Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Turn your journey into an adventure

This Bank Holiday, like many others in the UK we ended up on a road-trip, headed up to Manchester for a long weekend.  Travelling with kids in the car can sometimes be pretty hellish, and trips away can be very expensive - I've already written my top tips for saving money here.

One of my biggest money-saving tips is to avoid the motorway service stations at all costs.  Those places will suck your purse dry and suck the spirit from your soul.  Full of sweaty lorry drivers, stir-crazy kids and the unappetising offer of Burger King or an overpriced panini and a Costa coffee.  My family now know that service stations are for toilet stops only!

By packing an awesome picnic, and planning your stop you can transform yourself from miserly-mum to mega-mum.

I headed off to Morrisons to check out their already great value food and drink and their new price cuts to see what I could pack in our picnic.  I'll admit, you could do this even cheaper if you made your own sandwiches, salads and cakes etc, but to be honest I spend so much time anyway on school lunchboxes, I thought I deserved a break.  Also, we were staying in a hotel with no washing-up facilities, so pre-packed was the key to keeping it simple.  This really was a no-effort picnic.

There was so much to choose from, and the well-stocked self service salad bar looked so inviting.  There was also a wide range of pre-packed salads to select.  We chose a range of sandwiches, from the value priced ones right up to the more exotic 'signature range'.  We had our eye out for special Bank Holiday offers as well as some of their newly, permanently reduced 'I'm cheaper' products which can be identified by the bright yellow stickers.

Selecting the right place to stop is also key to turning your journey into an adventure and making it part of the holiday rather than just a means to an end. We consulted the Old Man's favourite book - Wild Swimming - because lets face it, after a 2 1/2 hour drive he deserved to cool off.

We found the most amazing spot called Mermaid's Pool just outside Leek in Staffordshire, and you know we love a mermaid!  It was idyllic and completely deserted save for a few hardy cyclists whizzing past on the road above.  There was space to stretch our legs, run around, explore, catch some rays of sun and enjoy a leisurely picnic in peace - a far cry from the busy motorway service stations.

Mermaid's Pool, near Leek, Staffordshire

Swimming in Mermaid's Pool, near Leek, Staffordshire

Mermaid bench poem at Mermaid's Pool, near Leek, Staffordshire

Legend has it that a mermaid lurks beneath the surface waiting to lure single male travellers to her dark, peat coloured bottomless waters, but it didn't stop someone going in for a dip!

After the swim, it was time to open our feast.  We all tucked into our sandwiches which had been kept nicely chilled by ice packs in the picnic basket.  Ruby really enjoyed her budget tuna and sweetcorn one, and my chicken salad mid-range sandwich was well filled and tasty.  Unfortunately, the more expensive 'signature' sandwich mature Cheddar ploughman's was declared ' a bit soggy' by the Old Man - but hey - so was he!

The salads went down a treat too and were a lovely healthy meal in themselves.  Ruby enjoyed the hard boiled eggs - for £1 seriously why bother boiling and peeling them yourself!

My biggest recommendation has to be the Cornish cream tea for two.  Only £1.55 there were 2 moist fruity scones, 2 portions of strawberry jam and a tub of real clotted cream.  Take yourself a flask of tea and you've saved yourself about a tenner I reckon.  We'll be buying this again when we go on trips out - why pay stately home tea room prices when you can bring your own so cheaply?

Here's a full breakdown of what we packed - in all honesty it was way too much food, but it certainly made a wonderful Bank Holiday feast:

3 x This Water bottles of drink - £3.87
2 Morrisons cupcakes - £1.25
1 salad bar portion - £1.89
1 pre-packed salad - £1.89
1 Morrisons Cornish cream Tea - £1.55
1 large bag Kettle chips - £0.99
2 mini pork pies - £0.65
2 hard boiled eggs £1.00
1 Morrisons tuna and sweetcorn sandwich - £1.49
1 Morrisons chicken salad sandwich £1.79
1 Morrisons Signature sandwich - £2.59
1 portion apple and grapes pack - £0.50

Grand total: £19.46 (cost per person £6.49)

I can't tell you how much nicer this made the journey, in fact this stop off was one of the highlights of the whole trip.

I purchased more from Morrisons including some gorgeous clothes for Ruby from the Nutmeg range, and I'll write about these separately.  Thank you Morrisons for letting me be a #MorrisonsMum - shopping there even gave us a 6p off a litre of petrol making our trip even more thrifty!

Disclosure: I received some vouchers to shop at Morrisons and report back on my findings. This post contains an affiliate link.


  1. Such a good idea! We have made the mistake of stopping for refreshments at services and then nearly keeling over with shock at the amount you can spend.

  2. oh wow. Yet another post talking about Morrisons that makes me wish I had done a picnic. And loving the look of that lake. Gorgeous weather fora dip.

  3. i love your choice of food for the picnic. we always do our shopping before we go as it is a lot cheaper.

    PS: Your hubby is good looking :)

  4. Awww what lovely photos, and a yummy picnic!

  5. Love this! Looks like we had very similar picnicking weekends - scones and Rodda's ? Fo Sho!

  6. What a good idea! I can't tell you how many times have bought an over-priced panini on the M1!!

  7. What a fab post and I love your bench with the mermaid quote, what a special find.
    Car picnics are a must for us too as we always manage to get caught out somewhere along our route and it's one sure way of keeping kids (and dad) calm

  8. Such a cool idea!!!! I always pack snacks and lunch if I can for travelling to Northumberland as I agree about the service stations. The pool, the pool!!!! X

  9. What a brilliant idea, well, apart from the swimming. I'm shivering just thinking about it.

  10. I always make sure we have a picnic for a long journey - means you can eat when the kids are hungry too. That looks a lovely picnic - wish our Morrisons had a salad bar.

  11. God, I love picnic basket! Gorgeous photos lady - that one of your man and your girl laughing is perfect!

  12. This is so gorgeous - what lovely photos. As we head into chilly winter here I am DEEPLY envious of all these stunning spring pics you're posting! And this post brought back a flood of memories because my Mum is actually from Leek, so I used to spend all my summer holidays down there with my Grandpa. Such a sweet part of the world xx

  13. I have that book too but have never been brave enough!

  14. Lovely stop off, we have family very near here, We will have to check out Mermaid Pool with them next time we visit. Gorgeous pics too :)

  15. Again I've got picnic basket envy!

    We too are huge fans of discovering new places to visit on road trips and it's become a bit of a family joke when one of us suddenly pulls off a rain road to go on a "brown sign adventure". This country has so many wonderful places to explore that it's a shame to be stuck on motorways all the time.

  16. Love your mermaid picnic spot. Food always seems to taste so much better outdoors and agree wholeheartedly about the horrors of service stations. Lovely post. Commenting for myself and on behalf of BritMums and thanking you for taking part.