Live from London: Frugal eats
Stretch your vacation dollars with this simple travel tip.
I just had my supper courtesy of a Tesco market near Piccadilly Circus: a chunk of Double Gloucester cheese, pita bread, grape tomatoes, an apple, a few "custard cream biscuits" (not-too-sweet sandwich cookies) and a Diet Coke.
When I travel, I always carry some foods with me, but I also check to find grocery stores in the vicinity. Supping at the supermarket is a fine way to stretch your vacation budget.
The above-mentioned foods cost me 6 pounds, 53 pence -- about $10.54 in U.S. dollars. But it was more than just supper.
I had enough cheese, tomatoes and bread left for today's brunch (I slept really late) and Saturday's breakfast. I don't mind the repetition, especially since I'm meeting with a British blogger late this afternoon and I expect we'll wind up at a restaurant.
The apple was one of seven in a bag. I can take one with me each day for energy boosts during sightseeing jaunts. I could also make a few breakfasts out of apples plus the granola bars and tea or hot chocolate makings I brought with me.
I'm set for desserts for a while, too, since there are way too many cookies left for my own good.
Keeping to a budget
The supermarket has other choices: barbecued chicken, roast beef, salads, pasta, meat pies and of course the usual frozen dinners. I had a quarter of a barbecued chicken the day I arrived and it was both tasty and cheap.
Tonight's simple dinner tasted great after a three-hour walking tour (free) and a couple more hours wandering around staring at beautiful buildings and parks. By the end of the day my not-quite-healed ankle injury was acting up. I didn't want to look for a restaurant and then have to sit there and behave myself. I wanted to relax.
So I stopped at Tesco.
I can hear some of you tut-tutting right now. She goes all the way to Europe and is eating bread and cheese from the grocery store?
I didn't come here for the cuisine. It's my understanding that the restaurant scene is a lot more exciting than it once was. Personally, I'm not a foodie and I just don't care.
- Bing: Best British food
I'm here to gawk at beautiful buildings, admire the parks, visit museums, and go to the theater if I can find something that isn't an American import ("Grease" is playing a stone's throw from my lodgings, and ads abound for stuff like "Legally Blonde" and "Shrek: The Musical").
Every (weak) dollar I don't spend on restaurant meals is a dollar I can spend on lodgings (also a frugal choice -- I'm at a hostel). The cheaper I eat and sleep, the longer I can stay. That's how I can afford to stay here for three weeks, including side trips to Cardiff and to a small town in Cornwall.
While I ate I was channeling Mattie Ross, the protagonist of "True Grit." In the book she bought crackers, cheese and an apple at the general store -- "a cheap yet nourishing lunch" -- in order to keep to a budget. Mine would have been a lot more nourishing if I'd skipped the cookies.
But they were so cheap -- a little over 64 cents for a 14.1-ounce package -- that I bet even Mattie would have splurged a little. Besides, I can't get custard cream biscuits in Seattle. Might as well enjoy them while I can.
MSN Money columnist Donna Freedman blogs at Smart Spending and Surviving and Thriving.
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Sounds like you're having my kind of fun. I sure wont be tut-tutting, I'll be taking notes, as I love to travel and don't like to spend bunches of money to eat or sleep.
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