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The Price of Food

If you live in a hotel for an extended period of time (which can provide significant career benefits – click on this link for details [1]) the issue of food price and availability is going to concern you.

If you are in a decent hotel you will have a fridge in your room that you can use for your own food. A recent trend downwards in hotel quality has been to use fridges that are stocked with over-priced drinks that have sensors and automatically bill you if you move any of the drinks. A good hotel will have a fridge that either has space for your own food/drink or which allows you to temporarily move their stuff out. If you are staying in a hotel for any period of time and the hotel is not run by robots then you should have the option to negotiate the removal of all the over-priced drinks to provide you space for your own food.

If you have such fridge space then you have good options for making sandwiches – which are cheap and healthy.

In UK hotels (which incidentally tend to not have a fridge in the room if they are affordable) the standard practice is to have breakfast included as part of the hotel fee. If you are flexible about your eating then you can eat a large breakfast and have a minimal lunch to reduce expenses.

Finally you have to consider how much you earn as an hourly rate (after tax) and compare it to the cost of food. For example if dinner at a cheap restaurant costs $10 and you earn $30 per hour after tax then you only need to save 20 minutes of your time by eating at the restaurant (as opposed to making a meal and washing the dishes) to make it economically viable.

I have previously written about the efficiency of work [2]. I think it’s reasonable to assume (in the absence of any formal studies on the topic) that when your efficiency of working decreases due to over-work your enjoyment of your leisure time is also reduced on a per-hour basis (in addition to having less leisure time). I know that some people enjoy cooking and consider it a leisure activity (my sister seems to be one of them [3]). But if cooking isn’t something you enjoy then you will probably feel that eating out is reducing the amount of “work” time and therefore increases the quality of your life and the quality of your work.

Finally for the time spent living in a hotel while searching for work (if you travel to another country without arranging employment first) the main financial factor is not how much you can save money on a per-day basis, but how quickly you can find work. The ability to accept a job offer from any region has the potential to significantly reduce the amount of time taken to find work and thus put you in a better financial position in the long-term. This benefit of living in hotels should significantly outweigh the extra expenses of eating out etc.

2 comments to The Price of Food

  • Hi Russ,

    I see a couple of problems with this – I find pottering in my own kitchen more relaxing than spending the same amount of time eating in a cheap restaurant and sitting waiting on those invariably uncomfortable chairs. You do not save the time spent cooking, as you spend that time getting to the restaurant & waiting for your order to be cooked. I often make curries and other dishes which can be served over a period of several days (we defrosted a rabbit curry tonight which was the 4th meal we’ve had out of it) so if you break down the amount of time spent producing the meal per meal (which would of course be halved if I were only cooking for me, not for 2) then I believe cooking for myself is much more time efficient. Other factors to consider are: the nutritional balance of what you eat (restaurant food is always higher in fat & salt that what you’d cook for yourself) and environmental impact of the cheap food (just think of all those factory chicken delivered half dead with broken bones to the abbatoir that then end up in the fast food joint…). I read recently that the beloved Chicken tikka masala – England’s favourite dish, often contains unhealthy levels of poisonous colouring compounds and I’m sure that’s not the only aspect of restaurant food that can damage your health! I will get you to cure your own ham with me one day & you will understand why I like to do so!

  • etbe

    Helen: If you are able to work or do something enjoyable while waiting for your food in a restaurant then it’s not wasted time. Most people who read my blog do work on their laptop and can work anywhere. Also anyone who likes reading can read a book while waiting for their food.

    As for curing ham etc. When you move back to Australia you can cure ham for me.