Published Originally: March 26, 2019
by Kelley Chilton, ATP Student Ambassador
Studying at: Durham University
Updated: July 15, 2019
When I first told family and friends I was moving to the UK, I expected everything to be significantly more expensive, however I quickly learned this wasn’t necessarily the case with groceries! This was excited to be able to continue my healthy eating habits without breaking my bank, As someone who enjoys finding high quality produce and meats, I was shocked not only at their prices, but majority of their meats and dairy items are grass fed and free range, and their produce is fresh and supplied from local farmers when items are in season.
One of the biggest mistakes I made when I first moved to the UK was I bought too many groceries and majority of my food went bad and was having to throw things out. I had to adjust to the frequency in which I visited the grocery shop in the UK due to two main factors. First, it is common for most student households to not have full sized refrigerators and freezers. Therefore, you don’t have the ability to stock up and store lots of meats and produce. Secondly, since the produce and meats are fresh; they will spoil in anywhere from 2-6 days depending on the item. My boyfriend and I were spending on average £75 a week on groceries. As it originally my seem like an inconvenience, you have to keep in mind you are spending less money for higher quality, nutritious fresh food. For example, a dozen free range eggs in the states will cost you around $3.50 which is £2.66. I have found a pack of 15 locally sourced free range cage free brown eggs in the UK for £1.79 which is $2.50 in the states. CRAZY!!
When you first begin to grocery shop in the Uk, I would recommend checking out a variety of grocery stores in your area as you will quickly learn certain items are cheaper and/or of higher quality in specific shops. I encourage you to find your local farmers markets to support your local vendors and know you are getting the freshest food available. My favorite local produce shop in Durham, England is Robinson’s Greengrocers. Below I have listed out the places I commonly visit and the items I get at the best prices.
Tesco and Sainsbury
These are common large scale grocery stores similar to Vons, Safeway or Ralphs. They are likely to have what you need, but depending on location they will drastically increase the prices for convenience. This is also where you will find your American brands or similar ones, but the prices were higher than in the states. For example, a box of Lucky Charms is $7!! You will find at these big grocery stores, their produce have an extremely short shelf life and don’t taste very fresh. I personally like to buy selected meats (chicken, steak, lunch meat), fish (cod and salmon) and most dry shelf items at these shops. Always great to check their discount end caps for meal steals.
Lidl and Aldi
These are German supermarkets and have less selection than the large grocery stores, similar to Trader Joe’s, but their overall prices are drastically lower and you will find a larger variety of German and Austrian choices. If you have access to these shops, they can be a steal and significantly cheaper. I highly recommend getting dry shelf items, household products and needs as well as you meats and eggs.
Robinson’s Greengrocers (your local farmers market)
The local farmers market is always my first choice for produce. You are always guaranteed to get produce that is fresh and in season. Additionally, they provide a large variety of international vegetables, some that I have never even heard of. Since the transportation from picking time to selling time is much shorter than the large grocers, the food has a much longer shelf life. Cost is similar if not cheaper than the big shops.
In an average week, I have been able to get down my grocery costs to about £40 a week for my boyfriend and myself. With the few suggestions I have included you can significantly bring down your weekly costs on groceries in the UK and hey, you can always use those savings to go on an awesome trip or go out for a nice dinner!
If you would like to find out more about studying in the UK, please fill out the “Contact an Advisor” form on this page.
If you would like to learn more about food or cutting costs in the UK, check out these related blogs!