Eating Out Without Going Broke

With the cost of just about everything on the rise, the amount we have to spend on non-necessities is going down. But even in the worst of times, we all need a break now and then. We all need to feel as if we’ve still got room in the budget for at least a few minor indulgences such as eating out. Hey, with life being as busy as it is, sometimes eating out makes more sense than driving to and from home multiple times a day. That is if you do it right. So before you decide where lunch or dinner is going to come from, why not take a look at the list below to see where you can actually ‘eat cheap’.

One of the most popular reasons families dine out is to celebrate a birthday. Ihop, Denny’s, and Red, Hot, and Blue all offer free meals on your birthday. Local or regional favorites such as Lambert’s (home of the throwed rolls) often have similar offers. A comprehensive listing of national and regional restaurants that give free meals or desserts to those turning a year older can be found at

Most every eating establishment offers a kid’s menu-smaller portions, smaller prices-to help households with a few small mouths to feed. But several places offer a night of the week where kids eat for free. Keep in mind that most of the free offers require the purchase of an adult meal. Some of America’s favorites that do offer free meals for kids include McDonalds, Steak-n-Shake, Taco Bell, Applebee’s, Cici’s Pizza (kids under 3 eat free any time), Texas Roadhouse, Fuddruckers, Black-eyed Pea (not the music group), TGI Friday’s, Captain D’s, and Pizza Hut. Check the individual website of your favorite restaurant to see if they, too, offer free deals for children.

Don’t be shy. Discounts are given just about everywhere for senior citizens, military personnel, and students. If they don’t happen to offer the discount, you haven’t lost a thing in asking. But if you don’t ask for it, they’re not going to tell.

More ways to ‘eat cheap’:

– Eat out during the day. Lunch menus are almost always cheaper than dinner menus

– Eat from the dollar menu

– Order half-size or lunch-size portions

– Order a la carte. If you find yourself not being able to eat all the food on your entrée, most items can be purchased a la carte for less. Do the math

– Drink water. Most places charge between $1.50 and $3.00 for a glass of soda or iced tea.

– When you take your younger kids to fast food places like McDonalds, order one full size meal instead of two child-sized meals and split it in half-at least most of the time. Smaller children have trouble finishing theirs anyway. Doing so will also make getting the coveted toy more of a treat

– Look for places that advertise two-for deals. One example of this is Applebee’s two for $20 deal.

– Don’t eat out on the weekend. In similar fashion to lunch vs. dinner menus, several places charge more on the weekends

– Look for coupons in your local paper, the Sunday paper magazines, and on line. Olive Garden frequently offers $5 off coupons.

– Use a cash back credit card that gives you the most on dining, some cards give you up to 5% back for restaurants.

– Don’t eat dessert. If Wikipedia is correct, you’re possibly like 64% of the American public, you don’t need it anyway.

If you make eating out more of a treat than the norm, and if you take advantage of the offers available, eating out doesn’t have to eat away at your family’s food and entertainment budget.

This is a post from Darla Nicole.  Darla is a contributing writer at CreditDonkey with over 25 years of writing experience.  When she’s done writing about credit card rewards, she’s searching the internet for deals to save money for her family.
About The Shopping Mom


  1. susitravl says:

    I have gotten several Groupon Deals lately for local restaurants at an excellent price. Also, our area radio stations have a daily deal, often a restaurant.

  2. Cinella says:

    Oh yeah… the few times we’ve eaten out during the weekend and way OVERPRICED! Great tips! CJR @ The Mommy Blog

  3. Donna Johnson says:

    I love this post. We have 3 kids, and try to hit up IHOP’s free deal for kids whenever we can. (There’s one near our home, as well, so that convenience helps, too.) I’ll be referring back to this post the next time we go out and don’t feel like going to IHOP. Thanks for sharing this, Tara! It feels good to know that others feel our dining out pain, so-to-speak. LOL 8) –Donna

    • Tara V., TheFabShoppingMom says:

      Hi Donna, Lots of restaurants have a kids eat free night! My favorite is AppleBee’s! The hubby and I order our meals 2/$20 that comes with an appetizer. Then the oldest son orders. Then we are able to get 3 free meals for the younger kids. So we take our family of 7 out to a nice dinner for $35 or so!