Note from Cath: Today we have a fantastic guest post from Leila, the creator of the awesome website Child Friendly Dining – it is the place to find all the best cafes, restaurants, play centres and Bar & Bistros that cater for kids.
I know some of you might be thinking it doesn’t make sense to spend your money on eating out. It is cheaper to cook at home. This is true, but a splurge every now and again I think is perfectly OK.
For us, we often head out on a weekend for lunch with our girls. Even the Barefoot Investor talks about being able to go out for date nights.
So for that reason Leila has joined us today to fill us in on how to get the best bang for our buck.
Families love to eat out, but we can’t always afford that luxury. According to recent studies, the average Australian household eats out a whopping two or three times each week!
Dining at restaurants and lunching at cafes is often the first thing to get cut from the family budget when things get tight.
Follow these eight simple steps to control your dining and save money to treat your loved ones to a relaxed family meal – free of any cooking, dishes and mess!
Know Your Limits
Putting a cap on your eating habits can help you not to splurge. Before you go out, set yourself a budget, be mindful about the prices on the menu and don’t over order on food and drinks.
For example, you may choose a cheaper casual Mexican diner over a fancy restaurant. Sometimes a bar menu is cheaper than the restaurant menu, if your dining at a hotel, family friendly pub or tavern.
Note from Cath: This is a great one. Taking cash so when it is gone its gone is a great way to manage your spending as well.
Don’t Order a 3 Course Meal With All The Trimmings
Instead of each chowing down on an entrée, share a starter to curb your appetite before the main dish arrives.
Sides are a restaurant’s equivalent to super sizing your meal, you probably don’t need them.
Skip dessert. If you really need to satisfy your sugar craving, grab an ice-cream from the freezer at home.
Avoid over-eating, it keeps money in your purse and is also better for your family’s waistline.
Dine on “Kids Eat Free” Nights
Many family friendly eateries offer a “kids eat free” night. This can save you a lot of money, particularly if you have a big family.
Taking advantage of this deal can save $10 to $15 per child and the kid’s meals often include desserts and drinks.
Note from Cath: We always try to do this. And we find with our girls being so young we can often get away with sharing just one meal between them.
Choose a BYO Restaurant
Most restaurants make their money on the alcoholic drinks bill, and this is where you can really save. Choose a restaurant that offers BYO drinks (Bring Your Own Wine and/or beer) or opt for a non-alcoholic mocktail or soft drink.
Also, good restaurants and cafes will supply your table with free tap water, so no need to splash out on drinks! It’s a healthy choice too.
Suss Out The Specials
There are many ways in which cafes and restaurants offer special prices and deals on their customers’ meals. Become a member of their mailing list or sign up for their loyalty card. This may also entitle you to something free on your birthday.
Follow social media accounts (Facebook, Instagram and Twitter), to keep up to date with your favourite restaurant’s special offers.
Join discount websites Scoopon, Groupon and Living Social who offer heavily discounted meals at restaurants.
The Entertainment Book provides many “buy one, get one free” discounts and vouchers. Some eateries offer “pasta nights”, “steak nights”, “parmi nights” etc early on in the week.
Be aware that sometimes the “specials” may not be the cheapest meals available on the menu.
Take a Doggy Bag Home
Once you’ve finished feasting on your meal, if you have leftovers – that’s a bonus! Ask your waiter if you can take this home with you in a container and it will save you buying lunch tomorrow.
Try Take-Away Instead
If you have a hankering for your favourite Thai or the kids would love a pizza treat – you don’t even need to leave the comfort of your own home to enjoy restaurant quality food. Take away is often cheaper than dine-in options.
Cath note:I always check if a pizza place charges a delivery fee or if the price is more for delivery. If it is I will go pick it up. Some places like Thai or Chinese usually do free delivery over a certain limit.
Forget Dinner – Enjoy a Family Brunch
They say brunch is the new dinner… Brunch menus are very reasonably priced, most meals are between $15 and $22 dollars. Even lunch could be a cheaper option.
If you still want to eat out for dinner, some restaurants offer early diners specials for those eating before 6pm.
Eating out is a treat to be enjoyed by everyone and you don’t have to break the budget!
Leila is the owner and founder of Child Friendly Dining. She is a mum of a cheeky four year old boy, who every now and then, steals the limelight in her Instagram feed. Child Friendly Dining is the go to place to find a family friendly restaurant, cafe, play centre or bar and bistro.