Frugal Friday Tips: Eating Out with the Kids

by Ryan Yates on January 13, 2012

$6 for a grilled cheese? Seriously?

Our son is turning three years old in a few days, and my wife and I are amazed at how many things change with him every day. And definitely, one of the things that’s changing is his appetite. It’s like he went from a bottle and mushy baby food to regular food almost overnight.

This changes many things. It changes what he eats, what he likes, and what I’ll share (or won’t share) with him from my plate.

But it also changes how we look at eating out and the prices/value of the kids meal at restaurants. We are lucky to live in a town where many restaurants offer a “kids eat free” night or even a weekly time slot. But this post will focus on those places that only offer a regular priced kids menu.

Fill ‘Em Up, Please

Hopefully I can keep my emotions under control and this post won’t turn into a soap-box rant. We’ll see. But if I were to give any advice to a restaurant manager about the kids menu, I’d make sure that they offer meals that will fill up a regular-sized child.

We went to a wing place recently (with coupons) and got our son Hot Dog bites from the kid’s menu for $5.49, which came with a side of fries or orange slices – we chose the oranges. What we got were 5 of the smallest “hot dog” bites that you’ve ever seen. They were a little larger than those mini marshmallows. Needless to say, he gobbled them down, went through the oranges, and was asking for more.

“There are no more,” we told him. But he didn’t understand why we couldn’t just go to the kitchen and get more. I ended fixing him a peanut butter and jelly sandwich at home.

We had another experience at a burrito place where the kids meal was $4.99 and all we got was a small folded tortilla with american cheese in the middle. Total rip off, and non-filling.

My wife and I only go out to eat once or twice a month. We’ve decided that there is much more value and healthy choices when cooking at home (back like it was in the good old days). But when we do go out, we want value for our money.

The Realization

I think I’m at the point where I realize that the person making up the kids menu isn’t a parent. I’m also at the point where I realize that a better value might be buying a similarly-priced regular entree, letting our son eat half, and then saving the rest for leftovers.

If it’s $5 for a kids meal and $6.50 for an adult-sized chicken sandwich, I’m going with the chicken sandwich.

My Tips

So, I guess my tip on this matter would be to look up the menu online before you’re at the restaurant to get a better idea of where you might want to go and what you will order. After all, any parent will tell you that explaining to a hungry child why we have to wait for food doesn’t go a long way in helping them with patience.

Photo By visualthinker

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