own when it comes to food money and budgeting. My mother is putting money in my account every once in a while, but I want to keep on a strict budget for food as to not spend a lot. My max budget for food and entertainment is $2000 because my normal food plan costs about that much. This equates to about 80 pounds a week. So, I want to spend the least amount I can on food, but I also need my meals to be simple, because I am often tired and cannot be bothered to cook a complicated meal, and I also don’t want to have many ingredients  because they raise costs and I cannot often eat off of it before it goes off.  I also have limited tools.
My current meals consist of ready meals and a simple pasta dinner. I can already tell that my fruit intake is down, so I’m trying to eat fruits like apples and bananas for snacks and drink juice.
My ready meals consist of the chilled microwavable meals that both Sainsbury’s and Tesco sell. Tesco’s are about 95 pence and Sainsbury’s are about 75 pence but appear to be a bit smaller and they have less variety.
The varieties I have tried so far are the Shepherd’s Pies (very good!), banger and mash (not very good; the sausages are half filler), mac and cheese (good), and spaghetti Bolognese (good). I have also just bought chicken curry and rice and creamy chicken and rice but have not eaten them yet. These meals are about 400 grams and are a good size, but if I’m really hungry I’ll make a vegetable (frozen brussel sprouts or peas) to go with them.
The pasta meal I like to make is super simple and delicious. To make it I use a small bowl full of farfalle pasta (a 500 gram bag is like 95 pence and is a quite large bag) and boil until cooked. At the same time I cook frozen brussel sprouts (1 pound for a kilogram aka very large bag) in some water until tender. I then sauté the sprouts and cut them in half in a bit of butter. I then add some butter to the pasta and mix them together with salt, pepper, and parmesan (something like 75 pence for a small shaker of grated parmesan).
Other cheap choices it to have eggs and toast or soups.
If I use this logic and pattern I can eat two good meals a day for under 15 pounds a week. For an extra few pounds I can also afford tea, bread, and jam for breakfast. I understand that this is not a grand or really feasible way to eat your meals for months at a time, but I find it workable for short bursts with the occasional treats of drinks and eating out. Also, if you are a fan of sweets like me, Tesco brand biscuits (cookies) are good and cheap (45 pence for a decent sized sleeve/package). I find very little to no difference between Tesco and the name brand biscuits.
For where to shop I recommend Tesco’s or Sainsbury’s; they are the cheaper stores (many foods for under a pound and many value sales and offers).These stores may be cheap, but they are good quality, surprisingly do. The small one (express and local versions) they aren’t that great, but the big stores have super nice bakeries, fish mongers and the like. I also heard that ASDA is a cheap food store, but I haven’t been to one.  Waitrose is another common local store, but from what I can see it’s a bit more expensive.

While eating out and buying certain foods like meats can be very expensive in London, it is not impossible to eat decently on a very tight budget. 

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