April 17, 2014
I was browsing the internet looking for flights. Lovely Husband and I were planning our holidays and I was trying to see if booking all the parts separately would be better value than just opting for a one-stop-shop from the holiday brochures.
I had no difficulty in finding hotels and when I keyed in our requirements got some very good deals indeed. I then moved on to car hire and whilst it was easy enough to find a vehicle it was a bit more difficult to work out what the final cost would be. It was giving me a headache so I decided to move onto booking flights. I keyed in the departure and destination and the search engine threw up some very tempting prices - some under one hundred pounds for both our flights. I decided it was too good to miss and so headed onto the website. This was when the problems started and things got baffling.
I thought it was just a question of booking us each a seat to on which to park our bottoms and space in the hold for our suitcases. If only that had been the case.
Whilst I was pointing and clicking LH asked casually if seats with extra space were available (he is a good foot taller than me and so whilst leg room is never a problem for me, it is a major consideration for him – and the reason we don’t often go to the cinema, and rarely travel by train or coach).
I decided his request was reasonable so pointed and clicked again. It seemed extra leg room was a possibility but not necessarily guaranteed unless a premium was paid to reserve the specific seats. Obviously I much prefer to sit next to LH on a plane and so it meant that I would also have to pay the premium for my seat. It bumped up the price quite considerably for a return flight but as LH’s comfort is important I decided it was worth paying. I moved on to “next screen” and was presented with the “in flight meal” option. Again this came at a price (although it didn’t actually tell you what the meal consisted of, it simply wanted ten pounds from each of us each way for “in flight dining”. I have vivid memories of some pretty awful meals on a plane and decided that as airports now usually have places to buy a sandwich that I would pass on the airline’s meal and simply pick up a “picnic” when we were past passport control.
I clicked “next” and was presented with the “baggage” options. At this point I was close to losing the plot. The weight limit offered “free” would barely have covered my shoes and swimwear so I clicked on “excess”… and was horrified at how much money it cost to gain just a few kilos in the hold luggage allowance. It tipped me over the edge. It was all too complicated and there were far too many “added extras” for me to be able to work out just how much it would cost us to get to the centre of Europe and back.
I decided instead to concentrate on plans for Easter. The forecast looked lovely for Saturday so a gathering of friends and some dining al fresco seemed like a good idea. LH loves being in command of the barbecue and I thought some chicken and salad would make a good offering. As LH would have complete control of the chicken part of the meal, I focussed on the salad. I remembered watching a cookery programme earlier in the week where a salad had been made and the comment made that salads were so much more exciting nowadays than in the ‘Seventies’ and ‘Eighties’ when they usually consisted of lettuce, cucumber, tomato and, in exceptional cases, grated carrot and watercress. Apart from the good dollop of salad cream which invariably finished it off, it was all simple low-calorie stuff and the backbone of many diet plans of the decades.
However nowadays “salad” is very much like “online airline booking”. Full of hidden extras and what you think you are getting and what you end up with are usually very different and can prove very costly.
I have a favourite salad in a local restaurant. Chicken and Bacon Caesar. It says “salad” on the menu so mentally my brain computes this to mean it is a low calorie, healthy option. However since the nutritional value of items on the menu is printed I have had to rethink my choice. When the chicken, bacon, croutons and thick creamy salad dressing are added the calorie count (and fat percentage) increases alarmingly and it doesn’t do me very many favours in terms of weight loss.
It got me thinking about the “added extras” in other meals. I no longer have butter or margarine on my lunchtime sandwiches simply because it is an “extra” that I don’t really need and, if I’m being honest, I would usually be too lazy to weigh it before spreading it on my bread. I would “guesstimate” the quantity – but know that I probably underestimated rather than overestimated. I would do the same with cheese if I fancied a small amount grated over my low-sugar beans on wholemeal toast. The cheese would be low-fat but the exact quantity would be a mystery; it would be enough to lightly cover the beans but not enough to make me think it would impede my weight loss progress. Who was I fooling?
Casting my eye over the WLR food database made me raise my eyebrows when I discovered just how many calories were lurking in even a modest amount of low-fat grated cheddar. So I made the decision to keep the cheddar off the beans on toast.
Wine was another shocker. Like most people, my glasses were the “fish bowl” variety but as I mentioned recently I have now “downsized” to what I call my “1970s” wine glasses. It has drastically decreased the amount of alcohol I consume. My idea of a “glass of wine” is just that. Fill the glass. By sticking to the 125ml glasses my brain is satisfied that it is “full”, I can still enjoy a tipple as a treat and I know exactly what the calorie count is.
I am now making a concerted effort to apply the “budget airline booking” approach to my food. I am making clear decisions about what is essential and what is an “extra”. I am keeping my peepers peeled for any hidden extras that could seriously damage all my efforts and being strict about just how many “added” extras I allow myself. It is quite astonishing how they creep in and how they can make the calories creep up. Anything from a generous measure of vodka from a friend (which undoes all the good of the “low calorie” tonic that they have thoughtfully bought for you), to the extra spoonful of cream to go on your WLR-approved fruit salad.
So whatever your plans for the next few days, why not apply some “budget airline” thinking too... you might be surprised at just how hidden (and how costly) those “added extras” can be.
With a hug
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