Grabbing a meal on the go for a busy family isn't always cheap.
Keep these 6 tips from Real Simple in mind when taking the family out to eat and you can still do it on a budget.
1. Choose Side Dishes. Side dishes often include options comparable to those on the kids' menu, especially in Italian restaurants. Plus, you'll have a better chance of finding actual vegetables here. The sizes are right, they'll be cooked with more care than items directed toward youngsters, and they're usually a few dollars less.
2. Nibble Appetizers. Appetizers offer good portions for small eaters at modest prices. They also tend to include more fun options than the standard chicken fingers, all of which will expand your finicky eater's culinary repertoire. You can regularly knock more than 10-dollars off your tab by sharing three or four appetizers family style, rather than buying entrees.
3. Ask for Half Portions. If you see an item on the main menu that you know your child will like, ask if the kitchen make a child's portion at a correspondingly smaller price. According to one of our friends, local places are more willing to do this than chain restaurants. Having regular meals at your disposal definitely widens your options without inflating your bill.
4. Remember to Share. If you know a place that serves large portions, look for a dish that both you and your child will like. Ask for extra plates. Consider this the unofficial "kids eat free" deal.
5. Try Being Happy. Happy hours correspond nicely with family dinner hour, and restaurant deals aren't always limited to cocktails. Look for restaurants that offer a break on appetizers and main dishes, too.
6. Try Local Family Nights. Many local restaurants offer "kids eat free" deals to fill their tables during early evening hours and on off-nights, like Tuesday or Wednesday. Chances are good that this will steer you back to the kids' menu, but at least you won't be shelling out 7-dollars for macaroni with butter.