HBBaked beans, Bourbon biscuits, cereal bars – no, this isn’t the start of my weekly shopping list but the things that I have packed in my suitcase and taken on holiday in the past.

These “emergency rations”, as I like to think of them, are in case there isn’t any food I like, which for a fussy vegetarian who enjoys travelling to far-flung places is not that unusual.

Of course, if they happened to lose my case with the goodies in I could probably get by just about anywhere (although there was an incident with a tribe of Masai and a goat – but that’s another story). For Freya, taking food on holiday is not a luxury but a necessity – even in the UK.

As we head off on our staycation for a week in a caravan (please, please let the sun shine), I’ve had to put more thought into what food to take for her than anything else – and we are only 45 minutes down the road.

At present she is dairy, soya, wheat, gluten and tomato free among other things – although we are starting to add a few more bits in now with the guidance of her dietician. As any parent of a child with food allergies or intolerances will tell you, it can be hard enough to find suitable things that they will eat normally let alone when you’re away from home, which means it is probably less stressful to just take it all with you.

That’s why I was genuinely delighted when Holland & Barrett got in touch to say they have launched a new free-from section on their website, which will eventually have more than 3,000 products available for home delivery nationwide.

And that’s not even the best bit.

A screen shot of the filter.
A screen shot of the filter.

The website has an excellent facility to search and filter by allergen as well as food category (and by July a “may contain” filter too). You have no idea how many hours I have spent in shops reading the back of packets – which is not always easy with a lively toddler for company – so this is going to save me a lot of time and trouble. You can visit the free-from section here, if you’re interested.

Having been a veggie for 25 years, I’m no stranger to the aisle of Holland & Barrett but since having Freya they have been my go to store – especially when trying to increase the variety of things she has to eat.

Plus, thanks to the website, I’ve had the time to find her some treats which I especially wanted for our holiday. When we go away it is usual to have a little break from our normal diets with a few naughty extras  – a Flake 99 here or some chips there, for example. I wanted her to have a few special bits too – although in her case they are probably just as healthy as normal (maybe we should all take a leaf out of her book?).

There is no doubt Freya’s food issues have caused a fair bit of stress – especially when she wouldn’t eat or drink anything – but I’ve been thinking recently that there are some positives to all this.

Firstly that she doesn’t have anything more seriously wrong with her and that her food intolerances result in irritable bowel-like symptoms (and broken sleep) rather than anything more severe.

Secondly that she now has a fairly healthy, clean diet and I know almost exactly what goes into her food – because I often make it from scratch (which for a non-cook is no mean feat). Even with the ready-made things I buy I have to inspect the ingredients so carefully that very little gets by me. I’m not saying I would have fed her chicken nuggets, chips and ice cream every day but I don’t think I would have been as diligent as I am now.

And thirdly that the range of free-from food available is growing all the time – along with the places that stock them. I have no idea how people managed in the olden days.

Is there a food item you can’t do without? What do you pack in your holiday case?

* Holland & Barrett kindly gifted Freya some lovely treats and products for her holiday (pictured above) in return for an honest blog post about their new free-from section. While the food comes from them, the views are all mine.

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