Back when I started going to music festivals, your ‘food choices’ basically involved whether you had cheese on your burger or whether you had a large or small portion of chips. If you were lucky, there might have been some Chinese noodles or a Tesco pizza presented as home-made on offer.
Thankfully, festival food has moved on leaps and bounds, and now if you head to most UK festivals, you’ll find a whole range of street food eats to tuck into. Vans selling cuisines from all around the world line the fields; selling freshly cooked, filling delights. Fish and chips, burritos, filled Yorkshire puds, giant hot dogs, cones of churros…you get me. There are basically loads of options for festival eats, and good ones at that.
Having been to quite a few of them over the years, I wanted to share my own guide on what to eat at music festivals. Hopefully it’ll help! The first part covers food you buy on-site, and a section at the bottom covers ways to avoid spending all your cash on festival food – saving you more money for beer.
Expect to pay more
Okay, so, if you haven’t been to a festival before – and especially for those not living in the South – the food and drink prices might be a bit of a shocker to begin with. Expect to pay around £5 a pint, £7 a burger, and £3 for a portion of chips. Annoyingly, prices are pretty much high across the board – you might find a 50p difference here and there but it’ll mostly be very similar.
Choose independent vendors
Nowadays at both bigger and smaller names, the food areas are more reminiscent of street food markets than worn-down chippy vans. For instance, this year at Download, I ate Bunnychow chilli, amazing churros and pizza IN A CONE. Independent vendors generally offer better quality, more inventive and flavoursome food for similar prices to the same-y chain food places. Speaking of…
Avoid ‘chain’ stalls where possible
Some of the worst festival food I’ve put into my mouth has, unsurprisingly, come from the ‘chain’ catering vans. As a rule, I avoid anything that has more than two or three different types of food stall by the same company at the festival.
If you’re veggie, vegan, gluten free or have other specific dietary requirements, don’t panic! Every festival I’ve been to has had plenty of stalls that offer a range of dietary options. If you’re really worried, head to a stall that sells food that has simple ingredients (e.g sandwiches) when it’s quiet and have a chat with the vendor, who’ll be able to advise you and maybe even serve something slightly off-menu if they have the time and ability to do so.
Do your research
Plenty of festivals now offer lists on their website of food stalls available, along with information on more common dietary requirements. Every Download Festival, I’ll always be found analysing the food stall list and looking them up on Instagram to decide on my must-eat list. If there’s no list online, get onto the festival’s Facebook page or forums, and ask veteran attendees what they’d recommend.
Be prepared in case something doesn’t agree with you
Chances are if you’ve taken a bit of time and considered your options, you’ll be eating something that’s decent quality. But in case you do end up eating something dodgy, packing some Imodium might just save your weekend…
Eating in the campsite
If you’re camping at a festival, it’s easy enough to eat some or even all of your own meals, saving £££ on festival food prices. A cool box filled with meat surrounded by ice packs and a disposable BBQ make a perfect first day meal. If you’re lucky enough to be at a festival with a short walk into town, you can also pick up perishable supplies, like bacon for breakfast. And if you want to cook things like baked beans or boil hot water for Pot Noodles and cups of tea, a small solid fuel Hexi stove is a great shout. Just double check what the festival allows first, though!
Eating without cooking
If you don’t want to cook, there are other options too. Loads of my friends will eat tinned food like baked beans and sausages or mac and cheese cold (although personally, the idea makes me feel pretty grim). I much prefere packet ready-to-eat food, like the Jamie Oliver ready to eat range, and the John West light lunches (which look kinda like cat food, but taste surprisingly decent). In terms of snacks, I swear by Pringles, nuts and dried fruit to get me by.
Take a picnic
If you’re really against festival arena food prices or worried about what you’ll eat, many events will let you take in your own lunch or snacks. It’s harder to do this when you’re doing a full weekend, but on a day ticket, you can save quite a bit by packing up some sandwiches, sausage rolls or even getting fancy with your picnic food.
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Hopefully this has been a somewhat helpful guide to what to eat at music festivals – if you have any tips of your own, favourite things you’ve eaten or any thoughts to share, please do pop them in the comments!
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