a peek inside the fishbowl

21 Mar, 2012

Burgers and fries, for our favourite gals and guys

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Easy ways to make kids happy|Ottawa|Publishing/writing/career stuff|Recipes and Food

I’m not a huge meat-eater. The only thing that’s standing between my becoming a vegetarian is bacon. I do however, appreciate a good burger. Especially a well-dressed, good quality (read: non-drive through) hamburger.

Last week’s Ottawa issue of SavvyMom profiled three of our family’s favourite places to get a hamburger and fries. You can read it here!

When the weather is nice I do find myself experiencing burger cravings. Sadly, the budget does not accommodate eating out whenever the craving hits. I’ve been trying to teach the girls that eating at home is less expensive than eating out. And I got to thinking, why not illustrate it by replicating our favourite dinner from The Works?

When we go to The Works it usually looks like this:

  • I order a burger. (Each adult burger is about $13.00.)
  • Mark orders a burger.
  • Emma orders a burger (not from the children’s menu).
  • Sarah orders something from the children’s menu.
  • Both girls order a small milkshake.
  • Mark and I both have a beer.
  • We all share a Tower O’ Rings.

This dinner nears $100 once you include taxes and tips. It’s not something we can afford to do very often. So when the craving hit, I went to the grocery store:


I know part of the benefit of eating out is (a) it’s fun to eat out and (b) it’s nice not to have to cook. But this kind of dinner isn’t actually lot of work to prepare.

In addition to this I went to Saslove’s (the local butcher) and bought a package of lean ground beef which cost around $7.00.

My goal was to recreate the “Sexy Burger” (my current favourite from the Works – hence the purchase of pineapple and cream cheese).  Add to that two bottles of beer and the cost of ketchup and mustard (which is negligible) out of our fridge. Mark made himself a regular burger, as did Sarah, and Emma smeared peanut butter on hers (it tastes great!). I made some chunky home fries instead of onion rings, and using the ice cream (along with a bit of Camino cocoa, peanut butter and an overripe banana or two) I made us all some great milkshakes. Dinner was delicious… a real treat!

We had leftover milk, ice-cream, hamburger buns, potatoes, cream cheese AND jalapeño (did you notice it only cost three cents?). That’s the other thing about this experiment – we had groceries we could use another day.

It was an interesting lesson for the girls, not just for the math, but a good life-lesson as well, don’t you think?

Now. What other restaurant dinners can I recreate? :)

17 Responses to "Burgers and fries, for our favourite gals and guys"

1 | Alicia

March 21st, 2012 at 10:48 am


We love the Works but we dont eat out often either. I love making home made burgers and sweet potato fries and proving to my Husband that it can be (almost) just as tasty at home. One of our favourite treats is Lonestar fajitas and I make this at home often complete with guac, beans and rice which are E’s favourite parts of the meal :)

2 | andrea

March 21st, 2012 at 10:55 am


Yes! The Lonestar experience is a good one to recreate! And I know we can do it better too. :)

3 | Jayda

March 21st, 2012 at 11:05 am


We do the same. Recreate restaurants meals at home! I make a mean spicy guacamole that rivals anything ever produced at The Works. We recently make a steak dinner. Steaks from a local butcher and a huge green salad to off set the meat-i-ness of the meal. The meat was expensive but the meal cost us $40 (including wine) to make and we estimate that in a restaurant it would have been well over $100! We also really enjoying preparing the meal together! Gratifying isn’t it?

4 | Krista R

March 21st, 2012 at 11:37 am


It’s fun to eat out, be served and have someone else do the cooking and cleaning up and we make sure we treat ourselves once in awhile. However, it is *always* less expensive to recreate the meals at home and quite often much healthier when you control the process and the ingredients yourself.

5 | Lynn

March 21st, 2012 at 12:32 pm


Did you know that you can get take-out at The Works? It’s a very popular option here in suburban Kanata. It’s still pricey, but without the tip there is some savings.

In other news – where do you buy Camino cocoa in Ottawa? I’ve been looking for it for AGES.

6 | Marianne

March 21st, 2012 at 1:51 pm


We like to make our own pizza instead of eating out. We’ve also used the M&M’s oriental party pack and made fried rice as a side dish, instead of eating out or ordering in chinese. It doesn’t necessarily fall into the “better than” category, if you have a really good chinese place near you, but it’s better than a bad chinese place, and a reasonable substitute overall.

@Lynn re: Camino. I was just on their website the other day chekcing them out (as I was watching them on the new investment reality show The Big Decision), and they have a map of the locations that sell their products. There were several locations in Kanata, though it doesn’t tell you *which* of the products are carried at that location. You can also order from them online, but I don’t know whta their shipping costs are like. Since their main office is here in Ottawa maybe you coudl make a deal to pick some up in person?

7 | Tammy

March 21st, 2012 at 2:08 pm


Awesome! I should really do this more often.

8 | andrea

March 21st, 2012 at 2:31 pm


Yes! It’s always cheaper to recreate a restaurant meal at home, but it’s not always obvious to kids! :)

Lynn: I get mine at Ten Thousand Villages in Westboro.

9 | Judy

March 21st, 2012 at 2:45 pm


We often start the BBQ season with a large order of ground beef, and make a large container of home made patties. That way they are ready to go in the freezer to use at any point.

Lynn – we do sell all the Camino products at Ten Thousand Villages, but you can also use the Fair Trade Finder from Fair Trade Canada to find products. (http://fairtrade.ca/en/fair_trade_finder)

Lots of Loblaws sell Camino, health food stores, and others.

10 | Kaitlin

March 21st, 2012 at 2:53 pm


Lynn – I’ve seen Cocoa Camino in the organic section of the Superstore, and at most of the natural food shops, such as Herb & Spice and Market Organics.

I desperately want a milkshake now…

12 | Sheila D.

March 21st, 2012 at 5:22 pm


I just discovered a foodie blog called Budget Bytes via Pinterest (my latest addiction) by checking out a recipe for Coconut Lentils. The blogger Beth posts recipes (and they look yummy) and how much it cost her to make the dish. http://budgetbytes.blogspot.ca/

13 | Carla

March 21st, 2012 at 9:37 pm


Yep, we do this too! And it’s awesome. some of our favourite ‘restaurant’ meals are vietnamese rollups, pizza and burgers/sausage/fries/etc. We save our meals out for when there is a special occassion (our anniversary for example).

We also make a lot of our own mixes: broth mix (this recipe is fantastic: http://www.101cookbooks.com/archives/homemade-bouillon-recipe.html ), hot cocoa mix, chai mix. And with my beloved vitamix we also make almond butter, hummus, pumpkinseed butter and fruit icecream among other things.

I think one thing that is a huge savings in making at home is cake! Yes, cake! Store bought cakes (definitely the good quality ones) are expensive! People are often intimidated with baking, but baking is all about following directions – there is a lot of chemistry involved so unless you are fairly experienced you shouldn’t just ‘wing it’ like one can do in cooking. If you can read the recipe, then you can bake (well, provided you actually follow the directions, that is). And there is something really satisfying about eating a delicious homemade cake, cupcake, or cookie – that is wonderful.

14 | A fun and easy bubble tea recipe >> a peek inside the fishbowl

March 22nd, 2012 at 9:05 am


[…] I wrote about making one of our favourite restaurant meals, specifically, a top-notch burger and fries. Today I’m focusing on something a little […]

15 | Pam

March 22nd, 2012 at 3:00 pm


Thanks for the read. I’m sure others feel the same way, but so often I get to the end of the day, feel disillusioned with the meal plan meal and think to myself, “Maybe I can just order takeout!” But then my frugal (read: cheap) side kicks in and I think about the fact that even if I went and bought the most expensive ingredients at the grocery store that would make the takeout meal, I would still likely be ahead. This is the point at which I head to the grocery store, or the point at which I’m too frugal (read: lazy) to go to the grocery store, so I just end up making and eating the meal plan meal. All that to say, I love fajitas and in looking at this link, http://www.lonestartexasgrill.com/Take.Out?gclid=CKn66NOh-64CFWeFQAodDRIiRw#takeout3, it made me wonder at the actual cost of buying this meal at the grocery store. We often have tacos, fajitas, etc… but I wonder how it prices out compared to getting it for take out. (And who gets this for takeout anyway? Isn’t the sizzling action part of the fun?)

Sheila D. – I loved the link that you posted.

16 | andrea

March 23rd, 2012 at 8:01 am


There are three main reasons we go out for dinner:

1 – Most likely – we are in a celebratory mood for whatever reason. It’s Friday! It’s sunny! etc etc.

2 – It’s the end of the day and I don’t feel like cooking. (But that’s when we end up having breakfast for dinner.)

3 – We have no groceries in the house. :)

And yes, Pam, the sizzling action is part of the fun! :)

I’m thinking out loud here, but maybe these kind of meals should just be added to weekly meal plans? “Special” meals at home will always be cheaper than eating out.

17 | A visit to foodie heaven >> a peek inside the fishbowl

March 26th, 2012 at 2:43 pm


[…] in the gnocchi is mimolette or just a really good cheddar. But get me talking about pizza and burgers and I’m your […]

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The Obligatory Blurb

My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human daughters: Emma (20) and Sarah (18). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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