Fifteen years ago, there were only a handful of supermarkets in central London. You can now find a branch on all main high streets — handy if you don’t have the time or money to eat out in a restaurant or cafe all the time.
Supermarkets are open 7 days a week. Large branches have reduced opening times on Sundays (typically 10am–4pm).
Not familiar with British supermarkets? Here’s a quick guide to the major chains.
See all central London supermarkets on a map.
Tesco is the UK’s biggest supermarket chain. Their largest supermarkets are ‘Tesco Extra‘ and ‘Tesco Superstore’, medium-sized stores – ‘Tesco Metro‘.
‘Tesco Express‘ are the small branches which are more like convenience stores. These are everywhere. Prices are 3-4% higher than larger branches.
Sainsbury’s are not far behind Tesco in terms of number of outlets and quality. Large supermarkets are ‘Sainbury’s Superstore’. Medium-sized branches are just ‘Sainsbury’s‘.
Smaller conveniences stores are ‘Sainsbury’s Local‘. Like Tesco Express, these are more expensive than larger branches.
Marks & Spencer
M&S is not a place to do your weekly shopping if you’re saving money, but they’re popular with London’s office workers mainly for their huge range of sandwiches, salads, sushi & wraps. Smaller branches are called ‘M&S Simply Food‘.
Waitrose is probably the UK’s most expensive supermarket, but the quality is high and buying a ready-meal is still cheaper than a going out to eat. ‘little Waitrose‘ are their smaller branches. It’s part of the John Lewis group, an iconic British brand famous for its customer service.
The Co-operative Food
The Co-op is the UK’s most ethical supermarket chain. It’s similar to Sainsbury’s and Tesco in terms of price, but most branches are small.
Lidl is one of the cheapest supermarkets in the UK. There are no branches in central London.
The easiest to get to by public transport from central London are:
64-70 Camden High St
London NW1 0LT
Tube station: Camden Town/Mornington Crescent
189 Clapham Rd
London SW9 0QE
Tube station: Stockwell
The Old Kent Rd branch is closer to central London than Stockwell, but it’s not near a tube station.
Lidl Old Kent Rd
2 Massinger St
London SE17 1TY
Tube station: Elephant & Castle then a 15-minute walk or bus 63, 363, 53, 168, 172 or 453.
Aldi is similar to Lidl in terms of price and quality. They don’t have any branches in central London. The closest is:
142-162 Kilburn High Road
London, NW6 4JD
Tube station: Kilburn Park (then 10 minute walk)
London Overground station: Kilburn (then 6 minute walk)
Sandwich Meal Deals
If you’re on a tight budget, do what Londoners do and buy your lunch in a supermarket — the cheapest places to buy sandwiches, rolls, salads and drinks.
Some supermarkets offer special meal deals: a sandwich, a packet of crisp or fruit and a drink for around £3–£3.99. For a light lunch, cheap sandwiches start at £1 or if you’re really counting the pennies, larger branches have deli counters where you can assemble your own sandwich or roll for less than £1.
Cheap soft drinks
Soft drinks are always available near the sandwiches in the chilled cabinet usually near the supermarket entrance. If you’re happy with a room temperature drink, they’re cheaper in the other aisles. This is especially true for water — a 2 litre own-brand bottle costs as little as 18p-50p.
If you’re staying in an apartment or have self-catering facilities and don’t want to cook, all supermarkets offer a range of ready-made meals. The best quality is from M&S, Waitrose and the Tesco Finest range at Tesco. Look out for the special dinner for two deals at M&S and Waitrose. For £10 you get a starter or dessert, a main meal with a side dish and a bottle of wine.