Ikea: Swedish for cheap and awesome


AHOY! Free stuff up ahead

Historically, we never ate out much with the kids because it was usually a stressful endeavor where one of us usually had to chase a kid around outside after they had had enough of sitting down.

This past year however saw us eating out more owing in fact that a> my commute was longer and my hours later, b> the kids were now 5 and 7 and c> we discovered the sweet Valhalla that is Ikea.

In all honesty, since Mr. Tucker and I never really got out of the habit of owning college-style furniture, most of the new stuff we own is from Ikea. I just absolutely refuse to spend thousands on furniture in a house with a dog and two children. Their stuff is also fashionable and reasonably priced, so we have liberally decorated our thrift store & inherited furniture with Ikea finds. Luckily, there is one a mere 5 minutes down the road, which brings me to my most important point: Ikea is awesome for eating out.

I have fond memories of the Ikea ballroom from when I was a kid but with the advent of the new super-Ikea in our city, the ballroom is more like a kid’s version of paradise called Småland. In it there is a giant ball pit, a movie area, a craft area and other climbable toys. What better is that as soon as your kids are tall enough and potty trained, they will take your kids for one glorious hour as long as you stay on-site.

So what to do with that hour?

Since their reno, the Ikea restaurant has really stepped up their game. While they still have their dollar hot dogs and ice creams downstairs they actually have a really decent cafeteria-style restaurant as well. Here you can get roast chicken with salad, meatballs and mashed potatoes, fish and chips and a lovely selection of soups, salads and desserts. What is even better is that most of these meals are priced reasonably at $5.99 and up. Like a nice glass of wine or a cold beer with dinner? Ikea is licensed! With local and craft beers, no less! Even better, if you are the kind of person who likes to drink water and then finish off dinner with a cup of coffee or tea, you can sign up for an Ikea Family Card at one of their kiosks which entitles you to free coffee or tea during weekdays.

Generally speaking Mr. Tucker and I use our hour to decompress, eat dinner and catch up over coffees. Then one of us gets the kids from Småland and we feed them. Ikea has a children’s menu for $2.99 that includes a selection of pastas and a few smaller versions of the adult meals. With that you get also yogurt, apple slices and a drink. Sometimes Ikea even has a kids-eat-free special going on which means for less than $12 all of us can eat a fairly decent dinner. Considering most fast food meals for four these days runs about $30 and isn’t half as healthy, Ikea is a steal! I like to think of those nights as one hour of free babysitting with dinner for $12.

Those of you who are stay-at-home-parents or who are morning people should definitely look into taking advantage of the Ikea breakfast special: scrambled eggs, home fries and sausage for $1. Combine that with your free coffee and you have a meal that you can’t even make at home for that amount. If you require more food you can add bacon and pancakes for only a dollar more. I’m not going to lie: on days where I have been exhausted and burned out on parenting, a quiet breakfast with a book while the kids play in Småland is a downright treat. You read that right: one hour of free babysitting and a breakfast for $2 per person. You can’t find a better deal, anywhere.

So even though you need to navigate the relentless maze that is Ikea, it’s worth it for a decent, cheap meal and some entertainment for the kids. Once you learn the easiest path in and out of the store it will become easier for you to take the shortest route to the sweet land of a decent, inexpensive night out.