Thursday, November 3, 2011

This Little Piggy Went To Market

I've been working on a new and updated post on the cost of living in London, and I thought that it might be worth expanding on one of the points that will always come up in a financial diary: the supermarket receipt.

Unless you live on take-away (known as "take-out" in the United States) or are lucky enough to have all of your meals expensed, you're going to visit the grocery store regularly.  As mentioned before, I'd say that the hierarchy of mid-range grocery stores is, from most to least expensive: Waitrose, Sainsbury's,  and then Tesco.  However, I've been splitting my time recently between the latter two and I haven't been noticing a great difference in price (if any) so maybe the wind is changing.  There are, of course, other options, such as Whole Foods on the top end and Morrisons on the bottom; both are viable choices that I'm not as familiar with.  Where you shop will shape your receipt just as much as as will who/what you're shopping for.  Generally I either eat on my own or with Jon - all evidence aside, I don't often throw dinner parties for six - but I do double or even triple my recipes when cooking for one so that I can have leftovers for later meals.  Plus, I'm trying very hard to bring a packed lunch to work every day, and have been cutting down on how often I eat out.

I thought that a glimpse of a recent haul from Sainsbury's might enlighten you further regarding how much it costs to live in London.  After all, I can tell you that I spent £29.17 on a week's shop, but for all you know I only bought tinned tuna and frozen pizza - or only smoked salmon and caviar!  As you'll see, I do try to be a bit balanced...

Quaker Oats So Simple (pk 10) £1.46
Grated Granada Padano Cheese (125g) £1.85
Grated Granada Padano Cheese (125g) £1.85
Pre-Cooked King Prawns (175g) £2.99
Breadcrumbs (113g) £0.75
Smoked Diced Bacon (250g) £1.99
Lean Steak Mince (500g) £3.33
Turkey Breast Mince (500g) £3.33
Diced Chicken Breast (500g) £3.33
Wedge Somerset Brie £1.00
Pre-Cooked Quinoa (250g) £1.69
Oven-Ready Pepperoni Pizza £2.00
Oven-Ready Margharita Pizza £2.00
Crispbreads Crackers £1.16
Pesto (190g) £0.98
Double Cream (600ml) £1.90
Campo Viejo Rioja £6.29
Mild Olive Oil (1L) £3.24
Trottole Pasta (500g) £0.68
Eggs x6 £1.51
Fresh Spinach (260g) £1.00
Fresh Spinach (260g) £1.00
Frozen Garden Peas (907g) £1.40
Brussels Sprouts (240g) £0.59
Cherry Tomatoes (335g) £1.00
Cherry Tomatoes (335g) £1.00
Shredded Mature Cheddar (250g) £1.72
Chestnut Mushrooms (250g) £1.00
Chestnut Mushrooms (250g) £1.00
TOTAL £53.05

Stores have deals all the time, and I definitely take advantage of them.  For instance, the three items of meat/poultry above that I marked for £3.33 each were actually £4.00 each but fell under a 3-for-£10 thing.  The pizza was buy-one-get-one-free, though I marked them each as half of the cost of the more expensive one.  The bags of spinach were originally £1.50 each as were the two packs of cherry tomatoes but I got both pairs on 2-for-£2 and the brussels sprouts were reduced from £1.30 to £0.59 because they're about to go off.

There are things that will show up occasionally that aren't regular purchases; of course, I don't need to buy a liter of olive oil every week.  Similarly, the pizza is going straight into the freezer to be saved for those infrequent 2am post-night-out homecomings.  You also stock up on staples that won't be weekly purchases; I bought a big bag of onions the other week that was used in last night's Bolognese that didn't show up on this receipt.

I like to think I'm a smart shopper (although I ain't got nothin' on the ladies on Extreme Couponing) though naturally there will be things I could do to save more money on my groceries.  As that's not really the point of this post, though, I'll just sign off by saying that I hope this is useful to those of you who are researching life in London!


  1. Good post! People will be really interested in reading this. I did one awhile back about something similar (but not with so much detail) for families, asking people to share how much they spent--and I was really surprised by some of the replies!

    I think having a freezer helps but 'having a freezer' means something very different here than in the States as I'll bet you already know!

    When I first lived in London and I was living on a very tight budget we developed a lot of very inexpensive but tasty pasta and Stuff combinations--you would be amazed at how many things can go with pasta ;)

  2. I' m a graduating college sr here in the us. In looking st great schools in London to be closer to my English born and raised bf. your blog has been such a huge help and so much fun to read!

  3. ^that's what happens when you try to post a comment on your iphone. All misspellings aside. Your blog is great and so informative!

  4. You're a girl after my own heart, Betsy! I loved reading this as I fantasize about living there again one day...!

  5. Like this post. We realized- through trial and error- that Waitrose ends up being nominally more expensive for MOST of our shops but has better quality for meat. If we get ready made meals though, we get it from Sainsburys.

    Whole foods are good for when you are having a dinner party, but def. to expensive for everyday things.

    I agree with Michelloui- having a freezer makes all the difference! We don't have one now, but our last flat did and we spent far less on groceries then!

  6. You guys must have picked up on the fact that posting this made me nervous! Thanks for the affirmation :)


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