Money Saving Tips: Cost-Effective Ways to Eat Out With Your Family
If you're like any busy mom, there are some nights when you simply don't feel like cooking. After a long day of wrangling kids, dealing with laundry, and re-prioritizing items on your to-do list, it's nice to sit down and have a meal prepared and served by someone else.
Unless, of course, you have kids in tow.
A family dinner out at a restaurant can get really, really expensive. Plus, it can be so chaotic that it can make a harried mom want to skip it, go back home, and cook hot dogs or macaroni and cheese.
What's a family to do?
Fortunately, there are now lots of ways that you can have a great dinner with your family without feeling the pain in your wallet. Here are ten tips to help you.
10 Tips For Saving Money While Eating Out
Visit during happy hour.
Happy hour isn't just for grownups! It can be one of the best ways to economize on a family meal. Many restaurants will offer appetizers for half price, or glasses of wine even if you're not at the bar.
Go where kids eat free.
Lots of restaurants offer kids eat free nights now. There are websites dedicated to tracking kids eat free deals every night of the week in most major cities. Google "kids eat free" with your city name and you're sure to find resources.
Sign up for email clubs.
Headed out to a chain restaurant? Before you go, sign up for their email specials. Often, they'll immediately send you a promotional offer that you can use that night.
Sign up for rewards programs.
In addition to email promotions, some restaurants have rewards programs for frequent diners. We signed up for one such program and earned enough rewards for one of our kids to eat free for an entire year. Pair that up with happy hour specials, and our family of four can eat for about $30 including a glass of wine and desserts.
Check the menu first.
Browse restaurant menus online before heading out the door. Sometimes there will be special offers on certain nights that can save you big money.
Use Foursquare and social media.
Checking in via Foursquare or another similar service can occasionally lead to an on-the-spot special offer. Don't be surprised if you get a little bonus if you Tweet about the restaurant while you dine, too. Just a few nights ago we got rewarded with a free dessert for tweeting how much we liked the food at a chain restaurant.
Consider skipping the kids meal.
Kids' meals are not always a value. If both of your kids are ordering the same thing, it might be cheaper to skip the kids' meal and order an entree portion for them to share. This is especially true if the restaurant does not include a drink in the price of the kids' meal.
Use daily deal sites.
Deal-a-day sites like Groupon frequently offer restaurant specials. Purchase the ones you know you can use with your family and most importantly: don't forget to use the vouchers!
If a drink is not included with a kids' meal, we'll have our kids share a grownup-sized drink. Beverages are usually expensive and can really add to your bill.
Seek out free extras.
Go to places that give you a free snack, like popcorn, peanuts, bread or tortilla chips. No need to order an appetizer on top of the freebies!
That's it. Have an awesome time eating out guilt-free!
What are your money saving tips and tricks for eating out with your family? How often do you go out to eat with your family? What are your favorite family-friendly restaurants?
Gigi Ross is a mom of 2 from Austin, Texas who keeps her personal blog at KludgyMom, where she shares her sometimes snappish, sometimes neurotic take on parenting and blogging. Gigi is a freelance writer and social media consultant. She is the business columnist for ShePosts and the Managing Editor of Business 2 Blogger. Her work has been syndicated by Mamapedia, Babble.com, and BlogHer. Connect with Gigi on Twitter at @akludgymom.
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