Eating Out on a Budget: Kid’s Eat Free Deals at Local Restaurants

eating out

 

To celebrate the start of summer for my pre-k kiddo going into kindergarten (how did THAT happen?!), I took my baby girl out to lunch. I generally avoid eating out in restaurants because, of course, the cost. (Well, I have some other reasons relating to fast food and healthy eating, but I’ll save that rant for another day!)

We ate at a favorite place of ours, which offers a nice salad bar along with some healthier fare. Prior to that stop, we’d gone to the bookstore, where she used her gift card for graduating pre-K to buy a few new books, and we took those in with us, too. We colored the menu the restaurant provided, connected the dots, sipped juice and water and hung out together, just the two of us. It was perfect.

Which made me realize how fun going out to eat can be.

It’s a special treat for us since we do it so rarely, but anytime I offer to take the girls out to eat they have a great time. (Note to new parents: This ‘enjoyable meal’ idea is fairly recent. In the early years, dinners out consisted of dropping big bucks and then spending the meal asking the girls to sit up and stop fighting; or, when they were younger, walking them around so they would stop crying.) We spent quite a few years eating in and have just gotten back into venturing out.

But eating out can be a huge budget-buster. According to a survey by Accounting Principals, sixty-six percent of Americans buy rather than pack lunch, which costs an average of $37 per week – or $2000 per year! And that’s not even what we are spending on dinners. I know when we head out as a family of four for a nighttime meal, our tab can run as much as my weekly grocery budget for as little as two hours of entertainment.

Still, some restaurants do offer great deals, like discounted nights for kids or – even better – kids eat free!

If you don’t feel like cooking but you don’t want to run up a steep tab, I came across this great website, mykidseatfree.com, which allows users to look up a state, then city, then a restaurant in the area and find those that offer kids deals on meals. My search returned a variety of restaurants in our very small town that offer great deals for eating out. Another site lists a variety of restaurants that generally offer deals for families. I’d recommend searching these sites but calling the restaurants first to make sure the deals are still good since they can change from time to time.

We also eat at Chick-fil-A from time to time for a family night. They offer a buy an adult entrée, get a kid’s meal for free. While I’m not a fan of fast food, I do like Chick-fil-A, and I love that they have a play area where the kids can run around with friends when it gets too hot (or cold, or windy, or rainy!) outside.

What restaurants in your area offer great meal deals for kids?

Image via Flickr/Mike Mozart