Woman shares struggles she faced eating just petrol station food for a week

Service stations are popular for people working late hours such as tradesmen and nurses.

There are many petrol stations that only offer foods for people on the go like basic snacks and convenience foods, such as crisps, chocolate bars, fizzy drinks and pre-packaged sandwiches.

And Surrey Live reporter Laura Nightingale found out it was impossible to rely on them as a source for healthy and cheap food.

How much I spent

I forked out a whopping £62.21  and that was me trying to be as frugal as possible.

I made the most of the humble loaf of bread in every way possible, living off mainly homemade jam sandwiches, eggs on toast and baked beans on toast.

I limited the amount of chocolate bars and packets of crisps as best I could in favour of food that would fill me up for longer – and that was cheaper.

Plus, rather than popping to the petrol station every day to grab a pre-packaged sandwich at lunch, I did the best part of my weekly shop ahead of starting the experiment so that I could plan what I would eat each day in a bid to save more money and reduce impulse buying.

My chosen petrol station was the central Shell garage along the busy Ladymead in  Guildford , and it was as basic as you get.

I picked this spot because it is heavily used by commuters, located just off the A3 slip road, and it has no mini supermarket attached to it making my experiment that bit harder. What was I letting myself in for?

Healthy eating

As a keen runner who likes to get her five a day, I enjoy living a healthy lifestyle, but I struggled with what was on offer as there was a very limited amount of fruit and vegetables on sale.

The only veg available was plastic packets of chopped carrots with hummus and a spinach and egg pot – there wasn't even tinned veggies to rely on.

Thankfully there were loose bananas and mini pots of grapes (very expensive for the size), so at least I could get some fruit into my diet.

I improvised, making the best of what was available at the best price I could and of course, trying to eat as healthily as possible at the same time.

This is what I ate in one week.


Breakfast  – Quaker Oat So Simple porridge pot made with milk and 1 banana

Lunch  – Cream of tomato soup with two slices of bread

Dinner  – Sweet chilli and ginger salmon salad

Snacks  – McCoy's crisps, egg and spinach pot, Kellogg's Rice Crispies Squares bar

Conclusion:  The week started off well with a breakfast and lunch I would normally eat anyway, so far so good. However the salmon salad was very dissapointing.

It was quite tasty but the portion size was so tiny, it was gone within a couple of minutes and it wasn't worth the £4.49 price tag.

As a result I still had the munchies after dinner so I snacked on crisps and a cereal bar making my planned healthy dinner a somewhat unhealthy one.


Breakfast  – 2 pains au chocolats

Lunch  – Sweet potato falafal, houmous and veg sticks

Dinner  – Baked beans on toast

Snacks  – Red grapes, roasted and salted cashews, 2 Tunnock's Tea Cakes

Conclusion:   The nuts were on offer for £1 a pot which I thought was pretty good value for a petrol station, plus I knew they would be a filling snack option.

I really enjoyed today's food. The pains au chocolats were lovely warmed up in the microwave and the beans on toast was hearty and comforting – perfect for a wet and windy day. In fact, I forgot how much I loved beans on toast.

However, my lunch was very small as they were snack pots, so I had nuts and grapes to follow.

Rather than spending around 70p on a chocolate bar when I fancied something sweet, I bought a pack of Tunnock's Tea Cakes at the bargain price of £1.29 for six.

These also helped satisfy my cravings when I was watching the  Great British Bake Off on TV.


Breakfast  – Quaker Oat So Simple porridge pot made with milk and 1 banana

Lunch  – Jam sandwich, houmous and veg sticks

Dinner  – Scrambled eggs on toast

Snacks  – Red grapes, 2 Tunnock's Tea Cakes

Conclusion:  Rather than grabbing a pre-made sandwich I saved some pennies by making my own jam sarnie. I loved them as a kid and I still love them now.

For dinner I made scrambled eggs on toast but it lacked one key ingredient – butter.

Dry toast is boring and unfortunately as there was no butter available at the petrol station I had to go without which wasn't the same.

My scrambled eggs could have also done with a sprinkling of salt and pepper for extra taste. Or is that me being fussy?


Breakfast  – 2 pains au chocolats

Lunch  – Jam sandwich, houmous and veg sticks

Dinner  – Chicken and bacon flatbread

Snacks  – 1 banana, roasted and salted cashews, 2 Tunnock's Tea Cake

Conclusion:  Breakfast was tasty once again, but today's lunch did look a bit forlorn and beige, in fact a lot of the food I ate this week was beige, but nevertheless my jam sarnie was nice.

The chicken and bacon wrap was a bit dull actually and I regretted buying two as I would have to eat it again at some point this week.

At this point it felt like I was living on bread, bread and more bread.


Breakfast  – 2 pains au chocolats

Lunch  – Jam on toast

Dinner  – Mediterranean pasta salad pot

Snacks  – 1/2 sharing bag of Kettle Lightly Salted crisps, 1 banana

Conclusion:  As with the pre-made salad, the pasta portion was small, so I was still hungry afterwards and I opened a bag of crisps.

A big bag of crisps was more cost effective than the individual packs on sale at the petrol station, which I realised half way through the week so I halved a large pack and put one portion in a sandwich bag for the next day.

While I was tucking into my plastic pot of cold pasta on the sofa, my husband was devouring a mighty margarita pizza dripping in melted cheese and I was hugely jealous.

I also realised at this point that eating out of a petrol station was a bit solitary. There was no opportunity for sharing or even finishing off his scraps like I often do. But I guess that's what it's like if you have a job that has you working late hours or on the road a lot, and petrol stations are sometimes the only option.


Breakfast  – Omelette made with three eggs and milk, plus 1 banana

Lunch  – Sweet potato falafal, houmous and veg sticks

Dinner  – Baked beans on toast

Snacks  – 1/2 sharing bag of Kettle Lightly Salted crisps

Conclusion:   I used the hob for the first time this week. I really missed cooking, baking even more so.

At the weekend I always bake a cake of some kind, but this was off the cards and it made me want to eat a wedge of Victoria sponge even more.

Thankfully we had no plans Saturday night so I was able to make beans on toast for dinner and finish off the rest of the crisps in front of the TV.

How cool am I?


Breakfast  – Scrambled eggs on toast

Lunch  – Chicken and bacon flatbread

Dinner  – Baked beans on toast

Snacks  – 1 banana, red grapes

Conclusion:  Booo. No roast dinner. By this point I really missed a comforting, home cooked meal with hot gravy and I actually missed cooked vegetables, yes really.

Eating salad in the autumn doesn't seem quite the same as in the summer. Had I taken on this challenge during the warmer months perhaps it would have been easier.

I had the flatbread for lunch and it was just as disappointing as Thursday. I didn't want to waste it though as it had cost me nearly £4.

Anyway, today was the last day of my experiment and I was looking forward to not eating bread tomorrow!


As I work in an office with access to a microwave and kettle, I was able to heat up soup and porridge during the week, my pains au chocolats too.

At home I wore out the toaster, I didn't touch the oven and I had minimal washing up – hooray.

Breakfast and lunch was pretty easy as what I chose wasn't too dissimilar to what I would normally have.

I didn't eat as many vegetables as I normally would, but I certainly ate a lot more bread and a phenomenal number of eggs.

One thing that really stood out was the shear amount of food packaging piled up at the end of the week. Other than the bananas, everything came in plastic – such a waste.

Also, the use-by dates on all the fridge items were just a couple of days, meaning I had no choice but to go back to the petrol station a second time to top up.

I missed my favourite roast dinner on a Sunday, a Friday night pizza with my husband and generally just a hot meal cooked from scratch with natural ingredients.

I love cooking, especially for my family, and I didn't realise how much I would miss putting a big pot of chilli on the dining room table for everyone to tuck in together.

Coeliacs or vegans would struggle eating out of this petrol station for a week due to lack of choice – you won't find a loaf of gluten-free bread or an avocado, that's for sure.

If I hadn't planned each day ahead, I would have spent double the money as I would have grabbed pre-made sarnies, crisps and chocolate bars each day, as they were quick and easy.

I didn't include drinks in my venture (only food), but had I included them, I could have expected to spend £1.75 on a small orange juice, £2.39 for a bottle of squash and £6.99 for a bottle of white wine (which actually I didn't think was too bad for a sauvignon blanc).

Now, where's my apron? I'm going to cook a roast with all the trimmings.

My weekly shopping list

  • 2 x 6 medium free range eggs – £1.39 each
  • 6 Single bananas – £0.49p each
  • 3 x Heinz Baked Beans (415g) – £1.15
  • Cream of Tomato Soup – £1.25
  • Kingsmill Medium White Bread – £1.29
  • 2 x Quaker Oat So Simple porridge pot – £1.39
  • Apro soya milk – £1.85
  • 3 x Pack of Red Grapes – £1.79
  • Egg and Spinach Pot – £1.69
  • 4 x Houmous and Veg Sticks – £1.69
  • Sweet Chilli and Ginger Salmon Salad – £4.49
  • Mediterranean Pasta Salad – £4.49
  • 2 x Chicken and Bacon Flatbread  – £3.89
  • Kellogg's Rice Crispies Squares bar – 89p
  • 2 x Roasted and salted cashews – 2 for £2
  • 2 x Sweet potato falafal – £2.49
  • McCoy's crisps (47g) – £1.05
  • Pains au chocolat (six pack) – £1.69
  • Hartley's Strawberry Jam – £2.09
  • Kettle Lightly Salted crisps (150g) – £2.39
  • Tunnock's Tea Cakes 6 pack – £1.29

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