Britains a bargain

CanWest News Service
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From fashion to food, its a great time to buy

Pounds: you either pack them into your wallet after withdrawing from a British ATM or pack them onto your thighs after depositing some fish and chips into your mouth. Either way, the term "pound" is usually greeted with fear and loathing.
I can't offer any liposuction, but I can take a weight off your shoulders when it comes to stressing about certain expenses over the pond.
You may already know that the pound is as lean as it's been since the mid-'80s. But furthermore, there are mad (crazy) deals to be had in Blighty (England) even if you're skint (poor).
No, I'm not taking the piss (pulling your leg). So bone up on a few of these tips (with prices converted to Canadian dollars), switch off Coronation Street and get spending, luv!

Shopping
When I tell friends that I do most of my shopping in England, I'm greeted with a skeptical look as though I've claimed that I've caught the Queen and Prince Philip making out in Hyde Park.
But, seriously, those who crave ultracheap, cutting-edge fashion are in for a surprising encounter of their own.
My starting point is always Primark (www.primark.co.uk), a U.K.-wide chain that outfits adults and kids. Shoes, coats, clothes, accessories and underwear all make an appearance.
Skinny jeans? $14. Opaque tights in stylin' colours like fluorescent pink? $1.80. A cute blouse? $10.75. The list goes on.
New Look (www.newlook.co.uk) is another go-to. A High Street staple found in most towns, it stocks hip women's garb and shoes in the $18 to $35 range.
Want to keep it green? Every city has Charity Shops that put Value Village and the Sally Ann to shame.
More like boutiques, they harbour surprisingly stylish finds (probably because frequent trips to Primark are pushing wardrobes to the limit). Look for signs like The British Heart Foundation and Oxfam.
Draining a credit card at Topshop (topshop.co.uk), is the true rite of passage for a British woman.
The flagship store at Oxford Circus in London is 90,000 square feet of heaven promising "up to the minute, affordable style," and includes extra bells and whistles like a candy shop and style consultants.
Kate Moss and Celia Birtwell are guest designers, so put this on the "must do" list beside the Tower of London and Buckingham Palace.

Eating
Go on, make the stereotypical jokes about British cuisine and how it's all sausage, potato and beer. I'd listen, but I'm too busy noshing on some of the tastiest, healthiest take-away food ever - all for under $7.
The key to dining on the cheap in England is restaurant avoidance.
Sure, you can splurge once in a blue moon but what's wrong with a quick lunch in the park?
Marks and Spencer is a godsend. Traditionally a clothier, they've do food and are pulling it off smashingly. Pop in to an M&S Simply Food or Food Hall for sandwich/drink/chips meal deal ($3.50), a sushi snack ($1.80) or a masala chicken with spiced Indian lentils ($5.40). Dieters, rejoice: They also make a phenomenal line of low fat/low calorie eats called "count on us."
Grocery stores like Tesco, Sainsburys and Waitrose have ready-made sandwiches and wraps (about $3.50) and shockingly yummy microwave meals like curry, cottage pie and lasagna ($3.50 to $9).
The key to the flavour is that they're made fresh and refrigerated, not frozen. Note that groceries in general are cheaper: get yourself a big pack of cookies to snack on for under a dollar.
If you must eat out, choose a pub, where ordering at the bar means saving on the tip. Cheapo faves are jacket potatoes (spuds smothered in toppings like cheese, bacon or beans, about $7.15), soups and sandwiches.
Chain pubs like J.D. Wetherspoon (www.jdwetherspoon.co.uk) make up for what they lack in history in their prices: a beer and burger is $8.40, or score two mains for $12.

Sleeping
Beans on toast and bathtubs with no shower, now what could be more charming than a B&B? At $50 and up, they're thrifty to boot! Also, ask around at pubs - many have rooms to rent for rates that are as intoxicating as their ales.
Many hotels have slashed their prices to cope with the economic crisis.
For last minute deals, try Room Check (www.roomcheck.co.uk), which is currently knocking my socks off with a listing for $27.
For the shortest coop-to-plate journey, eat your morning eggs at a farm stay (www.farmstayuk.co.uk). Ranging from camping ($21) to B&Bs ($50), these digs are all located on working farms.
More of a city mouse? Uptown Reservations (uptownres.co.uk) gets you a room in an elegant private London home from $140.

Reb Stevenson is a Toronto writer.
OttawaCitizen

Organizations: New Look, British Heart Foundation, Oxfam Topshop Oxford Circus Marks and Spencer Tesco Sainsburys J.D. Wetherspoon

Geographic location: England, London, Coronation Street Hyde Park High Street Value Village Buckingham Palace Toronto

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