Saving $$$ Eating Out with Andrew

Instead of buying a "kid's meal" for Andrew when we go out to eat, we've been road-testing sharing our meals with him. We just ask for another plate, and divy up the choicest goodies from our plates for him.

The upside to this is threefold - we're saving money, introducing him to different tastes, and providing healthier fare for his (rapidly) growing body. Think about this - you go out to your local diner. Under kid's meals, they have what? Hot dog/hamburger/the ubiquitous chicken nugget/spaghetti or tacos if you're in an ethnic restaurant. And you're likely paying $3 to $4 a pop for something that's overprocessed and probably fried (because they all come with fries, right?).

When we split our meal with Andrew, he's being exposed to different types of food. While visiting PA this past week, my parents, Andrew, and I went to a small diner. My mom, ever the maverick of the group, ordered liver and onions. She asked Andrew if he'd like a bite. He tried it, even swallowed it, before refusing seconds. I held my tongue through this whole minidrama so he wouldn't be swayed by my gagging noises. Gotta say I was pretty proud of him!

The downside? Andrew's five now. The age of independence. He's getting harder to compromise with when it comes to menu selection. While at another restaurant this past week, he was adamant that he wanted a hot dog. We asked the price of *just a hot dog*, and the answer was $3.50. Gulp! He was most unhappy about it, but was required to share my turkey and gravy. He also got the pick of everyone else's plates. I know I looked like the mean mommy to my family and friends, but his healthy eating is very important to me. And our financial future is, too.

Oh, and we're teaching him about drinking water at restaurants. I half-jokingly told my sister I was going to start carrying those individual drink mix packets for just this situation, especially after seeing the bill and realizing that we paid almost $2 for each kid's drink!

What do you do to tame the bill while eating out with kids? And, do you think carrying those drink mixes is ethical?


  1. When we go out to eat, it is considered a treat, so even though we are health nuts, when were at a restaurant everything goes, but they HAVE to eat it. As far as drinks go, as a previous waitress off and on since I was 15, there is a secret about the job most people don't know. A wait staffs evaluation is made on sales. So if you have a table of 4 people, and they all order water, it looks like you flubbed on your skills. I used to hate it when people only ordered water (no offense). At the end of the night when my drink tickets printed....there was never many and we would always get a lecture from our boss's about sales. Don't get me wrong, I am not trying to make it sound like you should always order a drink, I just know its a lot of servers pet peeve when people order water. So personally if I saw a customer bring in a drink packet, I would politely tell them we don't allow any food or outside drinks, (most restaurants don't). Babies and small toddlers its ok if they have in a sippy cup or bottle). Also keep in mind if you order water, pull out a drink packet and use it, your server may see you as cheap and you may not get the service you might have if you just coughed up the extra 2 bucks. I hope this doesn't sound awful, I am just telling you from the server/restaurants side. I dont worry about it only because we dont go out to eat often at all , so when we do, its a get whatever you want night.

  2. Tricia, thanks for your input. I can totally understand your POV, but I have to speculate that I CAN'T be the only person drinking water these days. I mean, the restaurant parking lots around here are still full, yet they say that sales are down - there are only a few places ppl can be cutting back and still dining out. As for the powdered drink mix, I'll probably look for one without color, or have Andrew learn to carry a sippy cup again.
    And, let the record show that, despite being cheap, we're notorious over-overtippers. So hopefully the waitrons can see past the frugality and provide stellar service, because we've been known to drop fat tips.

    I can only imagine your horror when you read this post! :)

  3. I always get 'just water' at restaurants. I don't really drink alcohol/tea/coffee except once in a blue moon and I never drink pop, so if that ticks the wait staff off...sorry!

    Anyway, I'd tell the kids that it's "water only" and leave the kool-aid packets at home. Not because it would upset the restaurant, but because...well, it's not so healthy. So that's my opinion!