No matter where you go or what you order, eating at a restaurant is almost always going to be more expensive than preparing a meal at home. Whether you dine out with your children once a week, once a month, or just several times a year, there are a bunch of steps you can take to keep your costs to a minimum.
Look Out for Specials
It’s common for family restaurants to offer promotions ranging from discounted appetizers to a free child meal for each adult meal purchased. One of the easiest ways to save money on dining out is to take advantage of these specials, even if it means going out a little earlier or on a weeknight instead of a weekend. Similarly, check your local mailers for coupons issued by the
restaurants you tend to frequent.
Children don’t tend to eat as much as adults, so if your kids are small and not particularly big eaters, consider either having them share entrees or having you and your spouse share your entrées with them. If you’re worried that it won’t be enough food, try ordering one extra side dish as a supplement.
Skip the Kids’ Meals
Kids’ meals aren’t always all that economical. Sometimes a kids’ meal will cost only a few dollars less than an adult-sized meal, but will also consist of a lot less food. If you dine at restaurants where the adult-sized portions tend to be generous, try having your children share a single full-sized entrée.
Going out to dinner is a nice treat by itself; you don’t have to load up on overpriced, unhealthy beverages to enhance the experience. Though some restaurants do offer free soft drink refills, the cost of buying a round of sodas can really add up. Instead, stick to water, and save the sugar for dessert.
Don’t Pay for the Things Your Kids Won’t Eat
Children—especially younger ones—tend to be picky eaters. If your child orders a meal that comes with a side or accompaniment that you know your child won’t eat, ask your waiter to have that item omitted, and politely request a modest discount on the meal price as a result. This is often more economical than asking for a replacement side, as restaurants tend to charge extra for substitutions.
Say Yes to Leftovers
Restaurant portions tend to be large, so if you wind up with untouched food on your children’s plates, ask to have it packed up to go, even if it is a small amount. You can probably serve it as lunch or as part of your kids’ dinner the next day, which means you’ll avoid wasting the leftovers while trimming your food costs.
Dining out with children doesn’t have to cost a fortune if you employ smart strategies and pick restaurants that are reasonably priced. Besides, it’s nice to occasionally treat yourself and your family to a different dining experience, and there’s certainly something to be said for not having to do all the cooking and cleaning up yourself.