Finding the perfect lunchtime meal can be tricky when you work in an office. I prefer something that’s good value for money, fast, and, above all, tasty. With London lunches regularly costing upwards of £6 for a basic meal, finding something affordable is key.
So when Greggs* contacted me with a way to broaden my lunch horizons, I couldn’t wait to get started. The lovely people at the nation’s favourite bakery sent me five gift cards so I could try their new range of salads and juices, plus compare them to their competition. It’s a bold way to try to prove their food is best. To make it fair, I was asked to choose similar types of meals in each location, and I tried my best… though some went better than others! So let’s put it to the test and see which popular chain comes out on top. Will it be Starbucks, Pret, M&S, Boots, or Greggs?
The new range of salads at Greggs looked well-presented and tempting. Choosing was hard, but I can never resist pasta and I think it will be fairly easy to find similar products in the other stores through the week. I chose the cheese, tomato and basil pasta salad, with with lashings of Cheddar and Edam and a large portion of leaves.
I got the food back to work and I was pleased to see there was both a knife and fork strapped to the side. No more struggling to cut up pieces with the side of a fork! Other stores should definitely take note.
The pasta smelled delicious as soon as I lifted off the plastic lid. The flavours were so fresh, which is not surprising because they’re made in each store every morning. They don’t even use sell-by dates because everything on display is for that day only, and any excess is donated to homeless shelters. Plus, the packaging is very recyclable. It’s salad with a heart!
Sadly the store I went to didn’t have their new line of healthy juices, so I opted for an orange juice instead. The chocolate eclair in the cabinet was calling my name, so I couldn’t quite resist picking one up… whoops!
The value is fantastic; £2.85 for a filling salad meal that tastes so fresh and healthy. Plus, it’s only 328 calories but it was so filling. I’ll definitely be back to try the rest of the new collection!
Marks & Spencers
The mango, pineapple and passion fruit smoothie smelled divine and tasted just as good. I drank the small bottle very quickly, finding it wasn’t a huge drink for the £1.80 price tag.
I chose the feta, cheese and slow roasted tomato pasta salad. The big chunks of feta go scrumptiously with the pasta. I found that it looked like there was a lot of tomato, but it was sliced into big chunks so it was gone in a few bites. If only M&S could supply a knife like Greggs do! The pasta was good, but more sauce would have been welcome. I found that it tasted even better when it has been out of the chiller for half an hour, too. Delicious!
Overall, it tasted great but the value for money was lacking so it loses a point.
Pret a Manger
I think this store is overpriced, and yet it can always lure me in with the gorgeous smell that always surrounds it.
None of the salads particularly appealed to me and they had no pasta salads at all, so sadly there won’t be a direct comparison, but I picked a chicken dish in a cardboard container.
The salad was packed full of good stuff. It had a good helping of chicken, some rice, beans, seeds, leaves, avocado, and a surprisingly yummy green sauce to dip everything in. It was mixed really well and looked appetising. The main issue was the price; £4.75 for a salad alone, which is about the price I’d expect to pay for a lunch that included a drink and a snack.
The juice was tasty, but the vitamin mix could be tasted quite obviously. For over £2 for 250ml, it was even more expensive than M&S. Though the packaging and flavours were good, the price is definitely what lets Pret down. I would have appreciated some more choice with a pasta-based meal as well.
I had to venture a bit off-piste today at Starbucks!
I was really disappointed by the amount of choice at my local branch. They seem to be more interested in breakfast foods, coffee and cakes. With no salad options, I ended up with some cheese and ham toasties and a branded smoothie. It was yummy, but over £5 for two things that added up to more of a large snack than a meal. It’s hard to compare to the other meals. There is a lot to choose from at Starbucks, but in future I will definitely go for more of a snack than a full lunch – unless I want to spend closer to £10.
If there’s one thing that Boots are good at, it’s Pasta salads. There was a great selection to chose from, and with their meal deal I could get a snack and smoothie included for £3.79, which is a really good price.
However, of all the meals I had this week, this one tasted the most processed. The pasta was yummy, but it lacked the freshness of the Greggs alternative. It wasn’t mixed as well as the Pret salad, either. It was very filling, though, and the extra snack kept me feeling full for the whole afternoon.
The packaging here isn’t as environmentally friendly and, again, they don’t include a knife!
Thank you to Greggs for setting me on this mission to find the best lunches in London! It’s been a great week.
What do you think? Which eatery will you visit next time and which did you think looked most appetising?
*Note: This post is sponsored by Greggs. All opinions on all of the food are my own honest reviews.