Grocery Shopping in London

Heather Robinette's picture

The ins and outs of grocery shopping in Central London while studying abroad.

Studying abroad in London is a very exciting decision. However, it requires a lot of preparation. One of the last things on your mind is going to be researching where to buy groceries during your time in London. While I was abroad, I discovered a couple different stores that I frequently would shop at while I lived there. I’ve put together a list with information about each store and the differences to help save you time!


Grocery Shopping in London - tips!

Tesco, Claycross. Wikimedia Commons: Phil Sangwell, adapted by Wandering Educators



Tesco. From Grocery shopping in London

Tesco is the largest supermarket chain in the UK and they have 4 different types of shops. A common one you’ll find in central London is Tesco Express, which is very similar to a convenience store. I typically shopped at Tesco Express when I was looking for a snack or quick lunch. They also have common food items you would need, but none of the Express stores were close to my flat. However, I did have a Tesco Metro store nearby that I shopped at for many of my groceries. Compared to stores back home, they were a decent size, but nothing near the size of Wal-Mart or similar stores. The other two types of stores are normal supermarkets and Tesco Extra, which provides a large amount of non-food offerings. These two are found outside of the main London area so I never had the chance to visit any of them.



Sainsbury's. From grocery shopping in London

Sainsbury’s is the third largest chain of supermarkets in the UK. Similarly to Tesco, they have supermarkets and smaller convenience stores called Sainsbury’s Local. There was a Sainsbury’s Local store near my flat that I shopped at frequently. They are not large stores, but they carry most of the food items you would need and they have various household items such as cleaning products too. I typically purchased cereal, milk, and different snacks. The supermarkets are located outside of the central London area so I never visited one.


Sainsbury's on Camden Road. Grocery shopping in London

Sainsbury’s on Camden Road. Wikimedia Commons: Oxyman



M&S - from grocery shopping in London

Marks and Spencer Simply Food shops tend to be more pre-made foods including pre-made meals that you can cook/microwave at home. The main difference between pre-made meals in the UK versus the United States is the pre-made meal is fresh and not frozen. I tried the pre-made meals a few times and they were better than most of the freezer meals back home, but they were typically more expensive so I tried to refrain from purchasing them too often. 


M&S - from grocery shopping in London

Wikimedia Commons: AP Monblat



Argos. From grocery shopping in London.

Argos is not a grocery store, but a retail store. Back home when most of us go to the store we are able to find our groceries and other items all in one store. Living in central London, that is not possible. I purchased my grocery items at Tesco, Sainsbury’s, and M&S. When I needed items such as a fan, bowls, pillows, etc., I had to shop at Argos. It is a unique experience shopping there because it is set up very differently than most stores. The front of the store is very small because you walk in and look through a catalog to find the items you need, and then place your order. Once your order is placed and paid for, you sit in the waiting area with your number and wait. When they call your number you pick up the items you ordered and leave.


Shopping at Argos.

Wikimedia Commons: Rept0nx1



Heather Robinette is the London Study Abroad Editor for Wandering Educators. She notes, "During the summer of 2011, I studied abroad for six weeks in London at the University of Westminster with Academics Programs International. I graduated from Kansas State University in Manhattan, KS in December 2012 with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration. I currently work as a marketing analyst for a small company in central Texas. I am also pursuing my MBA. While I was abroad in London, I was able to create many unforgettable memories that I will never forget! My study abroad experience helped me gain various skills, but above all else, it helped me to learn more about myself and the world around me."