Lunch. An essential meal. Perhaps the essential meal. Is there much point in breakfast when one only lifts one’s limbs from bed just shy of noon? Dinner can be a pleasure eating out or cooking at home – but there’s no time for cooking lunch in the middle of the day when the library’s issued its summons, and we can’t frequent this city’s (limited) eating establishments every day of the week on a student budget. Thus: behold! A guide for the champion of frugality with a desire for sating the stomach.

Meal Deal Mecca – Boots, Cornmarket Street

Choice of Sandwich: 7 Choice of Snack: 8 Choice of Drink: 10 Savings: 9 Location: 9 TOTAL SCORE: 8.6

With a rumbling belly this place is nirvana for the parsimonious gastronaut. An oasis of sustenance in a desert of cheap food vendors near Cornmarket Street, Boots fits the bill. I make the pilgrimage here at least thrice a week, and never have to worry about eating the same sandwich twice (though sometimes I choose to). The geniuses at the Boots kitchen, wherever that is, deliver time and again. The staple sandwiches are well-made (your ham & emmental, or your tuna cucumber), and there are more adventurous options, too. They even have rotating guest sandwiches (I particularly enjoy the New York Deli which is in vogue at the moment). There’s a decent sushi selection, stuff for the veggies, and even a low-calorie ‘shapers’ range, too. The sides are fab. Cliff Builder Bars, Graze nut boxes and Naked flapjacks will delight the healthy eater, while crisps and chocolate bars are here in abundance. However, it’s in the drinks section which Boots excels. I’m talking coconut water. I’m talking smoothies. I’m talking bottled frappés (!). There really is a bevy of bevvies here. At £3.39 it’s 39p more expensive than its main rivals – but how far that 39p goes! Some of the pricier options come in at £2.50 each without the deal – I reckon you could save at least a fiver. This is where it’s at.

The Practical Option for the Forward-Thinking Administrator – Tesco, Magdalen Street

Choice of Sandwich: 5 Choice of Snack: 4 Choice of Drink: 7 Savings: 6 Location: 10 TOTAL SCORE: 6.4

I’m not going to pretend that the options here come close to Boots in terms of variety or quality, but what this market lacks in meal deal merit it makes up for in convenience. This is why Location scores 10, though it’s right by Sainsbury’s. The place is positively capacious for an inner city supermarket, so while grabbing your lunch, you can pick up supplies for the week, too. A quick whizz round the aisles and suddenly you’ve got a decent meal deal for lunch, your red Thai paste for that Penang curry you’re going to rustle up the same evening and a big kilogramme box of Bran Flakes for those post-bridge emergency breakfasts. How well you’ve done to sort out your life all in a lunch break! The meal deal itself is passable. No healthy treats like in Boots, but a better range than Sainsbury’s. The wraps are the virtue, but even they are a little basic. Tesco does have some great sandwiches, but they aren’t included in the £3 deal – their smoked-salmon-cream-cheese offering is exceptional, but you’ll have to ignore it if you want to save the pennies. The drinks are quite good, with the usual smoothies, cold coffees and softies, but the snack options are a tad limited. Tesco warrants a visit probably once a week.

The Last Resort – Sainsbury’s, Magdalen Street

Choice of Sandwich: 5 Choice of Snack: 3 Choice of Drink: 6 Savings: 4 Location: 8 TOTAL SCORE: 5.2

It’s a Sunday evening. You’ve been smashing out your essay or sorting your admin. Hungry, you head to Boots, looking for those tasty and nutritious baps. It’s closed. Tesco, too, has shut up shop for the night. It’ll have to be Sainsbury’s. You know you’re not going to enjoy it, but it’s there and it’s available. A bit like that horny 4th year medic you met last week at Park End. As you bite into your sub-par sandwich, you almost feel a little unfaithful. And dirty. Now you realise that infidelity leaves a bitter taste. You text your partner and tell them you love them, and vow never to cheat. Not only was the Sainsbury’s meal deal upsetting and a little soggy, but it’s filled you with remorse.

At £3 it’s by no means expensive, but the savings really aren’t that great and the food is sub-par. You can get most of the drinks (it’s got the fizzy pop and some of the health drinks) but it lacks, for example, the Savsé raw smoothies of Boots; it just doesn’t go all the way. Also, you can only really get crisps and chocolate bars. The sandwiches are OK, but, like Tesco, the tasty ones aren’t included in the meal deal. Sainsbury’s used to be the king of the meal deal market for its sandwiches alone, but in late Hilary last year there was a reshuffle. How the mighty have fallen! The ham-hock-on-rye, perhaps THE sandwich of our time, got axed from the deal. It always causes me great distress when I see it on the shelf, looking so temptingly out at me. The ham filling seems to form delightfully moist lips, and they pout and whisper my name. But, being the stoic that I am, I conquer my lusting and choose saving over pleasure. It’s been a hard break-up, but I’ve moved on to better things – Boots has been wonderful to me, and our relationship is so fulfilling. I hardly ever think about Sainsbury’s now.

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