Full Time Travel UK: Grocery Shopping, Cooking & Dining

This is how we shop, cook and dine while travelling from place to place almost weekly.  Full disclosure of all things food, our grocery spending and shopping for a family of five, based on our first 3 months of full time travel.  This is the type of practical information we look for before we travel to a new country and rarely find in one place.

Grocery Budget

Yes, we have a grocery budget and always have, but especially now while we’re still saving for our 6 months epic road trip of North America and Europe from September to February without having to work at all. We’re at the halfway mark, counting down the days and we can’t wait.

Our weekly grocery budget is £100.  It doesn’t include eating out or excursions and treats.

Day-To-Day

To move every few days to a new place makes meal planning almost impossible.  We don’t travel light as a family of five so there isn’t much space for a load of groceries.

I have a permanent load of two large canvas bags of basics at any one time containing more or less the following:

  • An ice-cream tub with basic herbs, spices and condiments.
  • Flower, cornstarch, a few cooking sauces and salt.
  • What’s left of any cereal, muesli, bread and fruit.
  • Tea, coffee, sugar.
  • A few plastic containers, bottle, cup and bowel for Kate.
  • Washing powder, detergent and dishwasher tablets.
  • A few extra dishcloths, all-purpose disinfectant cleaner and bug spray.
  • A small plastic bag of fridge items, such as crushed garlic, mustard, cheese, yoghurt and whatever veg is left.

It’s all we can fit in the car.  Everything else has to be used, or most of it at least, before the next checkout.

We don't travel light
We don’t travel light. You’ll see our two shopping bags containing the basics in the front. We’ve almost halved this load and we’re still whittling away at it. We can’t travel through America for three months with this mountain!

Most of these essentials last longer than normal since they are sometimes provided by Airbnb hosts.

When we check in at a new place, I Google “shops near me” or “post office near me” or whatever I’m looking for and search for the place I want on Google Maps, get directions and go shop if it’s not too far.

Buying groceries on a day-to-day basis from the convenience shop on the corner is always more expensive than shopping online for a week or more from larger stores such as Tesco or Asda.

To buy groceries on a daily basis can easily cost us £20-£30 per day.  Not good for the budget.

 

Muffins from PIppa
The yummy muffins in the background from Pippa, our hostess in Chester. Very welcome after a long day at the zoo.

Airbnb

A benefit of booking Airbnb apartments is that some hosts provide essential supplies and cleaning products. Almost all provide soap, shower gel and shampoo.  Very few provide milk, which is one of the first things we want on arrival, hence we buy fresh milk on the way.

Some go the extra mile.  Our host in Chester, Pippa, had tasty muffins and even bread, milk and butter waiting for us and after a long day at Chester Zoo, it was deeply appreciated.  Tony, our host at Rowarth Barn in the High Peak district, had flowers and a bowl of fresh fruit as a warm welcome.

Personal Touch Airbnb
We always appreciate the personal touches of our Airbnb hosts.  Thank you Tony!

Visit our resource page here to sign up to Airbnb and when you book your next stay you’ll get money back and we’ll get travel credit for referring you.

Travel Days

I must admit, we’re not very organised yet for travel days with packed lunches, healthy snacks and so on.  For longer road trips we’ll be better prepared, but at the moment we hop in the car as soon as it’s packed and stop to get fuel and snacks for the road. As soon as the first kid gets grumpy or hungry we stop at the Services for a meal.

Motorway service areas, also known as service stations and commonly abbreviated to MSAs are places found frequently next to the highway where drivers can refuel, rest, or take refreshments.  Only 20 motorway services in the UK remain in the ownership of the Department for Transport and the rest are owned by one of three companies: Moto, Welcome Break and RoadChef and a developing chain of stations being constructed by Extra. Some service stations also have hotels next to them offering motorists cheap overnight accommodation.

A pitstop at the services costs us about £20-£30 each time, without fuel.

 

UK Motorway Service
Checking out the parking info at a Motorway Services and the all-important sign we’re always looking out for.

Eating Out and Ordering In

How often we treat ourselves depends where we are and what we’re doing.  But the bill for eating out or ordering in for our family of five can be anything from £20 to £50.

Over the first three months on the road, we spent an average of £200 p/m on eating out including pit stops on travel days.  This will most likely escalate in July when we’ll have more travel days and shorter stays.

Lunch at NHM
Lunch at the Natural History Museum in London. We missed the kiddies menu because the kids started colouring in the pages provided by the waiter and we didn’t see that the kiddies menu was printed on the back of these pages.

Online Shopping

When we stay in one place for a week or longer, we do a bigger shop and I usually order from Tesco or Asda.  They allow you to book a next day delivery slot for a small fee and they deliver it to your kitchen table.

Asda offers cash back via www.top cashback.com. For a £70 order, I got £5 back in my Topcashback account.

I don’t know why, but I’m a nervous shopper when the kids are with me.  Actually, only when our 2yr old is with us.  She drives me nuts in a shop and I end up sticking sweats or cookies in her hand, pop her in the trolley and race to pick and pay everything before she finishes her treat.

It’s a team effort with the older two (absolute stars) in charge of keeping her happy while I quickly get the shopping done.  I do feel guilty about the bribery but hey, I’m not Super Mom and a girl’s gotta do what a girls gotta do and I know we’ll get there one day. See?  That’s how you justify a weakness.

Online shopping is altogether a better option for my nerves and Kate’s health plus I don’t spend anything on those impulse buys. You know, those things you think you want but really don’t need. The kids can’t nag me for any extras either and I don’t have to unload and carry all the bags up four flights of stairs, which has to be a bonus.

Five Dinners In One Hour

I’ve left the best for last.  One of the most amazing discoveries I’ve made since embarking on this full-time travel journey is this site: https://5dinners1hour.com.

It changed my relationship with kitchens forever in a good way.  I promise they are not paying me anything to say that.  I think I don’t even qualify for referral fees because I took out the basic subscription. I’m writing this because I think it’s a fabulous concept and I know it works for us.

Believe me when I say it’s worth a peek.  Unless you are already very organised in the kitchen and a foodie with a strong personality, you might just appreciate what this lady invented as much as I do.

I pick 4 or 5 dishes for the week from the monthly menu.  A shopping list is instantly created with exact quantities for the number of people I’m cooking for, followed by the recipes and instructions neatly set out for each dish. Then I save my weekly menu to my phone or email it to myself and shop only for those ingredients plus the usuals such as cereals, lunchbox fillers, fruit, etc.  This saves us £20 to £30 every week.

This part already makes it a winner for me because I don’t have to come up with a weekly  menu plus the recipes are easy, delicious and healthy and I save money on my grocery bill.

The really good thing about it is the way she teaches you to prepare and cook to save time.  You have to check out the video on the site to see it for yourself.  It’s so clever. A total game changer.

Imagine my excitement when I went to the supermarket with my 5-in-1 shoppinglist for the first time to find the ingredients on the list are grouped into the same categories as the isles in the store and in the exact same order. So “breads” were first on my list and this store started with a bread section at the entrance. Next was fruit and veg, next meats, cheese, and so on.  I was so surprised! It was the easiest shop I’d ever done and I spent about £30 less than usual.  Guess what I did when I got home.  I changed my free trial to a paid subscription of course.

If you’re thinking that they should pay me for this glowing review, I agree, but the truth is that some things are just too good not to share and this is one of them.

The only niggle I have is that the conversion feature of metric to imperial or vice versa doesn’t work, but I make a rough guestimate or do the conversion on google.

Conclusion

It’s easier to stay in budget when we:

  • Stay in one place for a week or more.
  • Have fewer travel days
  • Book accommodation with a private kitchen to prepare meals.
  • Cook our own meals
  • Plan meals for the week
  • Use a shopping list
  • Order groceries online

The average cost of all shopping from March to May was £870 p/m.  That includes groceries, road trip snacks and extra purchases from Amazon, a few necessary pieces of clothing, shoes, gifts, etc.

We’ll let you know how we get on over the next three months (June to August 2018).

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