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Economical and healthier ways to dine out

If you’re like most families, you spend a significant amount of money eating outside of the home. There is nothing wrong with taking your family out for dinner once in a while. However, restaurant bills can add up fast.  How do you take the family out and eat healthier without breaking the bank?

Here are some tips to save money while eating out and teach your family better eating habits at the same time:

1.  Avoid soft drinks and alcoholic beverages.  These cost a lot more in a restaurant than a convenience store.  (You probably don’t want your kids to get in the habit of drinking soda regularly anyway.)

2. Learn when your favorite restaurants are having specials.  Some restaurants have several ongoing specials every week.  If your kids love pizza, you will probably find plenty of restaurants that give you a discount on certain days of the week  on cheese or one-topping pizzas.

3.  Share meals between members of the family. Restaurants often give portions that are large enough to last two or three meals.  If two members of the family enjoy the same food, they don’t need to order individually.  This is also a great option for people who don’t want to have cold leftovers later. (Let’s face it, most of us throw them out after taking them home anyway.)

 4.  Avoid appetizers and other add-ons with your meal.  These extras add up fast.  They also are loaded with calories and saturated fat your family doesn’t need.

5.  Buy a local entertainment or coupon book.  They cost about $20 and you will more than get your money’s worth.  Also, sign up for mailing lists and other subscriptions to take full advantage of them.

6.  Take advantage of complimentary sides.  Many restaurants give free dinner rolls, tortilla chips and other dishes.  You might as well fill your kids up on free food at the beginning of the night.  Then, they won’t be bugging you to buy more expensive dishes that they won’t be able to finish.

7.   Pick up instead of delivering. If you don’t want to eat in the restaurant, you will save on delivery fees by ordering takeout instead of delivery.  You also won’t have to leave a tip.

8.  Use doggie bags to bring home food you don’t finish.  Throwing food away is the biggest possible waste of money.  You also don’t want to give your kids the message it is okay to throw food away at home either. Take it home and portion it for lunches the next day.

9.  Say no to desserts. As tempting as the desserts are, you should try to pass on them.  Restaurants make most of their money on desserts, so you know they aren’t cheap.  By the time they reach your table, your meal may have settled and you may not want them anymore.  Your kids don’t really need that much sugar anyway.

Restaurants are notorious for finding ways to charge you twice as much as you were expecting.  Explain to your family that they need to have a little discipline and that there are going to be rules in place when you eat out.  You will save a lot of money if you teach them better eating habits and learn cost effective strategies yourself at the same time.

[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://www.40momsclub.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/KalenSmith.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]About the Author

Kalen Smith writes about finance, insurance, saving money and other topics for Homeowner’s Insurance.  He has a passion for helping people save money.

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This post was written by a guest writer for Prime Parents Club. We are not currently taking new guest writers.

5 Comments

  1. Kalen

    February 13, 2011 at 5:36 pm

    I know what you mean Jacqueline. It seems as though those apps can have more calories in them than the actual mean when you add them all up!

  2. 40MomsClub

    February 8, 2011 at 4:56 pm

    Economical and healthier ways to dine out http://www.40momsclub.com/2011/02/08/eco… #food #dining #saving #healthy

  3. Jacqueline W.

    February 8, 2011 at 12:02 pm

    We are SO BAD at #4 and those apps do add up (including for your waistline)!