Which is why people like Bekki – the woman behind @thelittlespender (an Insta account that helps you spend less in London) – are great for pointing out little things that go a long way to help you save big on food. Bekki started the account nearly two years ago, after noticing her friends' interest in her money hacks, and has since found hundreds of little ways to save money – mostly food-related – from getting half-price fried chicken to completely free drinks.
Hoping we could pick up some of Bekki's hacks for ourselves, we asked her to record a week of food spending in London to see what she was doing right, and what we were doing so wrong.
"London can be a super expensive place to live, but there are hundreds of deals out there if you look for them," she says. "I earned so little when I first moved to London, and finding these deals was a great way to make sure I still had a social life without getting into debt."
She continues: "The majority of deals I post on @thelittlespender are food-related, and I love finding all the cheap eats around London. After all, the cheaper the meal, the more times I can eat out!"
8am: It’s Monday, and I’m contracted to start work an hour earlier than I do the rest of the week. After sending a couple of important emails I head to my locker (a space that should be filled with important files and stationery but in reality is more like the chocolate aisle in Sainsbury’s) to get a sachet of porridge and my tin of coffee. I’m not the biggest fan of porridge but it’s filling, mildly healthy, and works out at only 28p a packet.
12pm: Starting work an hour early does strange things to my stomach. I have been waiting for the clock to hit 12 for the last 18 minutes. Last night I made an orzo salad with oregano halloumi and tomatoes, so I wolf that down before heading out for a walk.
12.45pm: I had a good day of eBay sales yesterday, so after dropping my parcels to the post office I’m feeling generous enough to pick up some biscuits for the team. We LOVE snacks on our team, and I’m in a choccie bourbon kind of mood, so I swing by M&S to make my first spend of today. 60p
6pm: Pop into an Aldi on my way home and buy some spring onions, tomatoes, chillies and a lime for a sweetcorn salsa I’m planning on making. I already have some frozen sweetcorn at home so my shopping only comes to £2. Bloody love Aldi.
6.15pm: As I get home I see a text from my boyfriend, asking if I want to go out for dinner tonight. He’s suggesting Mother Clucker, a fried chicken restaurant near Exmouth Market that offers 50% off on a Monday. It’s a super tempting offer, but I’ve just bought food and know I have some fancy salmon burgers from M&S that need eating.
6.30pm: Get home and whack the burgers in the oven. They were reduced from £4.50 to £1.62, a huge 65% discount! Top tip: the discounts in M&S are always really good and I’m happy that they allow people on a smaller budget to access a little bit of #luxury.
7.30pm: After letting my dinner settle, I head to the gym. I eat out a lot, so I make a conscious effort to get to the gym as often as possible. I make sure I leave my money at home so I’m not tempted to spend any money in Sainsbury’s on my way back.
Daily Spend: £2.60
8.15am: I’m lucky enough that I can walk to work. Not only does it save me a bit of money, I also enjoy the alone time before a busy day at work. It takes me about 45 minutes, and I pass two Lidls and an Aldi. I manage to resist the smell of the sweet, sweet Lidl bakery and instead pop in to buy some dried cranberries. They cost £1.19 but I figure they’re a good option to spruce up my porridge.
9am: Arrive into work and head straight for the kitchen to make my breakfast. We have a great canteen at work, with good coffee at good prices, but I opt for my trusty Nescafe Azera. Coffee is one of those habit spends that can sneakily end up costing you a fortune, so I tend to only buy a 'posh coffee' when I’m in desperate need of a caffeine hit!
12.15pm: It’s lunchtime, and I have the same as yesterday. I’m fairly new to the wonders of orzo (is it rice, is it pasta?) so I don’t mind eating it again.
5.30pm: Work is over for the day, and I make plans to meet my boyfriend. We meet at a Simmons near my work and have a quick drink – I use an app called Dusk to claim a free G&T. It’s not the fanciest G&T I’ve ever had, but getting something completely free is a nice way to start off your evening.
6pm: After ditching the boyf for salmon burgers yesterday, we decide on a meal out tonight instead. We head to Chicken Shop, a rotisserie chicken restaurant run by the same people as Pizza East and Dirty Burger. We’re there before 7pm which means we can get the Weekday Combo – a quarter chicken and any side for £8! I go for the sweet potato fries and my boyfriend has chips. The waitress there is a complete babe, and recommends we mix some mayo with their own-brand hot sauce, which is delicious! We’re feeling lavish so we also get a pudding for an extra £2, both choosing the apple pie. Again, the waitress chips in with her recommendations, and we not only get the apple pie with vanilla ice cream, but also double cream! We leave the restaurant feeling v full, having only spent £12 each after tip.
Daily Spend: £13.19
9am: Some people call it deja-food, but I don’t mind as I tuck into my porridge and cranberries again, knowing that I also have the halloumi orzo salad for lunch.
1pm: A friend at work has just had a birthday, so we go to our nearest Krispy Kreme where she collects her free birthday doughnut. She also gets a free original glazed just for signing up to the Krispy Kreme newsletter, which she kindly gives to me. I tell her that Greggs also has a great app, which offers regular freebies, including a free sweet treat on your birthday.
5.30pm: I had every intention of running home after work, but it’s tipping it down so I decide against it. I visit Aldi and pick up some feta, an avocado and some pittas – I’m going to use the same sweetcorn salsa recipe as Monday, but have it in toasted pittas instead. I also buy some spaghetti, tomatoes and fresh basil for a simple pasta dish I’m going to have for my lunches for the rest of the week. The whole food shop comes to £3.50 and I find myself once again singing the praises of Aldi and its delicious food/ prices.
7pm: My boyfriend comes home from work with a huge bag of treats from Wenzel’s bakery. He has the food waste app Too Good to Go downloaded on his phone and was given a brie and bacon baguette, a pepperoni pizza, six doughnuts and 10 small brioche buns for £2.99! The app reduces food waste by offering it to customers at a discounted rate instead of throwing it away. It can be a complete lottery what food you’re given, but it makes it all the more exciting!
Daily Spend: £3.50
9.15am: I had a doctor’s appointment this morning, and in a panic, I take a couple of the brioche buns for breakfast. This has not been a healthy week!
12pm: Heat up the tomato, basil and feta spaghetti that I made last night, while discussing if it’s normal to heat feta up. (My opinion: don’t knock it 'til you’ve tried it.)
6pm: A friend I used to work with has returned from travelling so a group of us meet her at Beef & Brew. It has similar vibes to popular London steak restaurant Flat Iron, but offers a £10 Hanger steak or burger and chips meal if you order before 7pm. We all go for the £10 offer, and I realise how lucky I am to have friends willing to dine in some of the cheaper London restaurants. I only drink water, so with a tip I pay £12.
Daily Spend: £12
9am: It’s Friiiiday. Most of my work pals are treating themselves to a Friday fry-up and unable to resist the weirdly appealing smell of greasy hash browns, I buy two and a sausage. Our canteen is subsidised so I only pay £1.50.
12pm: It’s day two of my warm feta pasta and I’m still happy to report it tastes great. I annoy all the haters by telling them it’s "feta" than you’d think.
3.30pm: We’re on summer hours, which means I get to finish at 3pm on Friday! I get the bus home to top up my makeup and pick up a bottle of vino that was given to me as a present a few weeks ago, before meeting my friend in Finsbury Park.
7pm: We take a seat at one of my favourite BYO restaurants in London. This place is a small family-run south Indian restaurant and not only is the food amazing, but I love the whole atmosphere. As you sit down you’re given a menu and a piece of paper to write your order down – there’s something quite charming about having to write your own order down, and the busy waiters obviously appreciate the time it saves them! We order three curries, a large rice, poppadums and some mango chutney. I’ve forgotten that it’s cash only, so while I wait for the food I quickly run to the nearest ATM. Corkage isn’t even £2 for the bottle of red we’ve bought with us, so including a tip it comes to £11 each. Bargain!
Daily Spend: £12.50
10am: I’m still on an Indian hype after last night’s meal, so I run out to the shops to buy bacon and chapatis from Sainsbury’s. I like my bacon crispy, so I fry a couple of rashers and heat the chapatis for a few minutes in the oven. After assembling, I douse the whole thing in tamarind sauce. It’s basically like a budget version of the famous Dishoom breakfast naans! I’m having quite a chilled day today, so after my breakfast has gone down I push myself into going to the gym.
12.30pm: On the way back from the gym I have a quick browse in M&S. I see the shop assistant with the yellow sticker gun, and in a bid to not look too keen I do a lap of the shop. There are some reduced marinated prawns and olives so I buy two pots of these and a small loaf of bread to have for lunch. It’s such a simple lunch, but after visiting Lisbon earlier in the year I have become addicted to dipping bread in a prawny garlic sauce!
6.30pm: My friend from home has driven up to London for the evening, and we decide to visit Pizza Union in Kings Cross. I order the Calabria pizza which is £5.95 and is topped with mozzarella, mascarpone, nduja spicy sausage and rocket, and my friend orders the pepperoni. The pizza looks great and I decide it would be a good post for The Little Spender, so I ask my friend to take a quick pic. I pour some chilli oil onto the pizza thinking it would be a good pose for the 'gram and end up completely covering it (note: it’s not a good pic). Instagram is a weird, weird thing, but I’m grateful to have good pals around me that understand.
8pm: Opposite Pizza Union is a bar called The Big Chill which has a cool rooftop. I use my Monzo card to buy two ciders which cost £10. My Monzo is linked with an app called Tail, which offers 50% cashback at this bar. I’ve only used the app a few times, but it feels like it’s going to be a great way to continually save money on going out, and I look forward to a fiver automatically popping back into my account next Friday.
Daily Spend: £13.95
10am: I wake up and make myself a coffee, which I then take back to bed. I spend half an hour checking my emails and scrolling through Instagram. I’m signed up to newsletters from hundreds of my favourite London restaurants, so I quickly check through these to see if anyone is shouting about any new deals they have. I spot an email from original money blogger Martin Lewis, so I have a quick read through his latest articles. I also follow a few hashtags on Instagram like #freelondon and #softlaunchlondon so I spot check if anything fun is going on that I can post about on The Little Spender.
10.35am: I open my Monzo app and check how I’m doing for money. I’m within budget for groceries and eating out, but a train ticket to Gatwick for a holiday I have at the end of the month is making it look like I’ll overspend on transport. I make a mental note to try and walk to work at least four times next week.
11am: Finally roll out of bed and have a lazy breakfast of Marmite on toast. I keep a loaf of bread in the freezer for occasions like this.
3pm: I’m back visiting my favourite shop/ second home Aldi, to pick up one of their incredible spatchcock chickens. I normally go for the peri-peri version, but they’re out of stock so I try the sweet chilli base. I add some tenderstem broccoli and voilà – I’ve got myself a basic roast for £5. The chicken says it feeds four people but between me and my boyf we finish the whole thing. I’m having shakshuka for lunches next week, so I also pick up some peppers, a tin of tomatoes, an onion and some eggs.
4pm: I start preparing the shakshuka, ready for my lunches. I love recipes like this with only a few ingredients, not just because it’s cheap, but because I only need to use/ wash up one pan! The recipe involves baking eggs, so I only make enough for two lunches as I’m not sure how well they would last.
Daily Spend: £5