Friday 10 January 2014

Frugal educational trips: food and other costs

This is the last part of this series on Frugal Educational Trips.

Today's post is about saving on food, drink and other costs.

I guess that saving on food seems fairly obvious; just take a packed lunch. I often find this difficult in the rush to get everyone ready and out of the house, along with leaving food for those who aren't coming on the trip. Yes, we usually do take a packed lunch and I'm probably the queen of uninspired picnics. However, an alternative is to stop somewhere to buy a baguette, cheese, tomatoes and fruit. OK, not quite as cheap but not far off and very quick! 

Please do comment with suggestions for other quick, cheap, on the go lunches. Creating exciting picnics isn't my forte.

Children seem to become especially hungry on trips. I've learned to take more than I think that we will need. A packet of rice cakes, bag of fruit or packet of crisps and more can easily disappear on the way home from a day trip.

Occasionally, eating has to be a special part of the trip. Some time ago, we took fairly frequent foot passenger crossings to France for the day. Eating French food was part of the experience and we didn't take our own food. 

The end of a day out is tiring and it isn't always easy to find the energy to prepare a meal on return. The simplest way to manage this and avoid buying an expensive meal out, is to prepare in advance. A casserole in the slow cooker or another meal ready prepared at home saves time and money.

When a visit will involve being away for more than one meal, it is worth careful planning. Can a second meal be carried in a cool box or is there somewhere cheap and cheerful to buy a meal? This usually means either going to a supermarket or sometimes, fish and chips. Do remember that portions of fish and chips are often very generous and it probably isn't necessary to buy one portion per person, except for teenage boys!

Drinks are much less expensive if taken from home. OK, I can't say I've never enjoyed a National Trust coffee but generally, we take water bottles and coffee in a thermos. In the summer, one water bottle per person is often not sufficient and it is worth taking a few extra litres from home. The saving from taking drink can be several pounds per trip.

Other costs
Many venues will have a shop full of interesting and generally, highly priced items. It can be very tempting to buy the children a small bar of chocolate, only to discover that it is 7-8 times the price of a basics bar from the supermarket. I try to deter children from spending their pocket money on plastic trinkets although sometimes buying these and discovering their poor enduring value is part of the learning process.

We do buy postcards for journals and occasionally, guide books. 

Please do share your thoughts on saving on trips.


  1. For a day trip I tend to make up a picnic lunch but I do individual sandwich bags and only take what I know they will eat. (I HATE unloading the picnic bag when there is leftovers!!). If we have visitors I normally do the same but have to label the sandwich bags so we all get the right one. If it's the summer weather we quite often take our camping fridge even if it's only a day trip. We LOVE our drinks to be cold and we can easily take more frozen bottles of water to keep the fridge cold even when the car is switched off, we have found it to have been a great investment. We can also throw in sausages and save money on the second meal by having a BBQ before returning home, we have a small BBQ set and it's easy take some salad and sauces in the fridge. As you say drinks are the worst even when eating out, if I'm in frugal mode it's a jug of water for the table!!

    1. Elaine, unloading picnic bags at the end of the day is amongst my least favourite jobs too. A camping fridge sounds great and would expand the food range a bit!

  2. My girls love it when we do the "packed lunch" because it's usually a baguette and maybe some meat and cheese and fruit. I try to also pack some carrot sticks and pretzels and something sweet like a cake.

    1. Thank you for visiting, Tess. Pretzels are a good idea.

  3. We do picnic lunches often because that does reduce the cost. We will take sandwiches, quiche, just meat and cheese roll-ups, pepperoni bread. Lunches at home is often leftovers so we don't have lunch meat often. I have also found that I really need to have dinner planned and it is best if it is in the crock-pot so we are ready to eat when we get home.

    1. Beth, I couldn't agree more about having the food in the crock-pot. It makes the end of the day much easier.