Eating on a budget in London

Eating out in London can be expensive, and most people can't eat in fancy restaurants daily. So here are some tips for saving money when eating in London.
Menu of Street Pizza by Gordon Ramsay
Menu of Street Pizza by Gordon Ramsay (from October 2022)

Choosing a self-catering hotel/apartment and cooking your own meals

One way to save money is by choosing a self-catering hotel room or an apartment. Some hotels have rooms that come with a kitchen, meaning you can cook your own meals instead of eating out every time. This option can save you a lot of money, especially if you stay for an extended period.

Additionally, you can buy groceries at a supermarket instead of dining out in restaurants, which tends to be more cost-effective. Finally, by cooking your own meals, you can eat whenever you want and avoid spending money on costly restaurant food just because you’re hungry at an inconvenient time. Also, buying affordable ready-made meals from any supermarket is a good alternative when you can access cooking facilities or a microwave.

Look for meal deals

For a snack or a light lunch, you can find special meal deals at supermarkets that include a sandwich, a fruit or crisps, and a soft drink for a low cost, typically around £3-4. This is a popular option among Londoners. Additionally, supermarkets offer various pre-made food options and all the ingredients you need to make your own sandwiches.

Look for lunchtime specials

Many London restaurants and fast food chains offer meal deals and discounts, especially during lunchtime. Check out restaurants near your location and their menus to see their deals, or visit websites like HotUKDeals, Timeout.com or VoucherCodes for the latest deals. Or subscribe to their newsletter for updates on the latest deals.

Refilling your water bottle

In London, there are several options for refilling your water bottle. There are drinking water fountains in various locations, including parks and other public spaces. Many shops and cafes in London offer free tap water refills. Look for the “Refill” logo in shop windows or ask staff if they provide this service.

Water refill stations are typically located in high foot traffic areas. You can find these stations using the Refill app, which shows the locations of refill stations across the city.

Staying hydrated is essential, especially during hot weather or when walking around London on a warm day. You can stay hydrated and reduce plastic waste by refilling your water bottle rather than buying bottled water.

Eat during off-peak hours

Many restaurants offer cheaper options during off-peak hours, such as between lunch and dinner. You can also check out restaurants in less popular areas for lower prices.

Shop at street markets

London has many local markets where you can buy fresh produce at affordable prices. London is known for its street food scene, and you can find affordable and delicious food from vendors all over the city. You can check out food markets like Borough Market, Camden Market, Brick Lane Market or Leather Lane for a good selection of various types of food.

Go bottomless

You can enjoy food and drinks in London without spending too much using available bottomless brunch and drink offers. Many restaurants and cafes in London offer bottomless brunch, which includes unlimited food and sometimes drinks for a set price. Some of these even include Prosecco, although for this option, the price usually goes up to around £30 per person. This can still be a great way to enjoy a leisurely brunch with friends while keeping the cost down. Another popular option is bottomless pizza, offered by several restaurants in London.

Most bottomless offers come with time limits, so make sure you know the time restrictions before you book. Some places may also have limits on the types of drinks or food that are included.

You should also plan ahead, as bottomless offers can be popular, so it is best to book early to ensure you get a table. You can also check out websites like OpenTable or TheFork for deals on bottomless brunch.

Keep an eye out for restaurant soft launches

If you want to try out new restaurants before they officially open to the public, look for their “soft launch” period. This is when they test their menu, kitchen, and staff, often offering up to a 50% discount to participating customers. You can find these offers on websites like softlaunchlondon.com and hot-dinners.com.

Take advantage of food apps

Downloading apps can be a great way to eat for cheap in London and can help you save money on meals. Too Good To Go is an app that allows you to purchase meals from restaurants and cafes that would otherwise go to waste at a discounted price. You can browse offers in your area and buy meals for pickup.

VoucherCodes is an app that provides voucher codes for discounts for many things, including restaurants and cafes in London. You can browse offers by location or restaurant and redeem them directly from the app.

Other ways to find discounts

In addition to the voucher apps, there are other ways to find discounts for eating in London. One way is to follow the social media pages of restaurants and cafes, where they sometimes post exclusive offers. This works if you know where you want to eat and are looking for a good deal at that specific place. Signing up for newsletters is another good way to catch the latest offers.

When you are at a restaurant or going to one, signing up for a loyalty program can be a way to get offers or earn points for discounts on meals, such as getting every 10th coffee for free.