The Best Ways to Save Money on Your Family’s Restaurant and Dining Expenses

Hey fellow moms! Let’s dive into a topic we all wrestle with – keeping our dining out fun and budget-friendly. Yes, it’s possible, and I’m here to spill the beans on how we can enjoy those precious family outings without the nagging guilt of overspending.

We all cherish those moments of dining out with the family. It’s more than just food; it’s about creating memories. But, let’s face it, those memories can sometimes come with a hefty price tag.

the best ways to save money on your family's restaurant and dining expenses


Tips to Save Money on Dining Out

As Forbes puts it, “Whether you’re saving money for an emergency fund, a vacation, a house or anything else, you’re probably looking for places where you can cut your spending. While you can’t skip paying for your housing or your car, your food budget may offer some wiggle room.”

Let’s dive deeper into each strategy to make family dining more affordable without sacrificing the fun and enjoyment of eating out.

1. Choose the Right Time to Dine Out

Eating at off-peak hours can lead to significant savings. Many restaurants offer early bird specials or discounts during slower times to attract more customers.

Consider dining out for lunch instead of dinner, as lunch menu options often feature similar items at a reduced price compared to their dinner counterparts.

Additionally, taking advantage of brunch specials on weekends can also offer a delightful dining experience at a fraction of the cost.

Ramsey Solutions says, Lunch out is awesome. Not only is it cheaper, but you can also usually get extras like a soup or salad with your meal for less than the price of a main dish at dinnertime.”

family can save money by sharing big meals


2. Use Discount Apps and Websites

There’s a plethora of apps and websites that can help you save money and find the best deals on dining out. Apps like Groupon,, and local food blogs often feature discounted gift certificates or coupons for local restaurants.

Joining a restaurant’s email list or following them on social media can also alert you to flash sales, specials, and exclusive offers for subscribers and followers.

3. Look for Kids Eat Free Deals

Many family-friendly restaurants offer promotions where kids can eat free with the purchase of an adult meal, helping you save money on outings. This can drastically reduce the overall bill for a family outing. Websites and apps dedicated to family dining deals can help you locate these offers in your area. It’s always a good idea to check the restaurant’s policy, as some may have specific days or hours when the deal is valid.

4. Opt for Water Instead of Sodas or Alcoholic Beverages

Drinks can significantly increase your bill, especially if you’re dining with the whole family. Opting for tap water, which is free in most restaurants, instead of sodas, juices, or alcoholic beverages, can save money — and it’s healthier too!

If you’re celebrating a special occasion and would like a drink, consider limiting it to one and look for places that offer a BYOB (bring your own bottle) option with low or no corkage fee.

5. Save Money and Share Meals Where Possible

Portion sizes at many restaurants are often more than enough for one person. Consider sharing a restaurant meal among adults or between an adult and a child. This not only saves money but also reduces food waste.

family enjoys free food using coupons


Some restaurants may charge a plate-sharing fee, but it’s typically minimal compared to the cost of an additional entree.

6. Take Advantage of Happy Hour

Happy hour isn’t just for drinks; many restaurants let you eat half-priced appetizers and small plates during these times. These can be a great way to try a variety of dishes at a lower cost. Dining during happy hour can be particularly beneficial if you’re looking to enjoy a more casual meal or snacks with the family.

By implementing these strategies, you can enjoy dining out with your family without the worry of overspending. It’s all about making smart choices and looking out for the best deals that allow you to maximize the dining experience while keeping your budget in check.

Planning and Budgeting for Restaurant Expenses

When it comes to dining out, a little bit of planning and budgeting can help save money and go a long way in ensuring that your family enjoys these experiences without breaking the bank.

Let’s delve deeper into how you can effectively manage your restaurant expenses.

Set a Monthly Dining Out Budget

The first step to keeping your dining expenses in check is to determine how much you’re willing to spend on restaurant meals each month. Take a look at your overall budget to decide on a reasonable amount that won’t compromise your financial goals or necessities.

family saving money by choosing when to eat out


Once you’ve set this budget, stick to it and look for offers that match the same price.

This might mean making some tough choices, like opting out of a spontaneous dinner invitation when you’ve already reached your limit for the month. It can also mean skipping your favorite restaurants once in a while.

Use Cash Envelopes

To help stay within your dining out budget, consider using the cash envelope system. At the beginning of each month, place the amount you’ve allocated for restaurant expenses in an envelope. Only use this cash for dining out.

Once the envelope is empty, that’s your cue to pause restaurant visits until the next month. This tangible method makes it easier to visualize and control spending, reducing the temptation to overspend.

Track Your Spending

Keeping track of your dining out expenses can be eye-opening. Use a spreadsheet, budgeting app, or a simple notebook to record every restaurant purchase. This not only helps ensure you’re staying within lunch entrees range and budget but also allows you to review your spending habits over time.

You might discover patterns, like frequenting the same expensive place, that you can adjust for future restaurant savings.

According to InCharge, “Although it’s a wonderful treat to visit a nice restaurant, a regular diet of dining out has become an unhealthy way to sabotage your finances.”

Plan Ahead

Planning ahead is crucial if you want to save money on dining out. Before the month begins, look at your calendar.

Mark any special occasions, such as birthdays or anniversaries, when you know you’ll want to eat out. Planning for these events ensures they don’t catch your budget off guard.

family gets free meals usig vouchers


Additionally, planning your outings can involve selecting restaurants that are known for their value or currently have promotions or discounts that align with your budget.

Look for Special Promotions

Many restaurants offer special promotions on certain days of the week or during specific times of the year.

These can range from discounted gift cards, two-for-one deals, or bonuses like free food such as appetizers or desserts with the purchase of an entrée. Keep an eye out for these promotions by subscribing to restaurant newsletters, following them on social media, or checking local dining guides.

Taking advantage of these restaurant gift cards and deals when planning your dining out can lead to significant savings.

By incorporating these planning and budgeting strategies into your routine, you’ll find that enjoying meals out with your family becomes a more stress-free and financially sustainable activity.

Remember, the goal isn’t to eliminate dining out from your life but to enjoy it in a way that aligns with your financial health and lifestyle preferences.

Making the Most of Your Dining Experience Without Overspending

Enjoying a dining out experience with your family doesn’t have to mean overspending. Here are some strategies to make the most of your dining experiences while keeping your expenses in check.

Be Mindful of What You Order

One of the simplest ways to save money without sacrificing the joy of dining out is to be thoughtful about what you order. Consider choosing dishes that offer good value—those that are filling and reasonably priced.

family enjoys a light meal each


Instead of going for the most expensive item on the menu, look for dishes that are known for being both delicious and a good deal. Sometimes, the enjoyment of a meal comes more from the company and the experience rather than the price tag of the dish.

Avoid Extras

It’s easy to get carried away with appetizers, sides, desserts, and drinks, but these add-ons can quickly inflate your bill.

Decide ahead of time which extras—if any—you’ll indulge in. Perhaps choose an appetizer or a dessert, but not both. Or, decide as a family to share a single dessert rather than ordering multiple.

Being selective about extras allows you to enjoy a treat while keeping the cost manageable.

Appreciate the Experience

Dining out is about more than just the food; it’s an experience. Focus on the joy of not having to cook, the pleasure of trying new dishes, and the happiness of spending quality time with your family.

Engage in meaningful conversation, observe the ambiance of the restaurant, and truly savor each bite. When you shift your focus to the overall experience, you’ll find that the value of dining out encompasses much more than the monetary cost.

Engage in Conversation Instead of Opting for Upsells

Be aware of upsell attempts, which can come in many forms, such as suggestions for add-ons, premium dishes, or more expensive wine options.

While it’s okay to indulge occasionally, routinely declining these offers can save you a significant amount over time. Instead, invest in the conversation and the company.

the average amercan household eating out


Engaging with your family or dining partners makes the meal more memorable and satisfying than any upscale dish could.

Look for Quality Over Quantity

Sometimes, a dining experience can be more about the quality of the food and the uniqueness of the dishes rather than the quantity.

Opting for a restaurant that offers unique flavors or specialties can make your dining out experience more memorable and worthwhile.

This doesn’t necessarily mean choosing the most expensive restaurant, but rather looking for places that offer something special that you can’t easily replicate at home.

Take Home Leftovers

If you do end up with large portions, don’t hesitate to ask for a box to take home the leftovers. This way, you’re getting two meals for the price of one, which is a great way to save money and stretch your dining dollar further.

Leftovers can make for an easy lunch or dinner the following day, adding extra value to your dining out experience. This is something that the average American household can exercise to basically get free meals for the following day.

By adopting these mindful practices, you can enrich your dining experiences without overspending. It’s all about finding the right balance between enjoying the moment and making smart choices that align with your budget and values.

family enjoying in their favorite restaurant


To Wrap Up

Enjoying memorable dining experiences with your family doesn’t have to come at the expense of your budget. By adopting smart strategies such as choosing the right time to dine out, utilizing discount apps and websites, taking advantage of kids-eat-free deals, opting for water instead of costly beverages, sharing meals, and making the most of happy hour specials, you can significantly reduce your restaurant bills.

So, go ahead, plan your next family outing with confidence, knowing that you have the tools to enjoy it to the fullest, economically.

Kathy Urbanski

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