How to Save Money on Your Food Budget in London

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Save money on your food budget for your next family vacation to London. These budget-friendly tips will help you dine in style at all the tastiest places.

Piles of fresh bread in a bakery in london.

Your plane tickets are purchased, your hotel or airBNB is rented, you’ve got your trip totally under control, don’t you?

Until you see the prices on food in London and have total sticker shock like I did.

What started as a budget-friendly trip can easily spiral out of control if you don’t have a plan for your dining purchases on the trip.

Thankfully, saving money on the food budget in London can be easy if you use just a few simple tricks.

Rent a Kitchen

The kitchen inside an AirBNB in London.

The most obvious way to save money on any family vacation is to stay at a rental with a kitchen like from an AirBNB.

Even if you never cook an actual meal in it, having your own kitchen gives you a refrigerator to store leftovers, a microwave to heat them up, and basic dishes to eat simple breakfasts at the start of the day.

You could bring my list of easy breakfasts for hotels along and find most of these items in a local London grocery store.

We stocked up on pastries for the morning, beverages for the whole family, and a bottle of wine for my husband and I in the evenings. This allowed us to skip one meal out a day and cut way back on the liquor portion of the nightly dinner bill.

Stock Up at the Grocery Store

Again, even if you never plan to cook on vacation (because I certainly don’t!), a visit to a grocery store in a foreign country is something you shouldn’t miss.

I could have spent a couple hours strolling the aisles at Marks & Spencer food!

Here are the items we picked up from M&S Food or Sainsbury’s on the first day or two of the trip:

  1. Breakfast Pastries: I found hot cross buns because it was Easter, but any morning pastry would work.
  2. Yogurt and Granola
  3. Butter
  4. Fresh Fruit
  5. Some British Snacks: Chips, fun cookies and candies, little treats we enjoyed all week long. We almost never ordered dessert in restaurants because we had these affordable goodies back at the AirBNB.
  6. Wine: For the evenings.

Plan One Quick Meal

The prices in London are very high for pretty much everything. Add in the exchange rate that doesn’t favor the American dollar and you’re going to face some sticker shock pretty quickly.

While we ate a quick breakfast back home before heading out for the day, that left two meals to cover.

It is smart to plan one fast and easy meal and then splurge a little more on the second meal.

There are many quick service style restaurants like Ole & Steen, Pret a Manger, and Wagamamas all around London. Use them for a quick sandwich or bite to eat.

Plan One Reserved Meal

Dining out is one of my very favorite things to do on vacation, so for our family having one really nice meal every day is crucial.

You can read the entire list of where to eat in London from our trip or you can plan your dining experiences around the delicious foods in London you don’t want to miss.

Order Family-Style

We generally spotted entrees in the range of £12 – 28 which is about $15 – 35 with the current exchange rate.

There were times where 2 or 3 of us were super hungry and the remaining 1 – 2 people were not.

We sometimes like to order 3 entrees for 4 people and then share the dishes amongst ourselves which helps to cut down on at least one entree.

Order Sides

A young girl orders green beans from The Ivy in London.

In addition to ordering family-style, we frequently would allow our younger daughter to order the bread basket and a veggie from the side dish menu. Sometimes she’d pick two different sides that in total were significantly cheaper than an entree.

There was always enough food to share and no one ever went hungry even when we sprinkled in these smaller plates.

Beware of Portions

The portions in London can vary widely. In some restaurants the entrees were a perfect amount and didn’t even come with any sides. Just a modest main meal that was satisfying all on its own.

In other cases, we ordered sides for every person where the portions were so large we totally could have shared just 2, as was the case during our fish and chips adventure.

A fried haddock sits on a bed of french fries.

In retrospect, asking our servers should have been something we did more of on the trip rather than guessing on our own. We just assumed that since we were in Europe, the portions everywhere would be modest but that is not always the case.

Remember This is Vacation

In the end, we spent a LOT more on our food budget than I originally intended but I’m a professional food blogger and travel writer so I wanted to sample as much as I could in the time we had.

Tasting and experiencing the local foods is my favorite part of going abroad, so the extra splurges were worth it to me.

Now that we’re home, we’ll just cut way back on our food budget for a few weeks and more than make up the difference. It can be so much easier to cut costs on your own home turf so that you can actually enjoy your time on vacation.

More London Tips

The photo collage shows piles of bread next to a plate of green beans.

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