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Top Tips for Self Catering Holidays

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With many of us on a budget, a self catering holiday is often the best option, especially for a family, and with these top tips, it shouldn’t be a chore!

1) Take a few basic ingredients

I always pack basic herbs, spices, salt and pepper and a few stock cubes.  This means I can easily rustle up something like a tasty pasta sauce or risotto without having to buy a years worth of herbs and spices, only to leave them behind at the end of the holiday or take them home. Another top tip for self catering is to pack things in small pots.  I love the Sistema small pots for my herbs and spices and I also use some for my moisuriser, rather than taking full sized jars.

2) Recipe Mix Sachets


Recipe mixes by companies like Schwartz, which have have as all the necessary herbs and spices etc to make a meal, pre packed and measured are ideal for self catering.  I like the traybake ones that they do and also the Spanish selection.  The Paella mix is delicious.

3) Easy meal kits and Pre packed mixes

Thai curry kits, such as those by Thai Taste, which contain a pouch of curry paste, coconut milk and some dried thai herbs are a great thing to put in the suitcase, so all you have to do is add meat, fish and or vegetables and boil some rice. Most supermarkets also do their own versions.

Self catering breakfast

Our sister company, The Little Pancake Company, makes delicious Gourmet Pancake Mixes.  Perfect for popping in your lugguage, to make a yummy breakfast for all the family or a quick and easy dessert.  All you have to add is an egg and milk, whisk and spoon the mix into a frying pan and you have delicious fluffy American style pancakes for 4 people. Available on this website or via The Little Pancake Company.

4) Take your own essentials

I always take a small bag of my favourite tea bags, as often the tea you buy abroad isn’t as good as at home. I don’t want to waste money buying more than I need and having to leave it behind at the end of the holiday.

5) Flavoured Couscous packets or Savoury Rice pouches

These are a must in my packing.  Quick and simple to make and easily transportable, they make a brilliant addition to simple barbequed meat or fish. My favourite are Merchant Gourmet flavoured grains.   The Spanish Style Grains and Rice mix is delicious with some fried chicken, onion and peppers.

6) Travelling by car

If you are travelling by car and you have space, it is a great opportunity to pop in a few more basics. I would also advise taking a half bottle of washing up liquid, a few dishwasher tablets, antibacterial wipes, bin bags plus a small bottle of olive oil which is great for cooking or to make salad dressings.  I also usually pop in a sharp knife.

7) Consider what time you will arrive

If you are arriving late or on a day that local shops are closed, it is a good idea to plan ahead. Perhaps take a simple meal with you, a bag of pasta and a jar of pesto is an easy thing to pack.  I have even taken a frozen pre-prepared meal before in my suitcase and so all we have had to do on arrival was heat it up.

8) Supermarket Delivery

If staying in the UK, a good tip is to arrange a supermarket delivery to be delivered to your holiday home. Great for bulkier items.

9) Shop Local


One of the best things about self catering abroad is visiting local markets and stocking up on delicious fresh produce.  Also brilliant for inspiration and trying out your language skills. Local markets are often in a different town each day so check the location and time beforehand to avoid disappointment.  It is always worth getting there early.

Smaller, more tucked away supermarkets are usually cheaper than the huge touristy ones, so ask around, to find out where the locals shop.

10) Keep it simple

The last thing you want to be doing on holiday is slaving over a hot stove so keep things simple. One pot dishes are great and save on the washing up, a risotto or paella type dish are my first choice.  Simple grilled or barbequed fish or meat with a salad is another good alternative.  For lunches, if eating in, we usually have lots of local cheese, bread, meats and salads.

11) Lightweight cool bag or insulated carrier bag

This is a really handy thing to put in your suitcase.  Perfect to keep chilled food cool on your trip home from the supermarket in hot countries. If you don’t take your own, you can usually pick one up at the local supermarket.  They are also really handy if heading to the beach for the day or out for a picnic.  You can also freeze small water bottles to use as cool packs and then drink the water when it defrosts.

12) Get the Kids involved

For many years part of our holiday routine was for the kids to go to the local bakery or shop in the morning to pick up some croissants or pastries and bread for lunch. It gave us a lie in and they enjoyed the freedom as well as the opportunity to try out their basic language skills.  Now they are that much older, it is getting them out of bed in the morning that is the problem!

13) Going to Expensive Destinations

If you are travelling to an expensive destination such as Scandinavia or Iceland, which are very expensive, my tip is to take your own alcohol.  You can buy your alcohol in the supermarket here and then pack it in your suitcase.  We usually take wine boxes (Do check what the relevant allowances are for the country you are visiting).  Also you can top up your shop in the duty free shop when you arrive at your desination country.

We have also taken frozen meat joints to Norway before to cut costs.  These can be transported wrapped in newspaper or a towel and put in a cool bag and depending on the length of your journey, can stay frozen for the whole trip.  However, make sure you check the regulations on importing food into the country you are visiting.

I certainly don’t cater for every meal but by keeping “eating in” cheap and easy, it means we can go out more often. Yay!  Anyway  I hope you find these tips helpful for your self catering or camping holiday and the most important thing is to enjoy your time away.  We would also love to hear your top tips so let us know.