Thursday, June 18, 2015

What's For Dinner?

Living in London is expensive.  Like super expensive.  I've already mentioned that our flat is $1000 per week, and today I ran out of the £55 that was on my pass for the bus, train, and Tube.  That means in ten days it has cost me $85 just to get around.

Now, no one would ever use the word frugal to describe Josh and me, but while we're here, we do have to find ways to economize.  One of those ways is by sharing meals when we eat out. Last night, we ate at a place called Tap on the Line at the Kew Gardens Tube stop.  They let Kinley and Knox each order a meal off of the kids' menu for £7.50 including drink and dessert.  (Kinley wasn't insulted since one if her favorite dishes, gnocchi, was only available on the kids' menu.). Josh and I shared a fish and chips for £13.50, bringing our total bill to just over $40.  That's about the cheapest we can eat out without doing fast food.

Our $40 lunch at Tap on the Lone.  Notice the plate that Josh and I are sharing.  It's definitely enough for two.

That's one reason we try to cook as often as we can.  But here's an observation : no one who lives in the city seems to shop for more than one meal at a time.  Our refrigerator is larger than dorm-sized but nowhere close to American-sized, so we can't store too much.  Even the checkout areas at the grocery store don't have space to rest more than one bag of groceries while you check out, and everyone looks super annoyed with you if you have more than about three things.  I've never seen more than two chicken breasts in a package at the grocery store, and the ready-to-eat individual servings of gourmet foods take up at least 60% of the store itself.

Which brings me to our our best tip for eating cheap in London - stalking the grocery store clearance areas at about 6:30 or 7:00 at night.  At about that time each evening, Tesco, Sainsbury's, and Marks & Spencer mark down sandwiches, salads, produce, and even cook-and-serve gourmet entrees for quick sale.  We've scored whole chickens for £2.80 instead of £4.50, cut up carrot sticks with dip for £0.15, and chicken wraps for £0.35.  You never know what's going to be there.  Josh once almost got caught in a stampede of Londoners trying to grab the best mark down deals for dinner!

So that's how we decide what we're having for dinner each night.  The night we got the whole chicken, I roasted it and served it with roasted potatoes, carrots, and onions.  One night we had a hodgepodge of sausage rolls, a steak and ale pie (which came in its own ceramic ramekin for baking!), and salads - all marked down but still yummy!

Tonight, Marks & Spencer had marked down pork meatballs from £2.50 to £1.25.  
So I used some canned tomatoes left in our flat by the last tenants to make a tomato-rosemary-cream sauce to serve with the meatballs and some pasta.  For about £7 (once we bought the pasta, some bread, the cream, and some Parmesan), we had a great dinner!

Tomorrow night will be Piri Piri Chicken nachos.  I think it's supposed to be filling for pita, but we thought we'd make it more Mexican-ish by putting it over tortilla chips and topping it with cheese.  Maybe Josh will make his guacamole, too, if avocados aren't too expensive.

And the meal after that?  Well, it depends on what we find in the clearance aisle.


  1. What fun! Knowing about the clearance items almost makes a game out of it.

    1. It is! And then trying to decide what to do with things like clearanced out pork belly (it was actually quite delicious) is even more of a game!

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