I tried to eat and drink my way into making a profit from a first class train ticket

Getting tipsy on a London to Edi train in the name of economics…

Coming to the end of my degree at Edinburgh Uni has made me realise just how much money I’ve spent on train tickets in these four long years. Even with a railcard and travelling at cheaper times, I’ve handed over nearly two grand to LNER, Lumo, and The Trainline in that time. And that’s not including the money spent on M&S meal deals, Pret coffees, and Greggs pastries bought for the nearly five hours spent stuck in a high speed metal tube whizzing up the east coast.

So rather than complain, I decided to ~make capitalism work for me~ by trying and eat and drink my way into making a first class train ticket. The mission was simple. My first class ticket cost me £68 whilst a standard class ticket on the same train would’ve been £36 – I had to eat and drink at least £32 worth of food and drink during my trip.

As someone that loves three things in life (food, wine, and a bargain), I set off to see if I could achieve this goal. Just call me Martin Lewis Money Saving Expert.

All prices are based on the train’s onboard menu unless otherwise stated. 

Pre-train lounge

To really maximise that value for money, I got to Kings Cross incredibly early and headed upstairs to the first class lounge. After showing my ticket to prove I was boujee enough to go in, I bumped into none other than minor British celeb Christopher Biggins (you’re not in standard class now, Dorothy). Then I realised I was the youngest person in the lounge by at least ten years.

I found a seat in the corner next to some finance bros who were chatting about their friend Rupert getting kicked out of a bar last night. Then I grabbed a latte from the coffee machine and picked up some shortbread biscuits and a bottle of water. There was no substantial food or drinks that weren’t water or coffee – even the snack selection was limited as they only had ready salted crisps. Still, it felt very civilised and I sat and read my book in peace before boarding the train.

Food and drink: bottle of water (£1.75), machine latte (£1.85 based on an equivalent drinks from Greggs), pack of two shortbreads (£1.85). 

Running total: £5.45

Getting on the train

My first thoughts were how comfy the seats were and how much more relaxed the vibe was than in standard class. It all felt a wee bit posh and I settled into my podcast about Wagatha Christie as I waited for my first glass of wine and to order my dinner.

20 minutes in

I decided to order the chicken and was given some proper metal cutlery (fancy!). I also ordered a glass of white wine as I decided I was going to try all three of their wines and that it would go well with the chicken. It was only 3pm in the afternoon and it did feel a bit risky (I didn’t want to be too wobbly when I got off the train at Waverley) but threw caution to the wind as I remembered I was doing it for smart financial decision making.

They were also handing out more snacks. Again, they only had ready salted (the most basic crisp flavour in my opinion) but I got a packet anyway as I didn’t want to have my first wine on an empty stomach.

Food and drink: glass of white wine (£4.60), bottle of water (£1.75), crisps (£1.15). 

Running total: £12.95

An hour in

My dinner finally arrived! Even though it didn’t look the most appetising, it was very tasty. The portions were also quite small (only one potato, come on…) and I easily could have eaten a second helping. I’d also already finished my first glass of wine by the time dinner arrived and was told they weren’t serving more drinks until the next station – awkward…

About 20 minutes later, they served dessert. I went for a cheeseboard which felt very fancy and made up for the small dinner portion. That being said, I still didn’t have another glass of wine yet.

Food and drink consumed: neither the chicken main or cheeseboard were available to buy. Estimated value of the chicken main is £8 (a sandwich onboard cost £4.10 and an equivalent main meal in a mid-tier chain restaurant is about £12 so £8 is half way). Estimated value of the cheeseboard is £7 (based on an equivalent cheeseboard for one in a restaurant). 

Running total: £27.95 

One hour 45 minutes in

As we crossed the north/south divide and pulled into Doncaster, I finally got my second glass of wine. I ordered a rosé which was very sugary and tasted like underage drinking in a park. But oh well, it was a sunny day in June so why not.

Not a plastic cup in sight

Food and drink consumed: glass of rosé (£4.60). 

Running total: £32.55

Two and a half hours in

Third glass of wine, baby! I got a glass of red which was probably the most drinkable of the three (closely followed by the white). I started watching an episode of Conversations with Friends before worrying it was a very real possibility I’d be going home to my flatmates slightly pissed with awful red wine teeth.

It’s giving relaxed Friday night vibes

Food and drink: glass of red wine (£4.60).

Running total: £37.15

Three hours 45 minutes in

I found myself wine-less again. But this was maybe a good thing as I realised I was no longer embarrassed by all the really uncomfortable sex scenes in Conversations with Friends being seen by the middle aged man sat behind me, and so concluded I was slightly tipsy.

After 15 minutes (and overhearing a conversation at the table next to me that started with the words: “The real problem with the left is…”) I got a fourth glass of wine. Was this a good idea? I’m still unsure. I felt tipsy enough to try and arrange to meet some friends in the pub in town after I got off the train – before realising I had work the following morning and didn’t fancy turning up to work with a train-induced hangover.

I then went for my third trip to the loo in as many hours (serves me right for breaking the seal before Peterborough and drinking almost exclusively coffee and wine all day, I guess). I sat back down with a serious case of day-drinking tiredness and considered having a power nap.

They then came round with more snacks and I got pretty much one of everything on offer. The chocolate brownie was to die for, and the ready salted crisps hit different after a few wines. I also got some more shortbread to put in my bag.

Food and drink: glass of red wine (£4.60), shortbread (£1.85), crisps (£1.85), brownie (£1.85).

Running total: £47.30

Four and a half hours in

The snacks definitely helped with feeling less tired and I was, in the immortal words of Pam from Gavin and Stacey, “not drunk drunk but I have had some wines”. I definitely did start liking and replying to people’s Instagram stories with really cringe comments.

With almost comedic timing, my wine glass was cleared away as the train crossed into Scotland.

Arriving into Waverley station

As I got off the train at Waverley, I realised just how much I’d sobered up in the last hour or so without any wine. I also clocked it had been quite a while since I’d eaten a proper meal and was getting peckish so went straight to M&S to buy something for dinner.

Overall, it wasn’t the all-you-can-eat buffet meets bottomless brunch experience I think I was maybe expecting. But being able to get hot food on such a long journey was great, and anything with free alcohol is a winner in my book.

Final total: £47.30 – success!

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