Sometimes, eating out is a better bet than dining in.
Recession Mama: Although eating in is almost always the best option for a budget (you, like me, have probably put the pheasant-under-glass meals on the back burner ...), sometimes eating out just makes more sense.
This soccer season, two of my kids have practice on Wednesdays, with an hour and a half in between. Yes, I could pack a picnic, but it would be tough. I would have to have it ready hours in advance, and while picnics are fun, packing a meal for five people and cleaning out all those containers is a lot of work. We don't like to use too many throwaway plates and utensils, so we usually pack those, too. And then wash them. So when I see the opportunity for a guaranteed break from the kitchen, I'm all over it.
First, I'll check which restaurants offer kids-eat-free promotions on Wednesdays. I check some online sites by Googling "kids eat free," and come up with a bunch of sites that have national listings. The ones I use are Coupon Divas and Fru Wiki, but I recommend checking a few sites for a more comprehensive list. Okay, on Wednesdays, I find out that Coco's, IHOP, and Islands all have kids-eat-free promotions. Also, there are a couple of local restaurants that advertise that kids eat free every day with an adult entree purchase.
Next I check out my Entertainment Book to see if there are coupons for anything nearby that I haven't used, and if I can double up with a kids-eat-free promotion. Last, I check one of my faves, restaurant.com, to see if any new restaurants nearby were added. I see a couple with $25 coupons. The coupons carry various restrictions -- these stipulate a minimum purchase of $35 and 18% tip on the pre-coupon amount, so that's not bad. The site charges you $10 for a $25 coupon. A pretty decent deal, but here is the best part: they are always running a promotion. Good ones -- between 40% and 90% off. I Google "restaurant.com coupon" and come up with a current code for 80% off. So now my $25 off is costing me a mere $2. But wait, there's more -- one of my favorite cash-back sites, mrrebates.com, has an extra 25% off, so now the certificate is $1.50.
I buy and print out a few, but I couldn't wait until Wednesday. I took my family and my parents out for Sunday brunch with a $25 coupon, and all my kids eating free, for $37 including tax and tip at a lovely local restaurant where the average entree is $12. That's just over $5 per person, and I didn't have to do the dishes!
A former state deputy attorney general and current stay-at-home mom, Recession Mama Michele Ashamalla has three kids and ten years of experience stretching one salary to cover the necessities and more. She's all about saving money whenever you can, so you have it to spend on whatever you want!