Aug 4, 2005

Eating Out On A Budget

No matter how tight your budget, eating out is inevitable. I'm not talking about special occasions or a well deserved treat, but sometimes a long day of errands or an unexpected trip to the doctor's office makes eating out necessary. I've found a few tricks to help feed us without breaking out pocketbook.

Clip Coupons - even if we have no plans to eat out I always clip any coupon I find for places we normally might eat out. I save those in my purse for those occasions when we need them.

Remember The Specials - there are lots of restaurants near us that have special days when kids can eat free or certain times of day when drinks are free or meals are two for one. I make sure to keep a mental note of those specials.

Think Fast Food - Although it is not the healthiest alternative, fast food is much less expensive than a sit down restaurant. Many places have healthy options now as well such as Subway sandwiches or salads at McDonald's.

Let The Kids Share - My kids are young so often times they don't finish a meal. I have them share and then if they are still hungry we can always order something extra. This way no food is wasted.

Skip The Kids Meals and Combos - if you are just trying to ward off the hunger until you get home, just get something small for everyone -- just a snack until you can get something more to eat at home.

Forget Dessert - not only will this save you money but calories as well. If you just have to have dessert, get one and split it.

Drink Water - sodas and other drinks can add up especially if you have a large family. Drinking water can save you a lot.

Get A To-Go Box - if you are going to eat out, make the most of it. Take home what you don't finish and save it for the next day's lunch or a midnight snack.

Using these strategies can save you quite a bit when you are forced to eat out unexpectedly.


Anonymous said...

Hey Michele,

You have some good points - I will say however that I've noticed that for us (a family of five - three children ages 5, 7 and 8) going to McDonalds costs just as much as going to a sit-down at say, Ruby Tuesday or Uno's

Honestly, we'll spend about $30 on Extra Value Meals and Big Kids Meals at McDonalds...

For about $5 more, we can have something that tastes a little better at Ruby Tuesdays or a similiar restaurant.

So I guess, depending on family size and appetite, fast food is less expensive.

In our case, I'd rather spend the extra $5 and not feel "gross" after eating the Big Mac!

Michele said...

Hi Marie,

I agree, the value meals are barely less than the meals at a sit down restaurant. However, we don't order value meals. That is where the savings come in. My 6 yo will only drink water, so that is a wasted drink in the value meal. We get her a cheeseburger and apples with caramel dip and she eats it all with a free water. That is about $2 for her. For my 3 yo we get nuggest and frys, she eats it all and that is about $2.50 for her with a water. 1 yo gets fries and juice and she eats it all. $2 again and hubby gets the value meal, which he eats it all. $5. Me, I get a salad and water. I don't drink soda. That is about $5. That is under $20 for all of us. for a sit down restaurant we can spend from $35 up to $70 depending on where we eat. If it is a special occasion we eat at a sit down place, this is rare for us. On the go we choose fast food which is much less expensive. You can easily ward off hunger for under $20 for 5 people. It's not necessary to get a value meal if you can eat more once you get home. You don't have to choose a big Mac, most fast food places have much healthier options now. Just some thoughts...

Anonymous said...

We always eat a salad or something else before we go out. That way we still enjoy the pleasure of a restaurant meal, but we are not tempted to overindulge.

Michele said...

That's a great idea annette, I think we should give that one a try as well!

Anonymous said...

i live in the st louis area and have called restaurants and made a list of places that kids eat free, and which nights. this is a tremendous savings for us, as my hubby and i often share a meal by doing a pick 2 or 3 combo from the menu. we are a family of 5. another thing i like to do is make an easy stir fry meal with rice and get restauant crab rangoon or spring rolls to go with the meal. it cuts down on the full cost of eating out, and gives us a special restaurant treat with our meal. the kids and hubby love this!