Everyone likes to save money where they can. And with recession and austerity measures filling the headlines in recent years, it’s no surprise that more and more skiers have been choosing self-catering options when going abroad.
That’s exactly what I did last week. Eight of us jumped in our cars and headed for the Alps (do you know how much easyJet charge to take your skis?!) and 24 hours later arrived in our chalet for the week.
Those of you who have tried to fend for yourselves in a ski resort will already know how limited the choice can be in the convenience ‘supermarkets’ and how expensive it is. Those of you who haven’t had that experience yet – the answer is very.
And when you also consider the limited space and facilities of some self-catering apartments, plus utensils and cooking equipment that have definitely seen better days, you may:
- Wonder why you bothered
- Make a half-hearted attempt to concoct something edible, then
- Eat out for the rest of the week, thus defeating the whole point of saving money.
So here are my top tips for surviving a week’s self-catering holiday in the Alps (although most of them apply in any holiday situation):
- Take your own knife
Whether you’re driving or flying then my top tip is to take your own knife. Note: don’t carry the knife in your hand luggage if you’re flying. Come on, you’re not an idiot. Knife maintenance is not top of people’s priorities when sorting out properties, and have you ever tried to cut an onion with a glorified butter knife? It’s not fun. (A tin opener is handy too!)
- Pack a big pot
The ones provided will probably be minimal and not big enough – especially if there are more than four of you. This clearly doesn’t apply if you’re flying somewhere, there are far more important things to put in that precious space.
- Share the load
If you’re travelling with a group then arrange to cook a night each. Not only does it spread the load so that one person doesn’t get lumbered with it all, but it’s more fun and saves you money as you only have to provide the ingredients for one or two meals.
- Plan in advance
Whether or not you decide to spread the cooking load it’s always wise to take some essentials with you. Obviously if you’re driving then you can bring much bigger quantities, but even on a plane you can take some essentials. The last thing you want to do is to spend a small fortune on things that you’ll only use a small amount of – so measure things out in advance if you can.
- Spice it up
Herbs and spices are expensive at the best of times and you don’t want to be re-buying things that you already have at home. Take your essentials – salt and pepper a must – and wrap them up individually in cling film.
- Pack your own lunch
Lunches on the piste can be notoriously expensive so pack your own sandwich and eat it, enjoying the view. As you can see from the top photo, it’s well worth it.
- Be ready to clean
Lots of self-catering apartments expect you to clean at the end of the week, but don’t always provide the equipment or products to do so. Now I’m not suggesting you bring your hoover with you, but some multi-purpose cleaner and some scourers and J-Cloths will set you in good stead. Washing-up liquid is also mighty handy to have.
- Do your research
No matter how prepared you are, there will always be things that you are unable to pack and plan to buy locally. Be aware of things that you can’t get in the places you are staying. I once brought all of the ingredients to make some lovely fajitas when I was skiing, unaware of the fact that blocks of cheddar cheese and sour cream are virtually impossible to come by. Crème fraîche and straggly grated Emmental does the job, but it’s always good to know these things!