Self catering holiday survival guide 2014

School’s out and many hard-pressed Brits will be saving cash by swerving full-board deals and taking the cost-cutting route of a self-catering holiday. Sounds like a great idea… but failing to plan the culinary details before you leave could result in empty tums – and equally grumbling wallets. Follow’s guide to getting the best savings and tastiest food for your 2014 summer holiday.

Save cash and eat a healthy holiday diet with self-catering breaks

Save cash and eat a healthy holiday diet with self-catering breaks

Save cash and get the best from your self catering holiday
The savings gleaned from dodging restaurants and cooking your own food can be huge, but ignore a few essential rules and you could spend a packet of cash and waste a huge chunk of your hols slaving over a hot stove.

Here we look at how you can save money by finding the best deals on food – freeing-up cash so you can head to the restaurant and enjoy some long lazy dinners – with someone else doing the cooking and washing up.


How much will it cost to shop?

Knowing how much money you’ll need to set aside to pay for food is a great place to start as you plan your holiday budget. Use our infographic to see just how much you can expect to fork out to feed a family of four when shopping at a supermarket near your destination. We’ve data for some of the top holiday hotspots in Europe

How much to buy the 'self-catering holiday basket'

How much to buy the ‘self-catering holiday basket’

What’s in the ‘self-catering holiday basket’?
We’ve been talking about the average cost of goods from this ‘basket’ but what are the essentials that allegedly form the basic shopping needs for a family of four on week’s self-catering break? Simply click below to see what’s in the basket.

Click to reveal 20 items in the self-catering holiday basket

5 x Loaf of bread
1 x Butter (250g)
1 x Jam (450g)
2 x Kids breakfast cereal (500g)
5 x Milk (1 litre)
4 x Orange juice (1 litre)
2 x Eggs (6)
2 x Cheese (250g)
2 x Ham (4-6 slices)
2 x Tomatoes (1kg)
4 x Pizza (9”)
1 x Toilet rolls (4)
1 x Sugar (1kg)
1 x Tea bags (40)
1 x Coffee (100g)
1 x Barbeque briquettes (5kg)
1 x Water (6 x 1.5 litre)
2 x Coca-Cola (2 litre)
2 x Beer (6 x 330ml)
2 x Wine (75cl)

Don’t blow your savings by shopping in the wrong store

Head for a large supermarket when buying supplies

Head for a large supermarket when buying supplies

If you’re looking to cut the cost of your holiday with a self-catering package, then fun-seekers heading to the Algarve will get the best deal for their buck, but prices for food and other essentials are also low in Costa Blanca, Lanzarote and in the Greek Islands. However, it’s not all about where you go – where you shop is just as important, according to research Post Office Travel Money’s latest look at holiday finances.

In many destinations, potential savings on cheap food will be wiped out by shopping at resort mini marts instead of town-based supermarkets. An Algarve-based family of four self-caterers can buy a week’s basic provisions for less than £56.00 at a supermarket, but taking their custom to a resort mini mart could bloat that figure by an incredible 48% – resulting in a bill of £83.00.  The same applies to most other destinations surveyed, with groceries purchased in a Majorcan resort shop costing £133.00, while the same ‘basket’ of 20 essentials could be bought in a supermarket for just £86.00 – a whopping cut of 53% compared with the mini mart.

There are some exceptions to this, though, with mini marts in the Costa Blanca and Corfu being marginally cheaper than their supermarket counterparts. Use the table below to plot your shopping movements as supermarkets go head to head with resort-based mini marts.

Supermarkets Vs mini marts

Here’s how much extra – or less –  you’ll pay for the ‘holiday essentials basket’ in mini marts compared with the bill in supermarkets.

DestinationSupermarket price for basketMini mart price
Portugal Algarve£55.83£82.68 (+48.1%)
Spain Costa Blanca£59.04£57.15 (-3.2%)
Lanzarote£63.86£71.33 (11.7%)
Greece Corfu£66.82£66.29 (-0.8%)
Greece Crete£71.84£81.32 (13.2%)
Menorca£72.38£87.36 (+20.7%)
Turkey Marmaris£77.35£77.35 (=)
Majorca Palma Nova£86.43£132.58 (+53.4%)
Cyprus Limassol£94.06£108.36 (+15.2%)

Find your local supermarket here
With supermarkets proving to be the cheapest places to shop with savings that could amount to hundreds of pounds over a two-week break, we have created a collection of links to help you find your nearest supermarket. Just click your location below


Austria: Billa


Bulgaria: Kaufland


Cyprus: Alphamega


France: Carrefour


Germany: Aldi


Greece: AB Supermarkets


Ireland: Tesco Ireland


Italy: Auchan


Malta: GS Superstore


Netherlands: Albert Heijn



Spain: Carrefour


Turkey: Bim

Emergency food pack

Arriving in the middle of the night after a long flight, followed by waking to a bare cupboard and empty fridge makes for a fractious start to your hols. It’s also likely to prompt a panic-buy at your local mini mart, which could cost big money. Here’s our suggestion for an emergency breakfast pack that’s safe to pack in your suitcase – ensuring your holiday gets off to a stress-free start.


Tooled up

Now that we know where to shop for the best deals, let’s look at getting the best out of the food we buy. Here we look at some different ways to bring a little excitement to the self-caterer’s kitchen…

Heading on holiday to a new destination is just part of the excitement as you head for the airport – so many unknowns and new places to see. However, despite the myriad variables you might face, one thing about your self-catering destination that’s sure to be a constant is that the cooking facilities are going to be basic at best. Most accommodation will merely provide an impotent hob, microwave oven, blunt knife and broken tin opener – but that doesn’t mean you’re condemned to a week – or more – of tomato, mince and pasta-based depression.

There are thousands of great recipes, of course, but in this section, we’re going to focus on ideas and tips will be fun to experiment with and be particularly well-suited to the average self-catering kitchen that’s cooking for kids. This will concentrate on using the traditional self-catering cooking tools of a microwave and barbecue.

The microwave

Don't just use a microwave for defrosting mince for the spag bol

Don’t just use a microwave for defrosting mince for the spag bol

Most self-catering accommodation will have a microwave, so don’t just waste it on defrosting duties. These are our top tips and tricks for microwave cooking.

Tomatoes and garlic - a peeling proposition

Peeling 1: tomatoes: Fresh, locally grown tomatoes can help create an amazing sauce to go with many meals, but peeling toms is tedious and not in the handbook of ‘10 best ways to spend your time on holiday’, so beat the boredom by popping them in the mic for 30 seconds – after which the skin will just drop away in your hands.

Peeling 2: garlic: Another staple of the self-catering recipe book, garlic is also made more user-friendly by placing the clove in the microwave (15 seconds each). Moisture will collect beneath the skin making it a doddle to peel in seconds.

Peeling onions - no more tears

No more tears: The chances are that most self-catering recipes will involve dicing onions and unlike the ones we buy in Brit supermarkets, their continental cousins tend to be a lot more virulent. Once again, your humble microwave can help give your tear ducts a break, too. Simply trim off the ends of the onions and zap them on full power for 30 seconds. You’ll now be able peel and dice without weeping.

Revive soggy crisps

Revive soggy crisps: We all do it; head straight to the local supermarket and buy the largest sack of crisps available – then spend the rest of the week snacking on soggy spuds after the excess moisture in the air grabs the crunch. No problem for a modern-day microwave family – simply grab a handful, place them in a paper towel-lined bowl and zap the soggy suspects for 10-15 seconds. The paper towel will soak up the moisture and leave you with a rejuvenated crunch in your crisp.

Fat-free crisps

Make your own healthy crisps: Snacking on fatty foods is easily done while on holiday, so dodge the associated calories by making your own fry-free potato crisps in the microwave. Yes, it’s true, you really can – and they taste great. Simply slice your potato thinly (this is the secret to good microwave crisps) then place a single layer of the crisps on a paper towel and heat for 30 seconds at a time until they’re just right for you. Add a little salt and enjoy a guilt-free snacking session. If you find the crisps are sticking to the paper, make them a little thicker and cook directly on a plate. You will not believe how crisp-like and tasty the results are.

Crispy bacon - yes, in a microwave

Crispy bacon: While you will most-likely have a pan to fry bacon, this can be messy and leave you with a lot of clearing up when you should be heading to the beach. Using the microwave is cleaner and healthier because the bacon does not cook in its own fat. Grab a bowl and place it on a plate. Next, drape the bacon over the edge of the bowl’s rim – so the rashers are half hanging in the bowl and half over the plate. Now place in the microwave and heat on full power for 90seconds (depending on device) per rasher. The result should be perfectly cooked crispy bacon – with no fat-spattered walls of arms to deal with.

Poached eggs

Poached eggs: Look no further than the microwave for perfect poached eggs without the mess of using a pan. Simply pour boiling water into a microwave-safe bowl, add a dash of white vinegar, crack the egg into the water and lightly prick the yolk with a toothpick. Cover the bowl with Clingfilm and cook for 30 seconds on full power. Next, remove, turn the egg and heat for a further 20 seconds. Remove and enjoy.

Revive stale bread

Rehydrate stale bread: We all know that crusty French-style holiday bread doesn’t take more than a few hours to transform into a block of impenetrable concrete – but that doesn’t mean you have to bin it. Simply wrap the bread in damp kitchen towel and microwave on high power for bursts of 10 seconds until it’s moist and ready to eat.

Cake in a mug

Bake a cake in a mug: The kids need cake but you have no traditional oven – don’t despair… the microwave will rapidly restore the peace. Take 2oz butter, 2oz caster sugar, one beaten egg, 2oz self-raising flower and a few drops of vanilla essence and place it in a large mug. Mix with a fork until smooth. If the mixture fills more than half the mug, share it with another. Microwave each cake separately for 1.5 to 2.5 minutes until risen and firm. Cook for additional bursts of 20 seconds if not ready. Top with ice cream and see smiles return to all faces.

Baked potatoes

Baked potatoes: Simply prick the spuds, blast on full power for five minutes, turn and heat again for the same time. Add some butter along with a topping such as cheese or coleslaw for fast and nutritious lunches.

Make your own jam

Breakfast jam: Make sure you’re always breakfast-ready with this microwave-made holiday jam.
You’ll need: 500g of ripe strawberries, juice from two lemons and 190g of sugar.

How to cook: Cut up the strawbs and microwave on high for four minutes. Add the sugar and stir well until dissolved. Combine and cook for 20 minutes, stirring every five minutes until the jam thickens. The jam’s ready when you can stand a spoon in it. Place in jars and enjoy. This will make more jam than you’ll need for your hols, so you may want to cut the ingredients, accordingly – or even share with your hungry neighbours.

Quiche in a mug

Quiche in a mug: They’re quick, easy and the kids will love the novelty value offered by eating out of a mug. It’s only around 200 calories for each serving, too.

You’ll need: 1 egg,1 1/2 tablespoon milk, salt, ground black pepper, bagel-sized lump of French bread, 2 teaspoons cream cheese, 1/2 slice ham, Fresh thyme leaves or fresh chopped chives

How to cook: Use a fork to beat the egg and milk in a mug. Add the salt and pepper to taste and break the bread into small pieces and stir them in. Add the cream cheese, cut the ham into small pieces and stir into the mixture. Sprinkle with the thyme. Now heat the cup for around one minute and garnish with thyme or chives.

Fancy cheesy scrambled eggs

Fancy cheesy scrambled eggs: You’ll never be short of eggs on the continent, but frying them is messy and unhealthy, while boiling for the right amount of time is just an ordeal – so what could be better than microwave-baked scrambled eggs with cheese. Eggs are a great way to fill up in the morning, to help cut snacking and costs.

You’ll need: 2 large eggs, two tablespoons of milk, pinch of salt and a handful of grated cheddar cheese. You can also garnish with cherry tomatoes and spring onion if you like.

How to cook: Combine the eggs, milk, salt and pepper in a microwave-safe bowl and mix together. Microwave uncovered for 45 seconds on full power. Then stir with a fork and cook again for around 45 seconds until the eggs are set. Remove from the microwave and stir in the grated cheese, wait for it to melt then serve.

Creamy cheese risotto

Creamy cheese risotto: It has to be said that risotto makes a perfect holiday dish to eat in your apartment, but wasting an hour of your daily beach allowance cooking it the traditional way is not on. Problem solved – the microwave can slash cooking time to just three minutes of prep and 18 minutes unattended cooking. Perfect for a cheap and tasty lunch for the whole family.

You’ll need: One teaspoon of olive oil, three finely chopped shallots, clove of garlic, 225g Arborio rice, one pint of chicken stock and four tablespoons of grated Parmesan cheese.

How to cook: Mix and stir the oil, garlic and rice in a medium-size microwave-safe bowl and zap on high power for three minutes. Mix in the chicken stock, cover and microwave on full power for 18 minutes. Remove and check the stock has been absorbed and the risotto creamy. If not, cook again for 2.5 minutes. Add the Parmesan cheese and serve with crusty bread.

Mushroom variety: If you fancy a mushroom version of the risotto, simply cook as above and use the 18 minutes to sauté some shiitake mushrooms, which you add at the same time as the Parmesan cheese.


Lasagne: No oven, no lasagne, right? Wrong! Microwave this family friendly meal in around 25 minutes.

You’ll need: 15oz of ricotta, 4oz baby spinach, 8oz grated mozzarella, 1.5 ounces Parmesan, salt and pepper, 24oz jar of Italian marinara sauce and six sheets of lasagne pasta.

How to cook: Mix the ricotta, spinach, mozzarella, Parmesan, and ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper. Spread around a third of the marinara sauce over the base of an 8-inch microwave-safe dish. Top this with three sheets of lasagne along with half the remaining sauce and half the ricotta mixture. Repeat with the remaining sheets of pasta, sauce and ricotta. Top with the remaining pasta, mozzarella and Parmesan.  Cover with wax or parchment paper, then a plate. Microwave it on high for 15 to 20 minutes. Leave to stand for 10 minutes and serve.

The barbecue

We've some innovative ways to use your self-catering barbie

We’ve some innovative ways to use your self-catering barbie

It’s not just there for cremating sausages and giving you food poisoning – the self-catering barbie offers so much more. Here are some great ideas to spice up your meal times.


Pizza: Shop-bought pizzas are often hard to distinguish between the piece of greasy cardboard they come packed on, so why not step away from the bland and try a homemade version that’s cooked on the barbie. The fuller flavour and chargrilled accents will ensure your soon coming back for more. Here’s how…

What you’ll need: Flour, dough and yeast to make the dough, tomato paste, olive oil, cheese and any topping of your choice such as ham, local sausages or mushrooms.

How to cook: Make the pizza dough, then break and shape into a base. Next, lightly flour and oil it before placing it on the barbecue. Make sure the grill is clean as any dirt will make the dough stick. Let the base cook for a few moments before oiling the other side and flipping it over. Now apply and spread the tomato paste, before covering with cheese. The heat should melt the cheese, so simply remove when it all looks ready.

Potato wedges

Potato wedge: A dead-cert to keep the kids interested and a healthy alternative to the mountain of deep-fried chips they’ll be eating in restaurants. Plus, the crispy texture and flame-grilled flavour make an irresistible combination. Here’s how…

What you’ll need: That’s the great bit – just a few potatoes, a little oil and some seasoning.

How to cook: Simply cut the wedges – a little thinner than usual, to around 1cm thickness – then par-boil for a few minutes. Next, drizzle them with oil and drop them on the barbie for a few mins. Taste-test to help decide when they’re ready.

Barbied bananas

Barbied bananas: Makes a great pudding when combined with toppings such as chocolate sauce or ice cream. An instant winner to keep the kids happy and round off any barbie.

What you’ll need: Bananas and toppings of your choice.

How to cook: It’s simple. Just leave in the skins and slice lengthways. Place the split bananas – cut side up and with the skins still in place – on the barbie. Cook for a few moments until the banana is nice and mushy, then scoop from the skins and add your toppings.

Barbecued apples

Barbecued apples: Getting your kids to eat fruit isn’t the most likely holiday scenario, but these barbied apples could be just the solution. Coated in sugar or butter the cooking process will give them an irresistible caramelised flavour the kids will love.

What you’ll need: Apples, sugar and butter.

How to cook: Cut the apples into slices or wedges, then coat with butter or sugar and place on the barbecue until they brown. Eat as they are or add a dollop of ice cream or chocolate sauce.

Barbied oysters

Oysters: Are the children at holiday club? Seize the moment to add a little romance to your break with an oyster lunch prepared on the barbecue.

What you’ll need: Fresh local oysters and some wine vinegar, shallots and ginger to make your sauce for the cooked shellfish – alternatively, just eat them with a little melted butter.

How to cook: Prepare the oysters and sauce then place shell-down on the barbie. Cook for 4-6 minutes then eat and enjoy the after effects.

Beer can chicken

Beer can whole chicken: A moist roast chicken infused with subtle flavours from the beer. A great meal for the whole family to enjoy from the barbie.

What you’ll need: A whole chicken, one can of beer – of your choice – at room temperature, two cloves of chopped garlic, some rosemary, lemon juice, pepper, salt and two teaspoons of olive oil.

How to cook: Make sure the giblets are removed from the chicken then rub the carcass with a mix of oil and salt. Next, open the beer and pour out half the contents before adding the garlic, rosemary, thyme, lemon juice and pepper flakes. Use a can opener and pierce two more holes in the top of the can. Place the can on the barbecue and gently slide the bird onto it. Now let the chicken and beer cook for 90-120. Remove – with the beer can in place and let stand for at least 10 minutes before carving.

Mexican corn on the cob

Mexican corn on the cob: It’s a firm favourite for most, but why not give it an extra boost on your barbie with a little Mexican zing? Here’s how.

What you’ll need: Corn on the cob, butter, whole limes, chilli flakes.

How to cook: Soak the corn in cold water for 15 minutes, then heat on barbie for 30-40 minutes. Place directly on the grill and don’t wrap. While it’s cooking, mash the butter with lime zest and chilli flakes. Serve the cobs with a nob of the spicy butter.

Barbecued salmon steaks

Barbecued salmon steaks: This barbecued salmon recipe is perfect for a hot sticky day when you want a tasty, moist lunch that’s light on the palette and stomach.

What you’ll need: Fresh salmon steaks, a little oil, fresh cucumber, salt and pepper, sour cream and chive dip plus a light salad.

How to cook: Rub salmon steaks with oil and season with salt and pepper. Then place it skin down on the barbie for five minutes, before turning and cooking for a further two minutes. Meanwhile, slice the cucumber and sprinkle with a little salt. Serve salmon with the cucumber, salad and dip. Simple, quick and just right for the midday heat.

Spicy coleslaw

Spicy homemade coleslaw: A great way to excite your barbecue food – make your own spicy coleslaw.

What you’ll need: 350g white cabbage (shredded), 250g celeriac (shredded) two carrots (shredded), one red onion (shredded), red chili (hot or medium to taste), 200g Greek yoghurt and dash of cider vinegar or similar..

How to cook: Mix the white cabbage, celeriac, carrots and onion. Deseed the chilli and add. Finally mix in the Greek yoghurt and cider vinegar. Season with salt and black pepper.

Homemade cloudy lemonade

Homemade cloudy lemonade: The slightly tart taste of this homemade cloudy lemonade will be perfect for hot barbecued food, while simultaneously saving you plenty of cash compared with shop-bought alternatives. Great for adults and kids, alike.

What you’ll need: Six lemons, two limes and 200g sugar.

How to cook: Remove the zest from all lemons and two limes. Place this in a large jug. Juice all the lemons and limes into the jug and add 200g of sugar. Add the hot water, stir well then allow it to cool and chill. Serve with ice and slices of lemon and lime.

Barbied avocados

Barbecued avocados: These will seriously surprise you and your kids.

What you’ll need: Avocados, lime juice, salsa sauce, sour cream, salt and pepper.

How to cook: Cut the avocado in half, remove the seed and drizzle with lime juice and olive oil. Place it flesh side down for five to seven minutes. Remove from barbie, sprinkle with salt then fill the hole with the salsa sauce and top with blob of sour cream.

Barbied doughnuts

Barbied doughnuts: Everyone does it… buys a huge bag of the sugary treats only to throw most of them away when they go stale and rock hard within eight hours of purchase. Well, step away from the bin and let the barbie save the day with reinvigorated doughnuts that come with a great griddled taste.

What you’ll need: Stale doughnuts, vanilla ice cream.

How to cook: Cut the doughnut in half horizontally and throw them on the barbie ‘flesh’ side down for between 30 – 60 seconds. Flip and grill the other side for 30 seconds. Now, place the doughnut cut side up on a plate and scoop on some ice cream. You can also put two together with a filling of ice cream to make a doughnut sandwich. Messy, fun and very tasty.

Barbecued watermelon with yoghurt

Barbecued watermelon with yoghurt: You know you’ll not be able to resist the huge watermelon in the local mini mart, so here’s what to do with it when slurping slices gets boring.

What you’ll need: Watermelon, Greek yoghurt, 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice, tbsp white wine vinegar, tsp chopped thyme, olive oil, salt and pepper.

How to cook: Combine and mix the yoghurt, lemon juice, vinegar, thyme and tablespoon of olive oil. Cut the melon into triangles that are about one-inch thick then drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and vinegar. Place on the barbie and cook over a high heat until charred – about 60 seconds each side. Remove the watermelon triangles, top with the yoghurt sauce and season with black pepper. Drizzle with olive oil and serve as a tasty refreshing starter.

Barbecued eggs

Barbecued eggs: It’s a fair bet you’ve never barbied an egg before, so get ready for the smoky tastebud-tantalising treat of a lifetime.

What you’ll need: One large pepper – colour is your choice, two eggs, salt and black pepper. (serves two, so just increase pepper and egg ratio to suit your brood).

How to cook: Cut the pepper in half and remove contents. Place the halved peppers on a chopping board to make sure they sit firmly and don’t roll to one side. If okay, crack an egg into each half and place on the hottest section of the grill. Don’t worry about charring the pepper’s skin, this just makes it even tastier. Cook until the egg looks done, then season and serve.

Give yourself a break – hit the town

Spend the cash you save on nights out at restaurants

Spend the cash you save on nights out at restaurants

If you’ve followed our guide looking at where to buy your shopping you’ll have saved plenty of cash, but combine this with the strong pound and you’ll have a pot of excess wonga to blow… so forget toiling in the kitchen, book a table and head out on the town.

Here’s the average price you should expect to pay for a two-course lunch without drinks and a three-course evening meal for two with a bottle of wine in a local tourist class restaurant. These prices are for two adults, so you’ll need to add a little for kids.

LocationLunch Dinner
Sunny Beach, BULGARIA£7.14 £22.32
Marmaris, TURKEY£8.82£26.18
Costa del Sol, SPAIN£15.28£25.47
Costa Blanca, SPAIN£13.58£25.47
Algarve, PORTUGAL£13.58£22.92
Paphos, CYPRUS£16.81£27.80
Crete, GREECE£13.58£33.96
Istria, CROATIA£11.48£41.32
Orlando, USA£18.44£36.88
Corfu, GREECE£16.98£33.11
Palma, MAJORCA£16.98£33.96
Ciutadella, MENORCA£16.89 £41.60
Split, CROATIA£22.96£34.43
Sliema, MALTA£21.22£40.75
Puerto del Carmen, LANZAROTE£20.37£46.69
Bodrum, TURKEY£23.53£44.12
Nice, FRANCE£25.47£44.14
various, IBIZA£20.37£42.44
Tuscany, ITALY£20.37£55.18
Sorrento, ITALY£25.47£50.93

Avoid the holiday fat map with self-catering control

Along with saving cash, another advantage of self-catering holidays might be to help fight obesity. Being in control of what you eat means you’re far less likely to succumb to holiday weight gain. This could be especially useful if visiting on of the locations on this fat map of the top 10 holiday destinations to tighten your jeans.

Top 10 destinations for holiday weight gain
How much you can expect to put on over a two-week period.

fat-tums2-5US – 8lb
Caribbean – 7.4lb
France – 7.3lb
Italy – 7lb
Greece – 6.9lb
UK  – 6.8lb
Portugal – 6.7lb
Spain – 6.6lb
Turkey – 6.3lb
Africa – 6lb

Happy hols!


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