3 Tips on Eating Out for Five but Paying for Only One

by Ron Haynes

Eating out at restaurants has become much more the norm than it was in years past. But eating out in restaurants doesn’t have to break your bank. If you know how to pull it off, you can drastically reduce the amount of money you spend on a trip with your family to a restaurant. Here’s a few tips:

1. Take advantage of “kids eat free” promotions. I have a friend who does this regularly. He goes to a restaurant where he gets two free kids meals when one adult meal is purchased. Everyone drinks water (sodas are included in the kids meals). He orders one grilled chicken platter and gets a loaded baked potato, one order of vegetables and a side salad. He orders two kids meals, one with chicken fingers and a loaded baked potato, another with a cheeseburger and fries. His wife eats half of his grilled chicken, half of the potato, and the salad. His daughter eats the other loaded potato, his two sons eat most of the chicken fingers and fries and some of the cheese burger. Dad eats the rest. Total with tip? $12 to 13 bucks and everybody’s full.

You don’t have to be this cheap but if you learn how the deals work, “kids eat free” promotions can be a very frugal way to enjoy a night out. Check out the site My Kids Eat Free.

2. Check with local schools and other civic organizations for their big ole book of coupons, usually called an entertainment book. They usually cost about $10 but have hundreds of dollars in coupons and savings in them. Restaurants are great about advertising in these books and usually have better deals than you can find elsewhere. Check out these entertainment books at The 2008 Entertainment Book – Great Savings on Dining, Shopping, Travel, Attractions, Movie Tickets & More! Many of the savings are buy one get one free or some variation of it.

3. Your third alternative is to learn to cook restaurant style meals at home. Believe me, it CAN be done. If you can read, follow directions, and eat, you have the makings of a restaurant quality chef! You can do it! Give it a try this weekend by selecting a link below and trying out a recipe you love from your favorite restaurant.

Check out these sites to get the recipes for your favorite restaurants:
Copykat recipes
Top Secret Recipes
Recipe Link

Keep in mind too, that many chefs will give you a recipe or at least tell you what ingredients are in a dish, then you can have a fun day figuring out the proportions. Go on, give it a try.

On a personal note:
I can remember being a little kid in 1976 and hearing that my parents had been out to eat to a Chinese restaurant. THAT was fascinating to a young 10 year old who rarely, if ever, got to go out to eat. When we did go out, it was the usual American fare, mashed potatoes, chopped steak, green beans, rolls, etc. But not only did Mom and Dad go out…they brought home doggie bags! My little brother and I were thrilled beyond belief and the taste of that food was something out of a fiction novel to our little taste buds. The shrimp with lobster sauce was succulent and creamy, the almond chicken had the distinctive taste of soy sauce and the crunch of almonds, the Mongolian beef was big and bold in its spicy and sweet flavors.

A few months later my parents decided to take my brother and me out to the same restaurant. We were stunned that we got to go out to enjoy such delicacies. My mother spent a few days reminding and re-training us how to eat with proper manners and when we did leave, we wore our little polyester suits with the clip on ties and the uncomfortable shoes that gave me a blister on my heel.

The restaurant lived up to its doggie bag reputation and we enjoyed the egg rolls, the won ton soup, the beef with broccoli, the kung pao pork, and other Chinese fare. We tried to eat with the chopsticks, failing miserably, but were easily able to master the oversize porcelain spoons. It was a special night that I’ll always remember.

About the author

Ron Haynes has written 997 articles on The Wisdom Journal.

The founder and editor of The Wisdom Journal in 2007, Ron has worked in banking, distribution, retail, and upper management for companies ranging in size from small startups to multi-billion dollar corporations. He graduated Suma Cum Laude from a top MBA program and currently is a Human Resources and Management consultant, helping companies know how employees will behave in varying situations and what motivates them to action, assisting firms in identifying top talent, and coaching managers and employees on how to better communicate and make the workplace MUCH more enjoyable. If you'd like help in these areas, contact Ron using the contact form at the top of this page or at 870-761-7881.

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Frugal Dad

Great ideas on eating out on a budget with the family. I especially like the idea of taking advantage of “kids eat free nights.” My wife and I don’t do that much now, but your ideas have us thinking. I also like the CopyKat.com site – I’ll have to experiment with a few of their meals.


@Frugal Dad
I love the kids eat free nights. We usually take advantage of these and they are great for getting a lot of food for very little money.


What an interesting subject for the day!
And remembering things like this creates love and a tenderness towards your family.
I like that!!

Good ideas too!

My husband and I have started sharing in many restaurants.
One…our bodies do not require as much food as they once did.
And sometimes the cost is prohibitive to those on a budget.

Also, some places serve enough food to feed a small army of hungry folks.

Maybe that’s why there is an obesity epidemic now. :???: :smile:


Hey, thanks for stopping by.
Sharing is a great idea. My girls usually share a meal and my wife and I have started.
Yes, most restaurants DO over-serve portion wise. They could make a lot more money if they reduced their food costs. Doesn’t make much sense for them to continue to do this but who knows why?

Oh well, maybe that’s why their restaurant stocks are doing so poorly.


Ron, you write amazing posts. This one about saving money when eating out is nice.The tips you gave here and the ones posted in other articles might help me, if I ever come to the US to study. :neutral:

I also have a tip, here in India, when we go out to have food, sometimes we order more than we can eat. So I usually make it a point to get the leftover food parceled. I either give it to the homeless or it goes into my freezer so anyone at my house can have it later! :smile:


That is a great tip to remember Virtaaj. We call them “doggie bags” here in the US. I suppose at one time people took them home to feed their dogs.
We recently went out to eat and brought home as much food as we ate. It seems that restaurants have a habit of giving far too much food.

Hopefully you will get to come to the US to study. What courses or programs are you interested in?

Jeff@My Super-Charged Life

Ron – Another excellent article! My wife is a big fan of using coupons. We have gotten numerous good deals this way. You made my mouth start watering with your description of Chinese food. I love it!


@Jeff@My Super-Charged Life
That was a special night I’ll always remember. Mom & Dad didn’t have much money back then. I suspected it, but a little kid really doesn’t know the difference between having a lot and having very little. All I knew was that this was a super special treat and that if Mom was spending this much time training us to have good manners, and if she was going to have us dress up, it MUST be something else!


great idea, ron. i have tons of friends with kids who’ll love this…


Great article! Our kids, who are still young and don’t eat a lot, usually share kids’ meals. Sometimes the restaurants charge for the extra kids’ drinks, but often they don’t.


Hey thanks!
If you can get free kids drinks, it sure helps, doesn’t it?


We try to take advantage of coupons and other savings but when we do pay for the whole family we almost always take half home and have a whole meal the next day.


Here is another great resource for Kids Eat Free Restaurants. It has alot of choices in my area and we use it on vacation as well. http://www.KidsMealDeals.com

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