We are a family of 7 and enjoy eating out, but our budget doesn’t! I have come up with a few ideas that might help you (and me) save a little money, while still having the opportunity to get out, save the dishes and eat!
*I am located near Vancouver, BC and some of these ideas may not be applicable to all areas.*
How To Save Money When Eating Out With Your Family
Follow the ‘Family Night’
Lots of restaurants, like Dennys, Boston Pizza, Montantas, Old Country Buffet, etc, have ‘Family Nights’ They are typically during the weekdays, but sometimes on Saturday and Sundays too. They usually offer FREE kids meals with a paid adults, or $0.99 kids meals. This can save about $10-$15 depending on where you go. Typically it is only good for as many adults as you have in your party. So not all of my kids will eat for free if just my hubby and I take them. This is a good time to treat grandma and grandpa out, for all the hard work they do! (byproduct: more kids meals are free and there are a couple extra sets of hands for holding babies).
I don’t know about where you are, but we have the Entertainment book here. There are lots of 2-for-1 coupons for various restaurants. They are typically not the larger chain restaurants, but family run establishments. This can save you up to $25+. If you go in group, you can gather more coupons, to get multiple meals free. Be sure to read the coupons, as there is usually a cap on how many you can use (2-3 at most places). (byproduct: support smaller, family run establishments and try out new places).
Don’t Always Order Off The Kid’s Menu
Some kids menus are amazing (I like the Olive Garden one personally), but others are kind of ‘gimmicky’. They also may not fill up older children, or be way too much food for the little guys. If your son will only eat a baked potatoe, and won’t touch the burger, just order a side, skip the $$, and the wasted food. (byproduct: getting kids used to not always having the kids meals may help you in the future. Flexibility is good.)
MANY restaurants have HUGE adult portions. Why not share an adult meal with your preschooler, or have two older kids share one adult size meal, instead of 2 kids meals? (usually cheaper, but not always). One thing we often do is order an appetizer to share and order a main meal to share with 2-4 people. Be sure to do some quick math to ensure you really are saving money. (byproduct: you might actually eat a more appropriate portion size, if this is a concern of yours).
Skip The Drinks
Is is just me, or has the cost of a pop at a restaurant gone up incredibly over the past decade? Typically a pop is around $3. Sometimes the kids have one included, but if you are skipping the kid’s menu, be sure to watch the drinks. For a family of 5, that’s $15 you can save, simply by drinking water! (byproduct: I certainly don’t want to get stuck on calories, but obviously pop is not the most healthy option).
Don’t Be Afraid To Complain
I hesitate putting this on the list, because I don’t think it should be relied on as a way to save money, but I do want to remind our readers of their options. Honestly, I have been to restaurants that I regretted eating at. The food was cold, it came with the wrong toppings, was made incorrectly or at different times from the rest of your family. You have a right to tell the server, and maybe even the manager, that you were not satisfied, why and how it will affect your eating out in the future. Restaurants will usually compensate you for your inconvenience in hopes of earning a second chance at your business. (byproduct: restaurants, especially smaller businesses, can learn from your experiences and work on improving for future customers. If you leave unhappy and don’t help them improve, they may have lost a customer, and losing customers is not a good way to have a successful business).
Do The Surveys
Tying in to the previous point, restaurants WANT FEEDBACK. Many people are not comfortable giving negative feedback in person, so many restaurants have implemented surveys at the bottom (or back) of the receipt. The other day at McDonalds with my son (I know, I know), I saw a man get a full sandwich for free, simply because he went online and did a survey about his previous meal. Savings will vary, many will give a appetizer, and some will enter you in a draw for a gift card. (byproduct, help the business improve for the future).
I am sure you have many other ideas on saving money, share them with us!