Those of you who have kids know just how much they cost you in food. This is especially true if you like to eat out. “I want an ice cream”, they may say just before dinner. Once the ice cream is eaten and digested, it’s french fries they shout for.
Not only are these food unhealthy, they are also expensive. I took the time to calculate just how much these things cost the family in one outing trip and was surprised to find out that it’s a whopping $40 (including 1 meal). Multiply that by 8 trips (2 trips a week) and that’s $320 a month – not an insignificant amount for us back then.
It was a constant struggle for me and I’ve always wondered how best to handle it. Well, I have to be an idiot if I didn’t learn a few tricks after thousands of such scenarios. In this article, I am going to share 5 easy – and smart – ways to save money when eating out with your kids.
1. Bring Your Own
The easiest way to deal with kids when eating out is to simply bring your own food. Pack a couple of sandwich, perhaps a box of fresh fruits and cut up vegetables and/or a bottle of water. Every time your kid says he/she is hungry, simply whip out your healthy box of snacks.
Not only is it much cheaper, you’ll also find your kids eating for less. There are multiple reasons as to why that is but I will explain this later.
You must stand firm with your decision, however. If you have been buying ice creams and french fries for your kids, you can expect a fair amount of whining before you can get them to switch to healthier alternatives. What you can do is that happens is to offer a bribe: if they eat a sandwich instead of an ice cream now, they can watch 30 minutes of TV later at night. Do this enough times and they will naturally switch over.
2. Limit Your Order
If you often eat in a restaurant with your kids, you’d know that they often spend a lot more than they need to. For example, if you visit McDonald’s they’d order a happy meal… and an ice cream. All they wanted, of course, is the toy that came with the happy meal. And maybe the ice cream and the fries. I almost always have to feed the cheeseburger to my son for him to finish it.
Left to their own devices, kids will always spend more than they need to because they couldn’t see 10 minutes into the future. It’s your job as the parent to do it.
Always limit your initial order to what they want most (as a parent, you should already know this!) and you can always order more later. I can guarantee that 9 out 10 times, the initial order would be sufficient.
3. Order a Nutritious Meal
When my son was a little kid, the cost of his food didn’t bother me. It’s his choice of food that did. As a parent, I know sugary drinks and deep fried food is not how I want to feed my children. I absolutely have no problem paying more if he wanted a bowl of salad.
One day, I have just about enough. I insisted that he eat a salad-packed sandwich with me instead of the burger he wanted. And I noticed something strange: he was quickly full and ate less than he usually does.
As it turns out, studies have shown that people tend to eat less when they eat healthy foods. The constant hunger they experience when eating junk is the body’s cry for nutrition. That insight alone changed how I dealt with kids.
4. Share Some of Yours
From then on, instead of buying a separate plate of food for my kid, I always share a portion of mine instead. It became kind of a tradition: you eat what dad/mum eats. And because I make mostly healthy food choices, I began to notice my son eat a lot less.
Not only that, I too began to eat less – and thus save even more money out of that. After all, would you buy an additional plate just because your kid ate a quarter of yours?
5. Take Away
If your kid insist on a plate for him/herself, make sure you take away what’s left over – and reheat that again for him/her. Do it enough times and they will soon learn to share instead of insisting on a plate of his/her own.
Ally is part of the team that manages Budgeting Spreadsheet and How to Save Money, which are both personal finance-related sites based in Sydney, Australia. Before joining BS & HSTM, she was a Media Planner in McCann Worldgroup Philippines, Inc., with award-winning executions, including the Levi’s 501 “Live Unbuttoned” global campaign.