How to eat out for less than $30

How We Eat Out for Less than $30 for a Family of 7

Do you like to eat out? I REALLY do! We just don’t do it very often because it is not nearly as healthy as cooking at home, and it is definitely NOT a frugal option for feeding a large family.

Why do I like it so much then? Because in some ways eating out makes me feel human. I know that seems silly, but we live in a rural community and I do not get out very much, so doing something every once in a while that is fun and out of the ordinary is therapeutic for me. It is not therapeutic, however, if I am crying after the bill comes.

How to eat out for less than $30

Not everyone can eat out for less than $30, but when I tell people that we eat out for so little I always get the same questions …

  • “Are your children really picky eaters or not eat much at all?”
  • “Are you talking about fast food?”
  • “Is this a regional thing? Can I get it in my area?”
  • “We have been trying to do this for years! How do you do it?”

First off, my kids are not picky eaters. My husband and I LOVE all ethnic foods, so we cook with all types of spices and different ingredients often from our frugal Bountiful Baskets produce.  We like food, and our kids do too. My children always out-eat any other kids we are around.

The one thing that we have going for us though, is that our kids are young. I am guessing if you have teenage boys this might get a bit trickier … but if they are teenage boys maybe you can tell them to pay for their own meal too – just kidding!

You also may or may not be able to do this if you have a food allergy like gluten. Sometimes issues such as these bring on more of a headache when eating out, but you can definitely still try with these tips to get a better deal!

I am not talking fast food or high end restaurants. I am talking about those fun family-friendly in between restaurants where the environment is relaxed, yet still a sit down meal.

This is not a regional thing! As you will see below I outline major food chains that we go to. We have done this while living in the South and up North.

Yes, we do enjoy the food we get! I like food A LOT. I am not going to go out and waste my time eating food I don’t like.

How do I do it? Let me tell you!

10 Tips for Saving Money at Restaurants

  1. I do not go to the restaurant hungry. I remember in college I would skip lunch because I wanted to gorge myself at dinner. Not only is that not a healthy habit, but it means your eyes are bigger than your stomach when the menu is sitting in front of you. You will buy too much, be too full, and more than likely go home with leftovers.
  2. Get water. Not only is it better for you, drinks are so overpriced it is ridiculous at a restaurant.  Need some flavor? Add lemon, lime, or even an orange wedges.
  3. Do not buy kids meals. They are often such a waste of money.
  4. Our kids always share an adult meal. Now if you have small kids like I do (5 eating under 8 years), I buy just one or two meals and split it between all five of them. Now you might ask, are they getting enough to actually make a meal?? Yes, they are! Many restaurants put way too much food on the plates for one person to eat. Many adult meals can easily be divided into four decent sized kids meals – like they look as big as if you had ordered from the kids menu. If your children are older and eat more, divide the meal in half.
  5. Parents need to share a meal. I know my husband and I usually like to have our own meals, but the bill hurts us often, and we always end up going home with leftovers.  Again, many adult meals come with so much food that it will make two appropriate adult meals once divided.
  6. Go to restaurants that have freebies while you wait.  Whether it is free bread or nachos and salsa, having a freebie makes it fun and also kills your appetite a little before the meal.  Some also just have very inexpensive apps like chips and salsa too. We do those sometimes just to entertain the kids.
  7. Look for coupons. Many restaurants have coupons monthly you can find on their websites or in the Sunday newspaper.  Some also have discount cards for frequent customers.  Receipts sometimes include survey discounts as well.  All of these items can help you save money at your favorite places.
  8. Check out Early Bird Specials and Kids Eat Free Nights. Many restaurants have deals for those that eat at certain times of the day. This may just save you money!
  9. Scout out restaurants. Many have a fee for sharing, but there are many others that do not. Call ahead and find out their policies.
  10. Plan Ahead. This is kind of the same thing as scouting out restaurants but it is important.  Look up menus online and figure out what you are going to purchase beforehand so that you can stick to your budget better.

You might be reading all 10 tips thinking, “We already do all of this so why can’t I get our meals for under $30!” I am going to list specific restaurants we do this at. These are national chains and so hopefully you have these in your area!

I will notate that we normally are a clean eating family, but we are also a very frugal one. Real food and eating out on a budget do not go really well together. We eat out pretty rarely so we consider this our splurging health-wise in order to have fun as a family and still stick to our budget. Not all would be okay with that, but we are and maybe you are too!

Please tip your wait staff an appropriate amount! That is not the place to save money. If you have good service show them that it was!

SEE HOW WE DO REAL FOOD ON A REALISTIC BUDGET!

Places to Go, Money to Save

cheddars-logo

Chips and Homemade Queso – $4.29
Buffalo Chicken Wrapper (4 wraps) served with fries for Kids – $7.89
Lemon Pepper Chicken for Adults served with 2 sides – $9.29
OR each adult get their own meal (burgers start at $5.29)
TOTAL: $21.47

Texas_Roadhouse.svg

FREE BREAD
Chicken Critters (8 chicken fingers) with two sides for the Kids – $9.99
Each adult can have their own meal starting at $8.99
OR
Adults share a large more expensive meal up to $15.99
**Early bird specials available
TOTAL: $25.98

Chilis-logo-old

 Endless Chips and Salsa – $5.69
Mix and Match Fajitas for the Kids – $12.99
Bacon Avaocado Chicken Sandwich with Fries for Adults to share – $10.49
TOTAL: $29.17

images

Loaded Potato Skins – $7.99
Bruschetta Chicken Pasta for the Kids – $12.99
Jack Daniels Burger for Adults to Share – $10.89
TOTAL: $31.87
(You could go cheaper but a $1.87 isn’t too bad for good food!)
Gluten-free and Allergy Menus available as well as lunch specials
Discount cards available for frequent customers!

images

FREE Breadsticks
Five Cheese Ziti al Forno for Kids with salad to Share – $12.49
Chicken Parmigiana for Adults with salad to Share – $14.99
TOTAL: $27.48
**Depending on the restaurant location and the wait staff they may or may not let you share the salad with everyone, and there may be a charge for sharing so call ahead!

Did that Help?

This is not an exhaustive list but these are some of the few restaurants that work for our family budget for now.

I do realize as my children get older and bigger they will require more food, but I see absolutely no reason why a family of 7 cannot eat for under $50 with all grown children sharing at least a plate between two older children with these prices.  There is just so much food provided at these restaurants and we live in a culture where overeating, food waste, and overspending is just a normal part of our day. I don’t know that this is the legacy I want to leave for my children.

I hope that these tips are encouraging for you! I think it is good that families to create special moments and memories, whether it is eating out for dinner, or going to a park to play, or even having a fun and unique evening at home with board games. It can sometimes seem inconvenient for parents to create these traditions, but it is important that our children know we care enough to take time out of our crazy schedules for them and that we love our family enough to invest in it for the future.

CHECK OUT MY OTHER FRUGAL TIPS FOR LARGE FAMILIES!

How I Plan to Feed My Family of 7 on $400 a Month

Lindsey S

Lindsey is a stay at home, work from home mom to six children eight years and younger. She homeschools and enjoys large family living. When Lindsey is not changing diapers, cleaning, and cooking meals in her awesome Instant Pot, she is DIY-ing her way around the house. Where she loves learning new skills, her heart is in sharing with other women the message of the Gospel and showing them how to instill those truths in the hearts of their children.

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14 thoughts on “How We Eat Out for Less than $30 for a Family of 7

  1. Great tips! We do a lot of these already. Our boys are 13, 11, 10, 8, and 6. If we’re very careful, we can usually get by under $50. We could definitely do better with sharing more though.

  2. I agree that it can be pretty affordable to eat out with young kids. There are 6 of us. When our kids were young, we would get Chinese food. A couple different entrees and rice would feed everyone for about $20-$25 if we drank water. 🙂

    Now that the oldest is 15, he can (and will) eat a full adult-sized restaurant meal with no leftovers, lol. And he is as thin as they come. Our 9-year-old ds can eat as much as him (he has an increased caloric need due to medical issues)n and is just as thin). This is just how much they normally eat. Eek, right?

    Now, our 11-year-old dd eats about as much as I do. Our 6-year-old dd eats well, but is probably comparable to your children. Our best bet would be to have the boys each have their own adult meal, the girls share an adult meal, and then the adults share another adult meal—which puts us at about double your bill. This is why we rarely go out to eat as a family. Diners can be a good deal, though—breakfast food is often less expensive than dinner food and very filling.

  3. I am unfamiliar with the scout out and what are you paying for? Also, the totals do not include tips! I think people should not eat out if they can’t afford to tip well. Not saying you do this! We always do at least 20%.

    • You can call ahead, or check online for their restaurant policies is what I mean by “scout out”. Tips are understood to be a part of going out to eat and I do address that in the article that I do not believe that tipping is a place to skimp. I encourage my readers to tip well in an effort to appreciate their wait staff.

      • Thank you! I missed that line about tipping the first time ) I expected it to be included in the totals to stay under $30.

  4. Great post Lindsay. We are a family of five with all three under the age of 7 so this will definitely be using some of these ideas to further our frugality when it comes to eating out.

    One tactic we have really been using is taking advantage of places where kids eat free or really cheap. I put together as comprehensive of a list as I could at

    <a href="http://www.savingfreak.com/kids-eat-free-or-cheap/&quot;)http://www.savingfreak.com/kids-eat-free-or-cheap/

    I hope you can forgive the shameless plug since I really believe it will help other families.

  5. We rarely buy kids meals even with only 1 child. What we do is buy an extra side for my kid. This works out to 2 adult meals, and 1 side. I split my food with my kid, including the extra side. And my spouse will take half his home for lunch the next day.

    Olive Garden official policy is only one salad per person per meal, so you are lucky if they let you share!

  6. This is great in theory but my teens would still be hungry if they split a meal. We do often drink water, those sodas add up! My daughter and I can often split a meal but not my boys. Eating out usually runs our family of 7 ( ages 5, 7, 11, 12, 14) about $65 before tip.

  7. We wait and eat out on special discount days. DP Dough has calzones 2/$10 on Wednesdays, and a special $5 Calzone every day. Gino’s has buy 1 get 1 free pizza or pastas on Tuesdays. I also search the internet for special coupon codes, and sometimes like at Subway, we share a foot long and take it home where we have our own drinks and chips.

  8. My wife and I have three kids and if we aren’t careful the bill can add up really quick. There are times when my wife and I just can’t cook, plus we enjoy getting out of the house. That is great advice about looking for kid discounts, that really saves us.

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