One of the expenses most often associated with lavish living is that of dining out at an upscale restaurant. Yet, even minimalists must eat! Those frugal living advocates who view minimalism as an exercise in self-denial suggest that dining out at any – not just upscale – restaurants is in conflict with minimalistic principles. Minimal living, though, is not centred around self-denial. It is rooted in responsible choices that focus upon reduction in excess and frivolous activities or expenses.
Minimalists take heart! Dining out is not only acceptable, but a good strategy, with a variety of options.
One of my favourite “minimal” choices is to dine with groups of friends. This allows for great social interaction, while involving only the cost of the meal, rather than the cost of several gatherings plus other recreational costs often incurred with social gatherings. Many restaurants offer discounts for groups, allowing for a reduction in meal costs. By calling ahead for a reservation, you may be able to negotiate a per-diner reduction of 10% or more.
Community suppers (such as church fundraisers, fall suppers, etc.) offer both the opportunity to support a local charity or cause and enjoy a meal at a fraction of the cost of a restaurant meal.
Coupons commonly are issued by restaurants in the slow winter season, to stimulate patrons to loosen their wallets during low-sales periods. This is an excellent time for a true and dedicated minimalist to dine out, combining strategic savings with socialization. Many of these offerings are breakfast programs. By beginning your shopping or work day with a substantially discounted meal, you are using your time more efficiently. This is another cornerstone of intelligent minimalism.
My wife and I have a penchant for visiting Subway, but neither of us are inclined to consume a full 12-inch sub. Yet, when Subway offers excellent pricing on these subs, we will purchase a 12-incher, eat half, and save half for the next day. This has saved us preparation time, the cost of operating our cooking equipment and loads of cash, while providing us with a nutritious meal.
With eight children and a horde of grandchildren, nieces and nephews, our birthday costs could be astronomical. An effective cost reduction strategy has been to volunteer to prepare special meals for each of the children, in their home. We provide the food and the labour, enjoy an evening with the family and cut the cost of gifts. The children get to savour their favourite childhood foods and put their feet up while we cook.
Similarly, when we host and visit with friends in their homes, we exchange special dishes that each of us enjoy. This provides dietary variety for each of our friends, and cuts costs of partying. It is always cheaper to cook for many than for few!
Dining out is not an act of lavish excess. It can be and should be an act of frugal, minimal living, consistent with the dominant principle of minimalism: getting the most out of life for the least!