Tuesday, 31 December 2013
Traveling with children 4: Food
As a young family on a tight budget, one of the biggest expenses when travelling is food. If we hadn't planned ahead we would have spent a few hundred euro more on food during our week away.
For example, we left Dublin at lunchtime on the Saturday, after a frantic morning packing and cleaning. We brought lunch with us in the car, instead of stopping off somewhere (usually McDonald's), so we immediately saved time and money by eating in the car. When we arrived in Rosslare for the ferry we picked up some milk and more fresh fruit in a supermarket to do us the next couple of days (we had a kettle in our room, so saved money on buying cups of tea during the crossing). On the boat we ate in our room the first night, a cold picnic of roast vegetables, hard boiled eggs, cheeses and bread and fruit. Again, money saved not buying dinner for 3.5 people. We'd even brought some alcohol so we only bought a couple of drinks and mixers in the bar that night. All adds up people!
The next day we breakfasted in the ferry's restaurant, all we really wanted was fruit, tea and yoghurt as we were still a biy queasy from the rocky crossing the previous night. We bought some hot chocolates later in the bar, and pastries as a treat, oh, and Pringles, but ate more of our home-brought food for lunch.
Driving through France we snacked on fruit, nuts and sweets in the car, and stopped at a McDonald's as much for the novelty as the food. At the house we ate more of our home-brought food for dinner, heated in the microwave, and toasted our 2-day journey with a bottle of wine. (The previous time we'd also arrived on a Sunday night and had a hard time finding anywhere to buy food and wine, managed to get a pizza kiosk open which thankfully sold wine too, but it was a close call!) God forbid you wouldn't have an alcoholic drink on arrival, eh? ;)
The next day we shopped in a large supermarket for some fresh stuff: meat, eggs, cheese, fruit, veg and yoghurts, but we'd brought almost everything else with us. I've gotten used to packing a LARGE box/bag of food with us whenever we travel these days, as we usually go self-catering. There's nothing worse (1st world problems) than arriving somewhere and having to buy oil, salt etc as they can add up and you inevitably had it all at home anyway.
A rough food packing list for us these days goes something like this:
Salt and pepper grinder
Butter (yes, this time we brought a pound of butter and it lasted us the week for cooking and sandwiches)
Teabags, regular and decaf
Apples and bananas
Cheese (I like to have the makings of at least one dinner for us all in case we are stuck on arrival)
Hot chocolate powder
Sweets for mama when the kids are asleep
I know you can buy all that stuff anywhere you go, but when you're driving you can easily fit a bag of food in the car, and it takes the pressure off the first few days if you know you can sit around the house relaxing without having to go food shopping immediately. We rarely ever use all that we bring, this time a butternut squash stayed in our boot to and from France, but it was there had we needed it.
We ate out a few times, once in a dive-y pub/restaurant near the Parc de la Villette, we had pizzas and Barry had a steak. The pizzas weren't great, but we were all delighted to be out in Paris in a restaurant at night, so it didn't matter.
A couple of days later we had a stunning meal in a roadside cafe on the Left Bank, one of the typically French ones where you sit under an awning on the path drinking great Bordeaux and eating pommes frites chips and omelette done to perfection. With a bill to reflect the experience, but it was a treat.
Other stop-offs included hot chocolates in a cafe to escape a rain shower, some pastries and tea in a bakery and the like. We usually had a big breakfast or lunch at home, and just snacked when out, and made sure my handbag held some fruit and crackers for us wherever we went.
Every day we went to the local bakery and bought a baguette and croissants which did us for breakfast and lunch. Wherever we were going we'd bring the remains of the baguette smothered with Laughing Cow cheese or slices of cheddar, and a bottle of red wine and paper cups, with a bottle of water for the boys. Apples and grapes and bananas rounded up a great lunch, with some chocolate for dessert. Simple food, simply eaten, but it was all great quality, fresh and delicious, and we never felt hungry. Most evenings we were back in the house, so we'd eat soup that I made or noodles with peas, or omelette etc. Quick and easy meals that sometimes had enough leftover for the next day's lunch or dinner.
One major difference I noticed was the taste of the vegetables. Maybe I'm shopping in all the wrong places in Ireland, but the French tomatoes, carrots, leeks etc all tasted amazing. None of your watery tasteless stuff.
I could have spent days wandering the aisles in the supermarkets marvelling at the fabulous (and way cheaper) jams, chocolates, wines etc. I wish I'd stocked up on more to bring home. We found our favourite bubbly, Frexeinet, for less than 6 euros a bottle, instead of the ususal 15-18 euros here. Also Bonne Maman jams which are over 3 euros here were less than 2 in France... And the chocolate... and the honey... and the cheeses... A trip next year with an emptier boot will be necessary methinks.
I was on the lookout for a hot chocolate powder, as we'd forgotten ours, and the kids love it. One of the cheapest on the shelves was Poulaine, which is made by Cadbury's and has a higher cocoa content than our Cadbury's hot chocolate mix here (32% as opposed to 20-something.) You could really taste the difference, and we drank it with a mint syrup (2 something for a large bottle) which makes a divine mint hot chocolate. Starbucks eat your heart out.
I also bought a bottle of caramel syrup which is lovely added to coffees, and over ice-cream. It was about 3 euros, and gives me a little thrill every time I see it in the cupboard. Sad how things have changed for me after 2 years as a stay-at-home mom. Or maybe better.
So those are my tips for saving money on food while travelling with children. Obviously I'm breastfeeding too, so that is a great fall-back, ie. I'm never stuck for a drink for the kids, and my 2 year old still eats very little "real food". So in that way breastfeeding is so handy when you're travelling. My toddler was in the sling a lot, and would be on and off the boob all day, so he never got hungry.
Have you any tips to share with us? Saving money or time when you have kids is essential, so please leave any comments below, or on my Facebook page!
Take care, and Happy New Year yáll!
You can find Travelling with children 1: Packing here
Travelling with children 2: Transport here
Travelling with children 3: Accommodation here
And my fifth and final installation called "Surviving Disneyland" will be published as soon as find the damn notebook where I wrote all my notes!