Self catering with allergies in Lanzarote

Just back from a week of winter sun in Lanzarote. December is a lovely time to visit as it’s warm and sunny but not dreadfully so. This was our second visit, last year the weather was very pleasant but windy and you needed a sweatshirt, this year it was glorious! Of course I’d packed for pleasant so I ended up rocking my husband’s swim shorts by the pool #stylish.

We flew with Jet2 which is my airline of choice for flying with a nut allergy. Lots of airlines have reasonable allergy policies but Jet2 have been consistently good. If you inform them prior to your flight that you have a severe nut allergy they don’t load nuts onto the plane which means they can’t make an announcement regarding not serving nuts then forget and still serve them (I’m looking at you EasyJet). It’s over 4 hours flight from Edinburgh to Lanzarote so I packed breakfast (muffins) to eat after check in (9.15am flight), lunch (filled rolls, crisps & fruit) to eat on the plane and plenty snacks as my kids eat about nine times what you would think they might need when travelling. I didn’t look into buying food on board as my son has multiple allergies and I think crisps are about all he can have from the in flight menu. I take lollipops for the kids for take off and landing.

We stayed in Puerto del Carmen which is only a short transfer from Arrecife airport. You could get a taxi to your accommodation but we hired a car so we could do a proper supermarket shop rather rely on the smaller resort supermarkets. You could probably manage shopping in town but it’s pricier and there is less choice.

There is a large Mercadona and a Hiperdino supermarket in Playa Honda near the airport.  I like Mercadona, I’ve shopped there in the Costa del sol as well and they’ve lovely fresh produce and a reasonable selection of dairy free milk. They also sell the nicest gluten free pasta I’ve eaten, I was convinced I’d bought wheat pasta by mistake it was so good.

They don’t have a free from section as such, just bits and pieces in with the regular products.

I bought gorgeous dairy free choc ices there last year but my son wasn’t that taken with them.

They have a selection of dairy free fruit yoghurts but they are all soya based so if you are milk and soya free your choices would be very limited (almost non existent). They also sell chocolate desserts and rather excitingly had chocolate mousse this visit (I’m easy excited by free from food).

A lot of the dairy free milks in Mercadona do not contain added calcium so check the label!

The Hiperdino has a fabulous free from section! I could have done all my shopping there apart from soya chocolate desserts as they only had a very small selection of soya fruit yoghurts. To my delight they had Gullon sharkie biscuits which my son loves and are free from gluten, milk, egg and nuts! (Contain soya lecithin). I stocked up on boxes to take home!

The free from aisle is just as you walk in the store.

They also have a large frozen section

There are a few options for dairy free spread.

I haven’t seen any dairy free cheese, I took some in a cool bag in my suitcase along with egg free mayo, chorizo sausage and pepperoni as the only cold meat I’ve been able to find that doesn’t contain milk is plain ham. I also packed some safe bread & rolls to freeze on arrival (handy to keep a packet for making a packed lunch for the journey home!), home baked biscuits and safe chocolate.

We did a big shop day one in the Hiperdino then I sent my husband back to the Mercadona day two for chocolate desserts. Our hire car was not very big so we dropped our suitcases at our villa and had a snack before going to the supermarket. There was a small spar near our villa which was handy for buying water and fresh bread for the wheat eaters among us.

We didn’t eat out. My son is allergic to milk, eggs, wheat, peanuts, treenuts, peas and lentils and it’s less stressful if we just feed ourselves. My husband cooked to give me a break. We keep it simple, baked potatoes, pasta, grilled meat. I packed some spice packets to liven meals up a bit. I took my own chopping board, grater, a frying pan and two cooking utensils. I also took lots of plastic clips for closing packets, you cannot take too many.

Restaurants are required to provide you with allergen information if you request it and this was clearly stated on menus outside them.

The Highlander too near where we were staying offered a full gluten free cooked breakfast (I discovered at the end of our holiday 🤦🏻‍♀️).

Allergy action is a super resource for translations if you do wish to eat out.

We used their Portuguese translations to eat out one night last summer in Albufeira. I wrote out my son’s allergies and a list of questions and handed it to the waiter and my son had a super steak, chips & sliced cucumber which he really enjoyed. I however was so uptight I didn’t enjoy my meal at all and then cried and hugged the waiter when it all went well so my family aren’t best keen to eat out with me in public again.

We stayed in a villa with our own pool, I prefer a villa as you get a kitchen and full size fridge freezer as well as a dishwasher and a washing machine. I booked through Villa plus, we’ve used them several times.

Travelling home can be a challenge to cater for with a later flight. I don’t fancy an evening flight! We had to be out of the villa at 10am and the flight home was at 2.45pm. I made a double packed lunch and used a cool bag and ice packs which kept our food cool enough. No one complained about rolls & crisps for lunch at the airport then rolls & crisps for tea on the plane! I had plenty biscuits & sweets to keep us going as well.

I’d definitely go back, just perhaps not at New Year, they like a firework at New Year in Lanzarote which is probably fabulous if you are out celebrating but feels a bit like Armageddon in the back garden if you fell asleep at 9.30pm after a day of sunshine and a couple of glasses of fizz.

A week in the Algarve

Summer has been sorely lacking in Scotland this year but I’ve been kept going by the promise of our planned week in the sun and it absolutely lived up to my expectations. 7 days of blue skies and sunshine. Gosh it was gorgeous. This was our first family holiday abroad, my son has multiple food allergies, asthma and eczema and travelling, even in the UK can be stressful. We always self cater and usually book somewhere in close proximity to a large supermarket and familiar chain restaurants. I’m the kind of packer that would take the kitchen sink if I could fit it in the car so limiting myself to a 22kg baggage allowance and travelling by plane to an unfamiliar country where I didn’t speak the language was a terrifying proposition. It says something about our desperation for a little sunshine that I was prepared to even attempt it!

We decided on the Algarve as the weather averages looked warm but not ridiculously hot. We booked a villa with a pool through VillaPlus and organised our own flights with Jet2. We were really impressed with the service from both. We also pre booked car hire for the week. In an ideal world we would not have gone mid July but with two school age children our options were limited. We decided early on that we would cater for ourselves and would not attempt to eat out on this trip. I had all the Portuguese translations for the food we avoid (Allergy Action is an excellent resource) and I knew most places would speak English but for my sanity we wanted to keep it as simple and worry free as possible.

The day before we travelled I baked all morning. I made wraps, mini muffins and biscuits. I also ordered fresh rolls from Just Gluten free to be delivered that day. Along with these I packed safe sweets, chocolate, crisps, popcorn, cereal and biscuits. I took Vitalite spread and Violife cheese in a cool bag in my suitcase. Our flight was at 7.30am and we took enough food in our hand luggage for breakfast, lunch and snacks.

Jet2 have a clear nut policy. If you inform them one of your party has a nut allergy they will not serve nuts on your flight and they ask other passengers to refrain from eating any they have brought with them until they have left the plane. Staff were helpful, friendly and efficient. Check in contacted the flight crew on both flights to ensure they were aware they had a passenger with a nut allergy. I was a little concerned my son would be uncomfortable with the attention but when the announcement was made on our outgoing flight he grinned and high fived his sister!

These are the snacks sold on a Jet2 flight

My husband overheard another passenger ask for a Snickers bar but staff politely informed them they weren’t serving nuts and offered an alternative.

My in flight anxiety was greatly alleviated by the Jet2 magazine, or rather Gary Barlow on the cover ❤️

We stopped at a supermarket on the way to our villa but we were all tired, I was a little overwhelmed and the kids were fractious so we just bought the absolute necessities. We ended up buying food every day or so but this was not a trauma because the supermarkets were blissfully cool!

We stuck to plain, simple meals – grilled meat or fish, potatoes and vegetables and cold meat and salad. I knew what to look out for on the labels so I bought food that looked safe then went back to the villa (and wifi!) and googled every single ingredient for peace of mind. Cooked meat often contained milk but we found a couple of safe choices.

I got caught out once with gluten free fish fingers. When I re read the ingredients at the villa I spotted ‘pode conter vestigios de ovo e leite’ – may contain traces of egg and milk.

As a rule labelling was excellent with allergens in bold.

Dairy free was astonishingly well catered for particularly if you can tolerate soya. Even the little beachside supermarket in Albufeira had cartons of soya milk. The best selection was in the Continente supermarket in the Algarve shopping mall (in Guia outside of Albufeira).

Soya, oat, rice, nut & coconut milk were all on sale. I bought own brand rice milk for my cereal as it was significantly cheaper than the Rice Dream. There was also a selection of small milkshake cartons – rice or soya.

There was a tremendous selection of soya yoghurts. We bought Paturages Soja fruit yoghurts, Sojasun chocolate desserts and Sojasun prune yoghurts. I particularly enjoyed the prune yoghurts and the fruit ones were so nice the dairy eaters among us also enjoyed them!

I didn’t spot any gluten free bread but I didn’t look that hard as we had safe bread with us. I did see a selection of rice cakes. I bought yummy biscuits in the Continente supermarket. Dairy, gluten, egg and nut free! They did contain soya. My son and I liked them so much Daddy got sent back for a couple more boxes!

For ice lollies we had Calippo’s when out and about (may contain traces of milk) and Mr Freezes and I made ice poles with fruit juice for the freezer at the villa.

I had packed Zipsicle cases for ice lollies. I bought them in Lakeland but alas they have been discontinued. Some stores still have them in stock but they are not available online. A big thank you to my friend Margaret who bought me 2 packets when she spotted some and also gave me a 50ml syringe which made filling them so much easier.

I had wondered how we would cope self catering 3 meals a day for a week and will admit to feeling a little meh about the holiday prior to leaving. Allergy mums don’t really get a break from catering but my husband saw how I was feeling and bless his heart announced he would cook all week and he did. The man is a superstar. I planned, organised, baked, packed, wrote lists, planned meals and checked ingredients but during our week away I sat with a glass of wine and supervised the kids in the pool and my husband cooked. It was fabulous. It also made me feel very affectionate which worked in his favour.

Eating at home suited us well. It was crazy warm so we would have breakfast early and venture out in the mornings with safe snacks then shelter from the sun between 12 and 3/4pm with a leisurely cooked meal and quiet time with books and tablets then splash in the pool till teatime (cold meat, toasted cheese, olives, salad). I froze the home made wraps and biscuits on arrival along with the gluten free rolls and we took them out as needed.

The kitchen was clean and well equipped. We washed everything before we used it and cooked with a lot of foil!

It was very very hot in Portugal while we were there, 38c+ some days so we were very cautious with the sun (we are all very fair skinned).  We had to be very disciplined about my son’s emollient, applying it as soon as he got up to ensure it had soaked in before we applied sun cream. We kept his Epaderm in the fridge which kept it from getting mushy in the heat. One 500g pot just lasted him the week for washing and then top to toe morning and night.

He used Sunsense roll on sun cream which was a huge success. I’ve been using it this summer on the very odd day we’ve had sunshine so I knew his skin didn’t object to it. The best thing about it was he was happy to use it (my kids see sun cream as a form of torture) and was very keen to apply it himself which is a first! A 50ml roll on lasted the week (I’d packed two) but I did keep him well covered so he really only needed it on his face, neck, arms and lower legs.

One of the loveliest parts of the day was once the kids were in bed and we sat on our balcony with a glass of wine or a cup of tea and enjoyed the peace and the view. Bliss.