Personal Finance

Wining and Dining on a Budget/Diet

I thought I would write a post about saving money and calories when eating out because like a lot of people I tend to eat out more around the holidays with work functions and family and friend get-togethers. Since I’m trying to lose weight along with limit my spending, these events can work against my goals.

I’m going to use a recent night out as an example of how I tried to save money and calories and still have a good time. I met up with some friends I used to work with at the Marche which is a great place for big groups because they have good food, separate bills and no tips!! Normally I like to have a beer or two (or more) at this type of function which can add greatly to the bill so this time I decided not to have any drinks. Since nobody else at the event was drinking very much I didn’t miss having a drink at all. It might have been different if everyone else was getting loaded but that was not the case here. I estimate I probably saved $20 from this action and quite a few calories. Another benefit of not drinking is that I was able to drive. Although I did pay $5 for parking, a cab home after drinks would have cost about $15.

For my food choices I had the potato rosti and salmon which is my favourite at the Marche. Normally I get sour cream as well but in the interests of my diet I passed on this extra. I have to admit that the dish just wasn’t the same without the sour cream which leads me to another lesson I have learned. “Diet” versions of yummy foods don’t work. If you want to cut calories and fat then choose a food that you like that has less calories and fat. Getting a “low fat” version of something you love or eliminating a key ingredient (sour cream) will probably just disappoint you. Being on a diet doesn’t mean you can’t eat “bad” foods but you have to limit your overall intake so be prepared to “make up” for a night out if you do decide to pig out. Another action I took was to avoid dessert. Normally at the Marche I have a chocolate pudding which is really good but I know it’s pure evil in terms of calories.

Lessons learned at the restaurant:

  1. Don’t drink alcohol or at least limit yourself – buy a six-pack of the cheap stuff on the way home if you have to.
  2. Don’t skimp too much on the food you like. If you want a certain non-diet dish then get it, but make up for it by having salad instead of dessert. And don’t leave out the sour cream if it’s necessary. 🙂

11 replies on “Wining and Dining on a Budget/Diet”

Good point. Making the meal you love less enjoyable isn’t a good solution. I think just passing on dessert or drinks (both probably) is much better and keep your favorite meal the way it was meant to be enjoyed- with all of the wonderful calories intact! 🙂

Great post! I remember reading somewhere that “no one ever got fat eating fruits and nuts”. (I don’t know if that’s true or not, but it sounds brilliant!) 🙂 I know fruits are carb-heavy, but I think it has to do with the type of carbs?

Hence, I have found a few dishes with fruits and nuts that curb my dessert pangs nicely.

Fruit slices with Activia Vanilla yogurt.

Activia has the probiotic culture that helps restore a healthy gut flora and on top of that is the best damn tasting vanilla yogurt I have ever had – even the low fat version tastes great. Add this to some strawberry slices, pineapple, peach, whatever and it will take the place of ANY dessert in my opinion.

Almonds – I suppose not everyone loves them, but try roasting them yourself and having them when they are still warm. Takes away the “boring” nature of nuts.

Apple slices with some cheese. The cheese may not be the healthiest, but the goal is really to find “healthIER” replacement snacks and desserts.

This isn’t the healthiest, but tastes so bloody good it’s worth it. Take some blueberries (maybe have a pound) throw them in a sauce pan over medium to medium-high heat. Add in one tablespoon of brown sugar (which you can omit or reduce if you are on a diet) and once the berries have turned into a sauce (be patient and stir at least once a minute) right before you put it on some ice cream, add a shot of Amaretto. The alcohol will actually evaporate, but the almond flavour added to the blueberry will knock your socks off.

…okay that wasn’t so healthy. But the activia is good. 🙂

You can experiment with your favourite recipes at home to make them healthier, too.

I used to make a beef mushroom stroganoff over egg noodles that was very yummy and horrendously bad for us. I switched to non-fat sour cream, halved the meat and doubled the mushrooms, and served it over whole wheat macaroni instead. Hubby likes it just as much as the original.

It’s all about finding the level you can enjoy. I tried the same recipe once with ground soy instead of beef. Definitely better for us, but not a tolerable substitute for Hubby. Try substituting ingredients one at a time. If one doesn’t make much of a flavour difference, or you like it just as much, great. If another is too much, back up a step and try something else next time.

Maybe try your Marche meal with only half the sour cream next time, rather than none. It might be enough to satisfy.

Good post.

My suggestion is that if you know you are going out for a nice meal, eat just a bit less during the day. You’ll enjoy the meal even more.

As for buying a six-pack of the cheap stuff on the way home, I still prefer to invest on good stuff.

Quality over quantity any time for me.

Eden – I agree!

WDAMMG – great recipes – I will give them a try.

the goal is really to find ?healthIER? replacement snacks and desserts – Great comment!

Fecundity – that sounds like a good strategy to try to make foods healthier.

CTR – yah the good stuff is definitely better.

Great post. I’m going to try “the Marche” if for no other reason than no tips.

I’m actually someone who is very strange and doesn’t mind the “diet” version of things (low fat sour cream tastes as good as the real stuff, I like diet coke better then regular, I can’t taste the difference between low-fat and regular yogurt or butter, etc, etc).

I think if “tasty foods” rae really important to you and the lite versions don’t cut it, having small portions of the real thing and padding them out with something healthier might be the way to go (so instead of a whole “potato rosti and salmon”, split it with someone else and split a healthy meal too).

The Marche is awesome – you get a card on the way in, all the food is self-serve and they charge your card. When you leave you pay at the cashier and away you go. There is ALWAYS a huge lineup there…

I like some light versions of foods but others just don’t cut it.

And no I won’t share my rosti!


I love the rosti – I take mine with sour cream and ketchup ever since it was a special of the day and was only 99 cents. 🙂

They also have some fantastic crepes for dessert. In Toronto they have changed their name to Richtree’s (at least at the 2 locations that I frequent).

I lived out of the King Eddie hotel for about 2 weeks last year and Richtree’s was a 2 minute walk away, almost every single night I would eat there.

Just remember not to lose your card! If I remember the fine print, it’s a $100 charge or a few hours in the kitchen washing plates or something… 🙁

I don’t remember the exact details, and hope I never find out the hard way.

I’ve always wondered if you took out a large group and had everyone order on one card – if the bill was over $100, it would make sense to not present the one card and get charged the $100… Wonder if anyone has ever tried that? 🙂

Morally that would be reprehensible of course.

Are you sure there are no tips? I remember seeing something like “7% – tips” on the bill, which was automatically included. Can you please check, if you still have the bill?

Vasile – I don’t have the bill anymore. I just called them and they said they don’t add a tip to the bill.

Preet from WhereDidAllMyMoneyGo would be a great person to ask since he seems to be the Marche King…

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