Tired of blowing your budget while eating out? We’ve discovered some secrets to save money dining out for under $20 with your family of 3-4 people. Because we dine so cheap, we can budget 3-4 meals out a week!
Note: Dining out frugally is not popular. We usually get weird looks when we dine with friends (although they usually leave tons of food behind and we leave feeling full but not wasteful). Sometimes the waitstaff give us funny looks, but they usually smile when they realize how clever our tricks are (and how we’ve worked the menu in our favor).
Take advantage of Kid’s Meals.
- We have 2 kids under 12, so we usually order a couple kids meals (most places limit 1 per child under age 12) and pair that with an adult entree…then we share. Yes, share:-) Most kids meals are comparable to adult portions and are much cheaper. Your light eater in the family can pick a few things off everyone’s dish and create their own meal at no extra cost. This feeds 4 people. We always ask for an extra plate and that is never a problem.
- We visit our favorite pizza eatery and order 2 kid’s meals (each include an 8″ pizza and drink) + 1 adult 8″ pizza + garlic bread for under $20. The kids get a cup of water and the parents get the soda (if you don’t mind drinking from a kid cup). We get free refills at our eatery. By ordering 2 Kid’s meals, we get the same size pizza with a drink for cheaper than they charge for a “regular” pizza the EXACT SAME SIZE. Win!
- If there are only 3 of us eating out, we order 1 adult entree + 1 Kid’s Meal (usually includes a drink) and Mrs. Saver shares using an extra plate.
Scope out the Menu in advance.
- Look up the menu online and decide how best to combine adult meals/kids meals/appetizers to feed your family and stay under $20. You will feel rushed and probably order too much food if you try to make this decision at an ordering counter with a line of hungry patrons behind you.
Hoard restaurant coupons and discounts.
- Check your local paper and online for coupons at restaurants and eateries you frequent. Keep these coupons organized in your car for easy access and dining out ideas when you’re hungry and on-the-go.
- Check Groupon, Living Social, or your local 50% voucher sites for great deals on dining out (Hint: try local radio station and tv websites for these deals). For example, you may pay $10 for a $20 gift certificate to a restaurant. Then you have a “stash” of dining out certificates to keep on-hand.
Eat at “Casual Dining” locations–where you order at a counter and don’t need to tip a waiter/waitress. Paying waitstaff easily adds $3-$4 to your bill.
- Make a list of casual dining locations in your area and keep on your phone or in your car. When you’re starving and no one can decide on a restaurant, pull out your list!
Get a “Kids Eat Free” restaurant list.
- Most communities have a “Kids Eat Free” list online or in a publication. Our city publishes the list each month in a free magazine available all over town. It tells you what days of the week restaurants feature free/reduced price kid’s meals. Couple this with our trick of eating kid’s meals (above) and you’ve got a CHEAP meal!
Skip Dessert and Drinks.
- We rarely order soda or drinks, but we WILL gladly drink the kid sodas that usually come free with the kid’s meals. Our children know that if their meal comes with a drink, it goes straight to mom & dad, while they get water. We do share a drink or two…we aren’t heartless beasts:-)
- We skip dessert at the eatery BUT if we’re really wanting a sweet treat, we’ll stop by Braum’s and grab a box of ice cream (which lasts at least a week in our house) or stop by the ice cream parlor, order a large concrete + 2 extra cups/spoons (then dish it out three ways and share with the kids). Both dessert options cost about $3 and are optional, of course!
Image Credit: pwcmoms.com
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