For those of us poor Canadians who make do without a cottage, an invitation to someone else’s A-frame or a weeklong cottage rental is a brief reprieve from envy. It’s also a chance to dip our toes in a lake without breaking the bank. Yet the requisite grocery/LCBO/gift stops en route to cottage country can often still manage to break the bank. We spend hundreds on groceries and can’t see out the back window because of the trunk full of sirloin steaks obscuring the view. Herewith, some tips for keeping cottaging costs down:
1. Make a list. It seems so ridiculously obvious, but without a packing list you’ll end up purchasing at least $100 in sundry goods on your way to the cottage. If you travel a lot, the best thing to do is to fill a box or bag with your cottage essentials (sunscreen, bug spray, after bite, toiletrees, etc…) and store it for quick packing. It’ll save you endless amounts of time and money.
2. Plan your meals. If you’re going cottaging with a group, divide up meals and plan accordingly. There is nothing worse than buying a huge cart full of groceries only to arrive at your destination hungry, tired and without a single well-planned meal. Again, make a list and bring small quantities of obscure items from home (sesame oil, hazelnuts, whatever!) so you don’t have to buy and shlep large packages of things you will only use small quantities of.
3. Don’t bring too much. Your hosts won’t have room for it, and you’ll feel awkward dragging it all back home again. Bring wine or treats or a small houseware for the hosts, but don’t overdo it. You can always reciprocate back in the city.
4. Share a car. If multiple friends or families are going up, think about carpooling. You’ll save a lot of money on gas and you’ll have an extra head or two to help navigate and spot cherry pie stands.
5. Keep it simple. You’re going to a cottage to relax, make nice meals with friends, look at Group of Sevenish landscapes and get chased by bears. Don’t buy anything you see at Canadian Tire en route to the cottage that ‘looks like it could come in handy.’ Less is more.
Bonus tip – Don’t compare! Once you total up the hundreds of bucks you’ve spent on a weekend in the wilderness, you may be wondering why you didn’t just book a getaway to New York City. Because you wanted to go to a cottage! Don’t expect said cottage experience to be cheap. But know that it can be cheaper, with good planning and a solemn commitment not to buy any impromptu cottage crap. Put down the battery-operated karaoke machine. And have a great time.