Budget Friendly Food and Fun

Last Thursday we all (well, at least one of us) had a serious case of cabin fever. I’m not the kind of person who needs to get out of the house every day, but sometimes I reach a point where I think I will go insane if I don’t get out. Now.

But where can two adults and two small children really go – for a change of scenery, that’s not expensive and is at least mildly entertaining for all involved?

The answer is not a shopping mall or the grocery store. I’d be happy to go to the grocery store, but there are three Y chromosomes who would not. And going to the mall is not particularly entertaining for the little people.

The real answer is IKEA.

A smidge more than a ten minute drive from our house, it really is the perfect destination for bored people who don’t want to part with a lot of cash. Especially for bored people with children. As long as they have a modicum of self-control, because coming home with six new dining chairs would really wreck the budget aspect of things.

First of all, they have babysitting. Sure, the kid has to be toilet-trained and of a certain height, but we have such a child. Who was quite happy to walk into a room with a pit of plastic, bacteria-laden balls to jump in. And the movie Cars playing on the television. It’s kid heaven, basically.

The bummer is – you can only check your kid ‘in’ for thirty minutes. But since we were just wandering around aimlessly, we really didn’t need much more time than that. Also, they require parents to remain in the store. No driving home for a nap, or going to Starbucks to read the paper! Party poopers.

That left us with one un-potty trained, short person to deal with. But really, when you downsize from two to one, it feels like a breath of fresh air. Also, the entire showroom was filled with chairs ready to be climbed upon. Our Hen doesn’t need much more entertainment than that. He ‘ran’ away a few times – in utter defiance of our stern wishes – to revisit the turquoise office chair that he liked the best.

When our allotted thirty minutes was up, we collected our oldest who was eager to leave kid heaven. Apparently one can only jump in a pit of balls, and enjoy it, for about ten minutes. And we have Cars at home.

It was nearing dinner time, so we extended our IKEA experience – and went to the restaurant. I’m pretty sure there is not a place in Calgary where one can buy food for a family of four for $16. Granted, it’s not great food – but it’s not terrible either. And, really, we could have done it for $12 if I hadn’t been a pushover and let the boys each get a $2 smoothie.

For $16 at IKEA, you can get a small salmon dinner (complete with soggy vegetables and potatoes). And 3 kids’ meals (yes, I ate a kid meal): fish and french fries, macaroni and cheese, and meatballs and french fries. The french fries were a little reminiscent of the ones I used to eat at Ball State’s dining services. But my little piece of fish was pretty good. And the meatballs and mac and cheese were quite tasty too. Far better than a Wendy’s or McDonald’s kids’ meal. Except no plastic toy…

After the world’s cheapest meal, we strolled through the market hall to pick up some white dinner napkins and containers for our out-of-control recycling pile. As we headed for the exit, I felt the need for something sweet. So we stopped and got some of their cinnamon rolls.

They advertised a special of a cinnamon roll and cup of coffee..for $1. Apparently it’s normally $2, but they’d slashed the price just in time for Valentine’s day. Or as part of the IKEA stimulus package.

But the funny thing is….if you order a singular cinnamon roll instead of the ‘special’ (as Mr. Johnson did on our collective behalf), you have to pay $1.39 per roll. So really, we could have saved 80 cents if we’d been a little more sneaky, and willing to carry two coffee cups directly to the trash.

Might I add, those cinnamon rolls were better than I remembered them. Of course, the same cannot be said for their hot dogs.

3 thoughts on “Budget Friendly Food and Fun

  1. How can you get out of Ikea without spending at least $75? I think I’m physically incapable…Jason LOVES their cinnamon rolls. And meatballs. And ligonberry juice. I have been known to leave him (happily) in the cafeteria while I shop. I think that’s the adult daycare location…

  2. Ha, I think the restaurant is the adult daycare. I see a lot of solo people hanging out there – presumably grumpy men whose other halves didn’t want to listen to their complaints anymore. IKEA is a lot like Target in the way it can make you part with cash before you even realize it. But for now I will just put those dining chairs on my wish list. Because at the rate our current ones are being abused, they will expire within about a year.


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