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

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.

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