Thursday, July 2, 2015

Eating Out on a Budget - With Kids!

My husband and I love eating out. We also love saving money.

It's kind of a problem... or is it?

There are lots of areas where I am willing to sacrifice in order to be a stay-at-home mom, including buying clothes second hand, but eating out is important to me.

It's so nice to get out and eat, both as a couple and as a family. Eating out is such a social thing and we often get invited to dinners with friends or out for celebrations. Being on a limited budget can be tricky but it hasn't limited us; instead we've learned to save money while still enjoying regular nights out. 

Here are some of the ways we save money when eating out.

As I said, we love eating out as a family. Couple time is really important as well, but from a budget standpoint, it makes more sense to bring the kids. Unless family members are able to watch the kids, paying for a babysitter adds up! 

We pay $10 an hour for babysitting, so for one meal we're looking at $20-30, whereas 1-2 kids meals would only cost us $15 at the most. I also think it's really good for kids to get out and learn how to behave in a restaurant from a young age. 

Alternatively, to save on a babysitter but still eat out without the kids, you can pair up with another couple and child swap. You watch their kids while they go out, and they watch yours will you go out. You each get free childcare and the kids get a playdate!

Even though you will save money by bringing your children and ordering them a kids meal versus getting a babysitter, it's even better not to pay for a kids meal at all!

There are lots of ways to avoid buying kids meals. Depending on how old the child is, they can often just share from your meal. My 2 year old usually just wants fries when we eat out anyway! We also often order steamed veggies for the little ones, either as our side or as an additional side. 

It also doesn't hurt to ask for other options for your kids, and sometimes restaurants will surprise you with a free bonus! We recently had a server bring a hamburger bun for our youngest to munch on, and our daughter has been brought dessert even when we didn't pay for a kids meal!

We love ordering and sharing a couple of appetizers as a family as well. It's cheaper and makes for a fun meal!

A lot of restaurants offer a kids eat free day.  I've actually only used this option when I happened to be out with a friend on a day where the restaurant offered it, but if your kids eat a lot it's definitely worth looking into or scheduling this!

When possible, we like to do lunch instead. Lunch menus are often cheaper and generally the food comes sooner, which is definitely a bonus when eating out with little ones!

A huge one for us is to not order drinks. This saves so much money! Water is healthier anyways and restaurant beverages are so overpriced.

For extra savings, we have memberships that offer discounts that save us money when eating out, such as our Auto Association membership. I also belong to a mom's club that has discounts around town, our dealership offers a rewards program, plus I get a teacher's discount at different places. It never hurts to ask if a restaurant offers any type of discount program - you never know!

We also use coupons whenever possible. Sometimes they come in the mail, and sometimes we sign up for e-mails to get discounts and notifications of sales, or check Groupon.

It's so nice to be able to get out and not break the bank. And a night off from cooking is always a win too!

Do you enjoy eating out with your family? And do you have any money-saving tips to add? Please share them with me in the comments!

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  1. I love this! Great advice!
    Cynthia @craftoflaughter

  2. Good point. I never thought about that...when you factor in how much it will cost for a babysitter. I dont' have kids yet but my man and I love going out to eat, so these tips will come into play sooner than later!

  3. Great advice! We typically get up the kids eat free spots and we have learned to share meals! Thanks for the tips!

  4. This is a great post, really useful, as eating out is expensive but sometimes you just need to! The family-swapping tip is a good idea. And we often let our boy share from our plates too, he never finishes kids meals so its a waste of food and money! #weekendbloghop
    Sabrina (The Mummy Stylist)

  5. Another option that is not quite eating out but feels like it, is cheap, and kids love it is packing a picnic and taking it to a local park. -Melissa

  6. We try to go to kids eat free nights. My kids are still younger so can either share a kids meal or sometimes just eat from our meals.

  7. We love eating out too! A few more ideas are to purchase discounted gift cards for your favorite restaurants through Cardpool or earn gift cards through Swagbucks.

  8. We realized that not ordering drinks is a huge savings! If we really want to have a nice glass of wine or something, then we might splurge, but just a water can save us so much. We also try to do Linner - late afternoon, just before the dinner menu changes, then it feeds us and we can go home and have a family dessert later.

  9. Great tips! I just saw a similar pin from TipJunkie listing restaurants with "kids eat free" discounts. It's worth a glance! I've done most of these things you mentioned to keep costs at bay, and have even brought Tupperwares of kid food with me from time to time. Servers don't seem to mind. I just can't bring myself to feed my kids chicken fingers and fries when they're really tiny. Veggies, it is!

  10. These are great tips that my family has started doing as well. We now try to eat out only once a week and try to hit kids eat free places or were theres free rolls or chips to help fill up as well as ordering only water! You are definitely right that kids need to get out and know how to act in a restaurant. Very important! Great Read!

  11. Great post. I like the idea of bringing children out with you so that they get used to eating in restaurants, and how to behave. I want to bring my daughter out for a meal more but with just the two of us it's more logistics than cost that keep us away!
    Thanks for linking up with the weekend blog hop!

  12. Great tips! Going out to a sit down restaurant for a nice dessert is also a fun, special treat that doesn't break the bank! Especially when you share one or two desserts for the whole table :) Thanks for sharing and linking up with Blogger Brags - hope to see you next time! Cheers, Kendra