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9 Ways to Save When Dining Out as a Family

As I stated in the Chili’s giveaway post, some days you just need a night off, or perhaps you’re on vacation, but dining with a family can be expensive. What are you to do when you try to feed the whole family for a meal on a budget and not head to the drive-thru?

Here are a nine ideas for how you can get get the most for your hard-earned cash and not manage to spend your entire grocery budget in one sitting.

      1. Sign up for restaurant clubs. Several restaurants and eating establishments are now offering clubs where you can earn points or get free appetizers just by signing up. A free appetizer can go a long way to making your family’s dollars stretch during a meal.
      2. Look for coupons in mailers and online. Oftentimes neighborhood restaurants will offer coupons there because they have a limited target area. Try the family-owned business down the street instead of the fast food drive-thru and save money while you do. Also check online coupon databases and deal sites to search for potential deals you could take advantage of.
      3. Split your meal. Share a meal with your child and order an extra side item or order an appetizer (this is where free appetizers become key) and a meal with your spouse instead of two full-priced meals. Chances are you don’t really need to be eating the massive portion sizes that come anyway.
      4. Look for places with $5 or budget menus. Most restaurants offer some kind of value menu. Friday’s has a $5 menu, and while at The Good Earth a few weeks ago I noticed they had daily reduced price entrées and desserts.
      5. Family meal deals. Take advantage of family meal deals whenever possible. You’ll usually get a larger quantity of food, and you can often bypass the high fat, fried items and substitute for salads and other sides. There is a Greek place near our house that offers family-style gyro packs that come with a massive Greek salad. The kids eat their fill and don’t waste money on cheap toys and fries, and we end up with enough for leftovers for my husband’s lunch the next day.
      6. Drink water. Water is free and better for you. Don’t spend your cash on soda and then at the dentist for cavities. Keep it in your pocket for a real treat later on.
      7. Order the entrée and bring it home to fill in with milk and corn chips, pretzels or carrot sticks and more from home. Avoid cooking and dishes, and simultaneously avoid paying for items that you can buy much cheaper at the grocery store.
      8. Instead of ordering kids’ meals, order one large entrée and have them split it. My kids prefer to eat the “adult” entrées over the chicken strips, overcooked hamburgers and macaroni and cheese that are usually offered on the kids’ menus. Having them order a full entrée usually also allows them to benefit from included vegetables and side salads.
      9. Check your neighborhood for restaurants offering free kids’ meals on different nights. Check out KidsMealDeals to search for places near you before leaving the house.

How do you save money when you eat out?

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