How to eat out on a budget
If you're exhausted after a big day with the kids, or have been swamped with work at the office, cooking may be the last thing you want to do. Treat yourself! Take a well-deserved break from the kitchen and head out for a family meal at a restaurant or café in your local area instead. Check out these money saving tips which will help to ensure the wait staff don't present you with an astronomical bill at the end of your meal!
- Breakfast is a great meal to have out with the kids on the weekend – you're up early most of the time anyway!
- You'll save money because menu prices at breakfast time will generally be cheaper than those at night time.
- Enjoy a fancy "light" breakfast (a bowl of yummy homemade muesli topped with fresh berries) which will be cheaper than a big cooked breakfast. And better for your waist line too!
- Have a coffee, but try to limit the number of refills! It can add a lot your bill.
- Fill your children's tummies with a slice or two of thick-cut toast and jam and they can wash it down with a small drink.
- Combine eating out for breakfast with a visit to a nearby park and you'll have the perfect start to the day.
- If getting the kids ready to go out early on a weekend morning doesn't thrill you, then a casual and relaxed midday lunch may be more your style.
- Choose a local café for a lunch (or brunch!) because its prices are likely to be cheaper than those at restaurant at night.
- Save money by making the kids a sandwich or two and taking them with you – most café owners won't mind. Buy a special milkshake and it's a certain treat.
- Or, if you don't mind sharing, order your own lunch and then make-up a meal for the kids from your plate. This will save you money on ordering food that the kids are most likely to push around their plate.
- If you're keen to go out for the occasional dinner then it's best to take a mid-week break from the kitchen.
- On weeknights, restaurants often have cheaper "meal deals" to get people though the door.
- There may be an early-bird menu which offers meals at cheaper prices if you dine between 5pm and 6pm.
- These specials may disappear from the menu on Friday nights and the weekend when restaurants are packed with patrons.
- You can save money by feeding the kids at home. Order the kids a dessert at the restaurant while you and your partner enjoy a grown-up dinner served by someone else.
- Or, have a glass of wine and a cheese plate at home (make fancy cheese and crackers for the kids) and then all go out for dinner, dessert and coffee.
- Consider limiting the number of drinks you order with dinner. There's often a big mark-up on both alcoholic and soft drinks (it's where restaurants make their money!) and it can add more than a few dollars to the bill. Opt for water instead.
Find a family-friendly restaurant or café in your area
This article was created for Kidspot, New Zealand's leading parenting website.