York is a beautiful city, but it can be expensive if you don’t know where to shop for food. It is very touristy and where we live is very close to the city centre with shops and restaurants. Because of this there is a whole bunch of ready made food at our finger tips, but we have to walk a little more to the grocery deals. For me that is the fun! I love hunting deals and looking around for new and improved ideas.
When we first moved here in September, I took it upon myself to write down the prices of every little thing I bought, just to get an idea of what things cost all over. From there it was much easier to tell where to go and look for deals.
After about a month of shopping around and learning the lay of the land I decided that we could get away with spending around £6 ($9*) a day for Breakfast and Dinner for us both and lunch for me. John is often on campus for lunch and so he has his food allowance 😉 So basically, after a whole lot of shopping around I can feed us very very well for £42 ($63) a week. Here are a few of the tricks I have learned.
York Grocery Stores I frequent (there are many many more outside of the centre of town but they are quite far for walking with bags):
- Tesco: for your meat, fish, butter, milk, canned fruit, and sparkling lemonade
- Marks and Spencer: for harder to find ingredients, frozen veg, the occasional tasty splurge.
- Sainsbury: for snacks things (donuts, chocolate, and some candy), also good for flour, sugar, and milk. Best for fruit and veg.
- Poundland and Poundworld: eggs, pop, pasta, canned soups, household good (toilet paper, dish soap, sponges, etc).
- Meat is expensive! I would say if you are moving to York become a vegetarian and you will save loads. Either that, or learn to like chicken and the occasional salmon or ground chuck. The hardest part of eating on a budget here was finding affordable meat. It turns out that buying a whole chicken is the best way to go. Both Tesco and Sainsbury always have £4 chickens (Tesco’s chicken is always a few grams bigger). For 2 people this lasts for several meals. I roast it and then boil the bones for broth which I freeze.
- Casseroles are your friend. They might seem dull, but with all the veg here you can easily jazz a casserole up brilliantly. Casseroles allow you to make a larger amount of something and either freeze for later or eat all week. We do both.
- More cheese, please! While the meat is high, the dairy is low… AND exceptional. They have very happy cows here and once you have had double cream there is no going back. Eggs are also a steal. They are almost always free range and around £1 ($1.50) for 15 if you look carefully. Butter. is. wonderful. But cream cheese is very different as far as consistency goes, much more spreadable.
- Baking can be tricky. I have noticed that while many of the baking staples are readily available (flour, sugar, butter, eggs, salt, etc) there are just some things that are very hard to find, like canned pumpkin, and other things, like baking chocolate, that are quite expensive. It is nothing you cannot handle however, and it makes it an adventure to discover ways around these barriers.
- Lists and discipline. Lists are what really keep me on target for the week. Any time I think of something we need I write it down. Since I go to the grocery store or stores once a day we never really have to be without anything. The trick is to plan ahead. Monday usually has a slightly longer list of things needed since the weekend has happened so plan accordingly. Maybe pull some change from a change jar and go over the £6 mark or just splurge. I usually just go without something for a day and get it the next day. On days that you have very little to buy, stock up on something you will need. This may seem odd, because in the end you are spending the same amount over the whole week, BUT it is all about discipline of spending £6 or whatever your budget is, and not really the amount.
All this is to say, you can have a whole bunch of fun shopping and finding the best deals. I chose to break my budget down by day because I like waking up in the morning and deciding what I feel like cooking today. That is a luxury I have not had before. We have always shopped by the week in the past so this new (what feels like) freedom is really fun.
*All amounts are based on the current exchange rate of 1.5 US to UK