An Ikea Family Get Together and Birthday Celebration... and Talking About My Cookbook Plans

My sister in law, Michelle, and her kids, who live far away, are currently visiting, and my husband's family wanted to have a get together. Originally we had planned on having a BBQ tomorrow in a park (in a city far from my house), but snow is predicted tomorrow and there is concern that roads will be closed and we were worried that we'd all be stranded if the get together were tomorrow, so we rescheduled it for today, Mike and my birthday.
However, it was rainy today and the BBQ in the park plans needed to be scrapped, and a new venue found.
Tough call, because we were 19 people, and didn't want to spend a lot of money, but needed to find something to do indoors for a bunch of hours...

Eventually we decided upon Ikea!

I had never been to Ikea before in my life. I'd heard about it plenty, heard that it had a cheap restaurant and a soft play area in addition to its store, so I was really excited. They had great gluten free options, and googling the menu beforehand showed me just how cheap the meals were, for good quality meals!

When we got there, I saw just why the Ikea restaurant was able to be so cheap. They were set up cafeteria style, with no waitresses, but partially self serve, partially school lunch style.

I ended up getting my kids each a kid's meal- 2 hot dogs and French fries and a soft drink- for $2.57 each, and 2 adult meals for my husband and myself- he French fries, carrots, and chicken, and me honey mustard salmon, potatoes, and green beans, for $11 each. I also got another plate of just side dishes- carrots, potatoes, French fries, and green beans, for $4.28, and 2 glasses of unlimited drinks for $2.29 each... After that, we also got dessert- 2 things of jello and a thing of chocolate balls. Altogether, our entire meal including desserts, cost only $44.28! Usually when my husband and I go out to a restaurant for a date, it costs us around 60 dollars or more, and that is without the kids, without drinks, and without desserts! The fact that I was able to spend so little on so much food was really awesome for me...

And makes me happy that Ikea isn't closer by, because I'd be tempted to go to Ikea more often to eat out... and even if its cheap compared to other places to eat out, eating out is still more expensive and more unhealthy than eating at home.

At the meal, we ended up discussing Ikea restaurant's pricing, and their business model.

I said that it looks to me that Ikea is selling meals without much profit. I mean, there certainly is profit, but they definitely aren't profiting as much from each meal as another restaurant would. However, they probably do this because they know that the main way to get someone to spend money at a store is to get them to walk through the front door. Loss leaders- where the store offers such low prices on some items that they are being sold at a loss- draw people to a store, and then they end up spending more money on the more expensive things, making the store a profit.
It appeared to me that Ikea's business model entailed that. Entice people to enter Ikea because of the restaurant's low prices, and then they will spend the entire day browsing the store and making more expensive purchases.

However, my brother in law told me that even if what I'm saying is partially or possibly true, Ikea's restaurant is one of the most profitable restaurant chains in our country. Their profit margins may be smaller on each meal, but their low prices make them very popular and overall they sell many more meals than most restaurants- they are almost always packed, even during non peak hours- which allows them to make the highest profit.

This is kind of similar to how two local stores (the O store and the R store) manage to be very successful despite their lower prices- even if they end up making less profit on each item, overall people buy more from them and more people shop there because of their prices, making them very profitable stores.

After enjoying our delicious meals, my siblings in law very sweetly presented Mike and me with a poem one of them had written, and presented us with money earmarked to be used for a romantic date at a restaurant. It really, really, really was touching for me. I appreciated that so much; I'm even tearing up writing this now.
Mike and I, although I'd like to do it more often, only usually end up going out on dates, just the two of us, twice a year- for our joint birthday, and our anniversary. And I was kind of bummed out about the fact that we wouldn't be able to go out on our birthday, because of our family get together's scheduling... so this was just super sweet. And honestly, it really was a great way to spend our birthday- because we really had a great time with everyone- the kids all enjoyed playing with their cousins, and we enjoyed a great meal and each other's company.

While we were already at Ikea, I decided to do some shopping.
I actually came in with a specific plan of things I wanted to buy.

You see, my dream of publishing a cookbook (actually 3 or 4 to start with) is actually becoming a reality. I've actively been working on it, and hopefully my first one will be finished sometime within the next few months (or more).
While the recipes are something that I have already ready, the pictures were a big issue, since I don't have many good cookbook quality photographs to use.

The thing is- as much as I know I will probably end up making some money from my cookbooks, I don't know how much I can expect to make. So paying a professional food photographer to photograph my food is a scary prospect for me. And even after speaking with a few to find out pricing, most didn't provide props, etc... I'd have to provide them.

So, I am kind of thinking of taking my own photographs for the cookbook.
But I know I'm not good enough at taking photos to put them in a cookbook.

However, paying a food photographer thousands of dollars to snap pictures of my dishes isn't something I can see happening any time in the near future.

So I'm going to make a different sort of investment.

Taking private food photography lessons.

And buying props for my cookbook photos so that I can style my food nicely for my pictures. One of the biggest issues I've had in taking good food photos this far has been the lack of good, photogenic dishes and containers in which to photograph my food.

So I decided to buy some from Ikea.

Plates. Bowls. Platters. Bottles. Jars. Etc... In all shapes and sizes, and in all sorts of colors. In fact, I searched pinterest for ideas on how to photograph the different types of dishes that would be in my cookbook, and got inspiration for what sorts of props I'd be looking for.

And I spent over $115 dollars. Yes, first I looked to see if I could buy what I needed second hand, and I didn't have any luck.

So that $115 dollars. It is an investment, which I hope hope hope will pay off.

I am pretty sure it will, but it's still a gamble.

It reminds me of when I first started my blog.

At that point, you have no idea how tight cash was for us. I needed to spend $10 on the domain name for this blog. I was hoping, praying, that somehow I'd make back those $10, that it wouldn't be money down the drain... Those $10 were hard to spend, but I took that risk, made that investment... and it has paid back for itself many, many, many times over via the money I earn through this blog.

So I'm hoping that the money I'm spending for my cookbook, also for the props, and also for the photography lessons, and also for graphic design and all the other expenses involved... will end up paying for themselves many times over once the books come out.

But even so, it's still a little scary.

Anyhow, so that was my visit to Ikea.

Great day.

Great people.

All in all, a great birthday, and a great get together with my husband's family.

What are your thoughts on Ikea? Do you ever eat there? What are the prices in their restaurant where you live? What do you think of their business model?

And as for investments, how much money are you usually willing to risk for an investment? Is making investments something that comes easily to you, or is it hard for you to take risks? Have your investment risks usually paid off or have you been hurt with bad investments in the past?

Penniless Parenting

Mommy, wife, writer, baker, chef, crafter, sewer, teacher, babysitter, cleaning lady, penny pincher, frugal gal


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  1. Happy birthday Penny! I wish you all the best for a new year and good luck with your cookbook. I am looking forward to it and I already know a person who will get one! (She does not read blogs, but I often tell her about your cooking because she also has various eating issues. To her you are known as the lady who made her own sojasouce! :D)

    1. My husband and I have the same birthday as well! Ikea is at least an hour away from us and we haven't been in a good 4 years, but I do love it there. When we have gone before we make a day of it and try to go in there with a plan of what we really need. This post though is actually making me want to go to Ikea for fun again sooner rather than later!

    2. Thanks Anonymous! First will be an e-book, before I do a print book. Would she do an e-book or only print?
      Ikea is 3+ hours away from us....
      Not sure if I should be happy or not that I inspired you to want to go to ikea again. Do you need anything?

    3. I have never been to Ikea before but have always wanted to go (I have a pretty collection of serving dishes - most from Thrift Stores or earned from having Pampered Chef parties) and have been told I could find one or two to add to my collection there. ;)

  2. Congratulations on your cook books!

    We go to IKEA all the time. Usually for $1 breakfast play dates. For lunch we'd go with the $0.75 hot dogs. For dinner, the salmon meal, usually $7.99 or so.

    1. Thank you!
      Sounds like fun! I'm kind of happy that Ikea is too far from us to go to all the time... $... Haha.

  3. Wow - now I'm super curious of where you live! An IKEA meal for four in our metro area is about $25 for all the things you mentioned! I know prices differ around the US and around the world so it certainly doesn't really matter but it certainly got me thinking!

    Congratulations on your cookbooks! You have so many amazing recipes and I'm so glad you're planning on sharing to a wider audience!


    1. Lea- send me an email-

      But in short, groceries can be really, really expensive where we live, and I assume that Ikea's prices reflect that.

      And thanks on the cookbooks! Now I actually have to get to work on them, and not just talk.

  4. You don't feed your kids wheat, milk or whatever else for health reasons but you feed them those awful Ikea sausages??

    1. I dont feed 2 of my kids and myself wheat because it literally makes us sick within a few hours- food sensitivities- same with one of my kids, myself, and dairy... not because i'm a "super health weirdo" that for some reason thinks hot dogs are healthier than wheat and dairy...

      That said, I can assure you that the hot dogs at our local ikea are NOT the same ones as the ones at your local one- the reason our Ikea's food costs are so much higher than in the US is because our meat here (and sausages as well) is much higher quality and much more expensive than in the US. No "pink slime" type meat in my country, etc...

      And even if they were bad for you, a once in a long time unhealthy treat isn't such a big deal in my books.

    2. I definitely agree that a treat is NOT a big deal...and I promise we have all eaten worse than that - knowingly or unknowingly. Having said that, pink slime has been outlawed in the US several years ago.

  5. Happy Birthday! I live in Atlanta, and we have an IKEA in the downtown area. It's about 20 minutes for me, so I don't go there often, unless I need something specific. But it's definitely my "go to" place for furniture and accessories like bedding, etc. When my kids were smaller, it was great, because they loved the play place and since you can check them in and have adults that watch them, it was an opportunity for me to shop without them. We would end our trip with lunch in the restaurant - and I totally agree - a great bargain! Anything we've ever bought from there has held up really well - good quality items for a low price.

  6. I personally adore the meatballs, ice cream, and almond cake from IKEA. Glad you had so much fun! I am looking forward to your cookbook - especially how to make various ethnic dishes using foraged goodies. Will you be investing in a high quality camera as well or make adjustments for good lighting?

  7. Just wanted to add: Happy Birthday to you both and best of luck on your cookbook idea!

  8. I think you should do very well with your cookbook. I first started reading your blog ,following a link for foraging. Money isn't really an issue for me now that my kids are grown ,but I find myself coming back to your blog because I enjoy your writing and creativity.

  9. I think you writing cooksbooks sounds like a great idea. You have a fine eye for detail!

    I would also suggest you consider writing a book on foraging.

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