This week's topic it how to eat out on a budget.
During my first year home we never went out. Well maybe once very few months, and most of that was when someone was treating us. We just didn't have the money.
We still don't have a lot of extra cash (although paying off my car loan, our new couches and our tv before Owen was born opened up a lot of extra money) but we do like to go out. We try to limit to once a month, and then we also try to do it as cheaply as we can.
I don't like to feed my kids crap. Pardon the language, but some food is just plain crap. And yes I could eat at a fast food restaurant weekly and spend about what we do by eating at another restuarant once, maybe twice a month. But I never feel great after eating McDonalds. Sometimes I cave into a craving but I really try to pick places that have healthier options.
Somehow I have raised kids who LOVE fruit and veggies. Now I like my fruit, but given the choice when I am out to eat I am all over the french fries. Not my kids. They ask for the apple slices. Seriously, where did they come from? But of course they also ask for ice cream and pink milk (strawberry milk which they ONLY get when we go out to eat) so I guess it balances out.
Anyway, we never go out with coupons or some kind of discount. Signing up with our favorite restaurants has afforded us to try different places. We could eat at Friendly's all the time. We often do end up there because of their kid's menu (it is my daughters favorite place to eat out as well), their well placed coupons, the Wednesday night $1.99 kids meals (meal, drink and dessert) and now their Mondays free kids meal with a $9.99 parent meal (drink, meal and dessert included) which means we can eat out for $25 tip included. Often we will combine a Wednesday night $1.99 kids meal with a coupon (like $5 off of $25) and get something extra like an appetizer or dessert and still spend under $30 with tip.
But we like to go other places. Red Robin is a favorite for all of us. I love Chilis, Unos and 99 as well. Jon likes Applebees, Texas Roadhouse and Dave's BBQ as well. As you can see we are not gourmet diners, but if you go to one of those places a family of four can EASILY spend close to $40. And we just don't have that. We try to top out at $30, and often spend even less. How?
Sign up with these restaurants and you get freebies on your birthday:
Red Robin sends you a free burger on your b-day
Friendly's sends you a free ice cream cone and your kid gets a free meal on their birthday
Chili's will give you a free appetizer just for signing up on their email list.
99 will send you coupons for freebies for signing up with them
TGI Fridays gives you a free drink, free app and a skip the wait line coupon for signing up.
Unos sends you a free dessert on your birthday
Applebees sends you a free dessert on your birthday
Unos had a 13 days of Christmas at Christmas time and gave our coupons for free kids meals, $10 of a $30 purchase and others good well into March
And once you are on their email list they often send you coupons for freebies. Red Robin sends me coupons for free onion rings or free drinks or desserts a few times a year.
If you have a favorite restaurant around you (I am in NEw Englad so some on my list might not apply) google their webpage, check out their fan page on facebook and see what you can find!
Then there are the coupons on the paper. The Sunday paper has great coupons. Unos often places coupons for $5 off a %25 purchase. Olive Garden is great for their $4 off two dinners as well.
And sometimes they even let you use more than one coupon at a meal. A friend and I went out to dinner and I had coupons. We chose to get a free appetizer since we had each planned to buy dinner for ourselves anyway. At the end the waitress took my free appetizer and my $5 off a $25 purchase as well. It was a great surprise!
And my last favorite place is Restaurants.com. You can buy gift certificates for select restaurants for a fraction of the cost. They often run promos of getting 80% off of the price. So a $20 gift certificate would cost you $4! There are some regulations with these gift certificates, and I have found that they are to the nicer restaurants around me, but they are well worth the investigation.
And that is how my family affords to eat out. Jon and I are heading to Dave's BBQ for our Valentines Dinner (he said he loves his wife when I told him we could go there!) and right now we don't have coupons but you can bet I will be looking this afternoon!