Dining out - keeping to budget in UK

May 31st, 2007, 10:33 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Feb 2007
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Honestly, in the U.S. when on holiday we're often at a cabin or camping; we end up doing most of our own cooking and eat out little (due to cost). Never occurred to me, until now, that we would be eating out for nearly two weeks. It is what it is.

I think I'm worrying about this too much. I'm sure we can find something light and small for dinner if we prefer to not sit down to a big meal occassionally. I'd also be surprised if some kids in the UK are not also equally fussy eaters!

Well...I've increased our budget for food...which is stretching us; but really no choice when the flights and all are already booked.

Thanks for all of the feedback!
nelcarp is offline  
May 31st, 2007, 10:35 PM
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rickmav....typing while you were. My wife and I love good food. It will be a challenge to not splurge. If children's selections are often pasta..or pasta is on the menu...my kids will be fine.
nelcarp is offline  
May 31st, 2007, 10:44 PM
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The other thing nelcarp is that the pubs always have a soup of the day, and it is served with a roll/bun. They are usually very good, although pureed, so less chunky than North Americans expect. The other thing to know is that the English love to picnic. If you have a backpack or buy a basket when you are there (you can always donate it to a charity shop before you come back), you can get great ingredients from local markets, bakeries, Tesco, etc. And in England and Scotland, there's always a great place to pull over for an al fresco lunch. And most of the stately homes have an area where you can spread out a blanket and picnic. And the cheese in England is superb - I like the west country cheddars the best.
rickmav is offline  
May 31st, 2007, 10:52 PM
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And there is always the savior of the budget eater -- the Jacket Potato Many pubs and cafes will have huge baked potatoes w/ what may at first seem like strange toppings but they will grow on you.

Listen to rickmav - very good advice there.

It would be best if you NEVER set foot inside a Little Chef.

As for salads - they will be fine - but not what you are probably used to. For instance "Chicken salad" will be a bed of lettuce w/ some sort of garnish and a portion of roast chicken (like a 1/4 hen)
janisj is offline  
May 31st, 2007, 11:07 PM
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There are some other options you might want to consider:

The Indian Vegetarian Bhel Poori House at 92 Chapel Market (near Angel tube) offers all-you-can-eat Indian vegan food for less than 4 pounds per person. As I have posted before, it's not the very best Indian food ever, but it's pretty good.

Pizza Hut (like the one near Piccadilly Circus) offers all-you-can-eat pizza + salad for less than 6 pounds per person. This is not my thing, but actually just for the fresh vegetables it's not a bad deal.

Cheese and bread from the supermarket, and surprisingly good chocolate, are not that expensive.

Buy your drinks from the supermarket.

Although we haven't tried the London branches, Maoz Falafel is a very good deal, and vegetarian.

I realize one problem with some of these options is that they are Middle Eastern and Indian, but hopefully your girls can adjust. Another thing to keep in mind is that Italian delis can provide excellent value.

Don't despair - last year in Edinburgh my daughter and I got several light meals out of 10 GBP of groceries.
WillTravel is offline  
Jun 1st, 2007, 12:31 AM
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Another cheap Indian place with good vegetarian curries as well as meat ones is the Indian YMCA on Fitzroy Square. You can get a meal there for around 4 GBP a head.

I don't think Wagamama is expensive - you can eat a big bowl of filling noodles or rice for around 10 GBP each. It's the drinks that push up the bill!

I would tend to avoid the Little Chefs unless desperate. And avoid motorway service stations at all costs, they are incredibly expensive. Best to go to the next junction and find a pub or village with a small grocery store. You can easily put together a picnic of savoury pastries (Ginsters is a good range) or sandwiches, tomatoes, cheese, etc. I would consider buying (or packing) a knife and small plastic chopping board and then you can even make your own sandwiches en route. Much nicer and cheaper than the plastic wrapped ones on sale!
julia_t is offline  
Jun 1st, 2007, 01:20 AM
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What did people think of the prices in the Wheatsheaf that Blightyboy posted earlier? 3 years ago I travelled UK, and dined nightly in pubs in London, Ely, Bakewell, Buxton, Shrewsbury, Bath, Kingsbridge, Christchurch, and Horley. Only London prices were comparable with the Wheatsheaf. Is this a fair indicator of how prices have risen in 3 years, or is the Wheatsheaf slightly above the median price range? (As an aside, I also occasionally dined in restaurants and they were much much more expensive!)
twoflower is offline  
Jun 1st, 2007, 01:29 AM
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Please, do not go to Little Chef.
It used to be a cheap and cheerful chain where you could make a pit-stop on a journey.
Nowadays, trust me, the food is inedible,

For cheap reasonably priced meals, I would go ethnic.
There are one or two reasonably priced Italian chains.
Indian restaurants, of course offer a big choice for vegetarians.
MissPrism is offline  
Jun 1st, 2007, 01:40 AM
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The menu for the Wheatsheaf is at the upper end for a pub meal - for example a burger is £9 and scampi £10! I would consider this to be quite expensive for a pub and therefore the food should be very good. I have found plenty of pubs in central London with much cheaper food. Most pubs will have the standard mains for around £5-10.

I agree - don't do Little Chef. In my opinion it is very bad value for money as the food is generally not good. You can get far better food for the same price in pubs.
optimystic is offline  
Jun 1st, 2007, 01:49 AM
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I think you'll be ok on that budget as you'll spend a lot less than $100 per day when you are catering for yourself. I think a family of 4, eating toast/cereal for breakfast, and a sandwich for lunch, and cooking for themselves in the evening could live very comfortably on £200 per week. Few of us spend that much on our weekly groceries, but of course, you won't have a storecupboard full of stuff so it'll be a bit more expensive for you.
nona1 is offline  
Jun 1st, 2007, 02:32 AM
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Just a word of warning about all these postings about pubs which will always have a homemade soup of the day etc. Not all pubs do food. Not all pubs which do food, do good food. Not all pubs allow children. You need to pick out ones which cater for all your needs.

Where in Scotland are you staying ?
caroline_edinburgh is offline  
Jun 1st, 2007, 02:37 AM
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P.S. Not all pubs which do food, do a special children's menu. P.P.S. A grilled cheese sandwich here is a toasted sandwich or toastie.
caroline_edinburgh is offline  
Jun 1st, 2007, 02:43 AM
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THis is the menu from the JD Wetherspoons chain (they are everywhere). While I wouldn't recommend Wetherspoons as a great night out, they are cheap and the food isn't bad. They are aslo very child friendly with nosmoking areas and a brats menu.

It will also give you an idea of prices at the lower end of the pub-lunch spectrum:

audere_est_facere is offline  
Jun 1st, 2007, 02:48 AM
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Ditto on the Wagamama suggestion. Several locations around London. Also check the posted menus outside any restaurants you come across.

Carrybean is offline  
Jun 1st, 2007, 03:05 AM
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Some restaurants, especially near the theatres, will do an early evening pre-theatre dinner that's often very good value. Look around for those. The Pizza Express chain in London is quite good. And Wagamama as mentioned.
Tulips is offline  
Jun 1st, 2007, 03:12 AM
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A very nice thing to do in summer is go to the Regents Park Open Air theatre, see A Midsummernight's Dream, and take a picknick. Or buy your food there; there's a barbeque, with burgers, salads and things like that, too.
Tulips is offline  
Jun 1st, 2007, 05:40 AM
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I have been living in London for two months. Please do not underestimate the quality of "fast" or "prepared" food here. The chains like EAT, Pret a Manger, etc. have great salads, sandwiches, soups, hot pies. And the groceries have excellent prepared food also (Waitrose, Tesco, Marks & Spencer (M&S has some called just "Simply Food"). It is not super cheap (for example salad or sandwich between 2.50 and 3.50 pounds) but I have been very impressed with the quality even compared to "home" (North side of Chicago)and would say they are a great value.
laurie_ann is offline  
Jun 1st, 2007, 05:59 AM
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Nelcarp, I think laurie-ann has some excellent advice. With fussy kids take them to a supermarket, M&S is great. They can see exacting what they're getting. The prepared food in the UK is so much better than the US. Salads, sandwiches and easy ready to cook meals will make you stay in a flat easy.
Eat in as much as possible and carry snacks or picnic lunches.
If you do eat out cut the cost by drinking water not sodas. Sodas are expensive in restaurants in Europe and there are no free refills.
I'm sure the girls will experiment with the desserts at least....
highflyer is offline  
Jun 1st, 2007, 08:08 AM
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In London, Pret a Manger and EAT have soups as well as hot sandwiches (hot wraps for the former, toasted paninis for the latter). They mostly cater to the lunch crowd, so won't be open in the evening.
Youcan find smaller version of food-only M&S called "Simply Food". They have takeaway ready-meals you can heat up in a microwave.
W9London is offline  
Jun 1st, 2007, 08:12 AM
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Maybe Wagamama is cheap by London standards - but I think the prices would be a shock for many North Americans. If Wagamama charges 10 pounds per serving, that will be 40 pounds for the family. At home, I can easily get a bowl of noodles, vegetables, and meat that is enough to serve two for less than the equivalent of 3 pounds.

I think there are Asian restaurants which would have similar food, but be a lot cheaper than Wagamama - I hope so anyway.
WillTravel is offline  

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