When it comes to working out how much you need to budget for food per month when living in London, it will, of course, be subjective depending on your living choices.
Do you like to eat out several times per week? Do you have expensive tastes for the best cut of meat or rare fish? Perhaps you’re a vegetarian, and because fruit and vegetables tend to be competitively priced in London, you may find it cheaper living here than at home (depending on where you come from).
If you’re a student, your food costs per month are likely to be far lower than, say, a business executive who eats out many times in a month.
With this in mind, let’s take a look at the average costs of food in London, and what you can expect to spend on a monthly basis. We’ll also include some tips that help you substantially lower your monthly expenses on food, simply by being a little savvy on where and when you spend your money.
Taking prices from real-time websites Numbeo and Expatistan (who update on a daily basis), we can determine average prices in London for popular groceries. In addition, we can see from figures given by the Money Advice Service that the average spend per month on food is around £235 per person.
This figure has been determined by the Office of National Statistics, and looks back at the nation’s household spend for 2013. We’re now in 2016, but this is the latest official data that’s available.
For instance, as of September 2015, 500 grams of local cheese costs £4.55 and ½ a kg of boneless chicken breast will set you back £4.17. A litre of whole fat milk is £0.87 and 2 litres of Coca Cola is £1.81. These are common purchases made by much of the population.
How to lower your grocery bill
- There are many ways to lower a monthly costs. One is to shop in the larger supermarkets, and to take advantage of the many deals on offer. Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Waitrose, Asda, and Morrison’s are the large chain stores. In addition to these deals, each offers a loyalty card that can provide ways of lowering your monthly shopping bill as well.
- There’s been a massive rise in popularity of discount grocery stores, such as Lidl and Aldi. In fact, such stores have “stolen” so much of the market percentage, the large stores mentioned above are now actively price matching them. Shopping in such stores can definitely help you see a reduction in monthly food costs – and the quality of the food sold is comparable to that which you’d purchase in the larger, perhaps more well-known, supermarket chain.
- Check out the discount shelf. All the big stores have one. They tend to be filled with fresh food that is coming up to its “sell by” date, meaning that meat products, dairy, and bread are often discounted. Sunday evening is a great time to pick up bargains such as these, and remember: many of these can be frozen for use at a later date.
- Drop down a brand level. You might always purchase the best-known brand of a certain product, but by changing to a supermarket’s own brand, you’ll certainly slash your shopping bill – and sometimes by far more than you’d expect.
- Purchase frozen fruit and vegetables because they cost far, far less than their fresh equivalent. For those of you who are rushed off your feet with work or study, having handy bags of these in the freezer is a great time saver too.
Tips for students (and indeed, everyone else!)
- Budget: Work out how much an average week’s spend on food is, and then stick to it. This way, you can shop once a week and have food ready at home for when you get in.
- Buy seasonal produce: Purchase fruit and vegetables that are in season, rather than buying food that needs to be imported, which are far more expensive.
- Make batches of food: This can not only save money, but time as well. Making a batch of food and freezing some portions for later use is a great way of doing this.
- Don’t buy food that quickly goes off: This is one of the biggest money wasters of all. A bit of planning will ensure that you can use every scrap of food that you purchase.
London is a wonderful place for eating out, with authentic food from pretty much any area of the world you care to think of. There are also some pretty good chain restaurants that provide good quality food at reasonable prices.
When it comes to a basic meal for two in a café or pub, you can expect to spend around £31 in total. For a slightly more expensive restaurant, including dessert and drinks, this will set you back on average around £64.
A meal at lunchtime in the business district of London is around £11 (for one), and a combo meal in McDonalds is around £5.46.
How to lower your restaurant bills
There are many ways to eat out for less in London. The first is to check out the many vouchers that are offered online. Websites such as Voucher Code, Groupon, and Money Saving Expert are all good places to find these codes.
Here you can find such deals as 2 for 1, free desserts, or meals for £10 in restaurants such as Ask Italian, Prezzo and Loch Fyne. Many of these companies have handy apps for your phone, meaning that if you make an impromptu visit to a restaurant, you can simply search to see if there are any current offers valid.
Another handy hint is to see if the company you work for has any ongoing deals. Such examples include the National Health Service, who has arrangements with many restaurants (and other retailers) to offer their staff discounts.
You’ll also find that many restaurants in and around London offer cut priced food at times when their footfall is low. This entices customers to fill seats at times such as before 18:00 in the evening, Sunday evenings, and even at lunchtimes on quiet days. It’s worth signing up to the loyalty clubs of any favourite restaurants to receive such offers straight to your inbox.