Eating out in cafes and restaurants is a luxury. One that many of us used to enjoy regularly before having children. But once you have children, often your disposable income drops and with more mouths to feed the cost of eating out increases (especially with the amount my kids eat!), making it a habit that most of us can no longer afford as often as we’d like. Here are some ideas to help cut the cost of eating out as a family:
Choose your meal – If you usually go out for dinner, why not consider trying to go out for a light lunch instead, or even better go for brunch. Brunch in a cafe works really well as a family meal, what kid doesn’t love a sausage sandwich? And the best thing is that brunch is almost always cheaper than other meals – there’s no temptation to pay for expensive alcoholic drinks or puddings!
Discount codes – Most of the big chains now offer discount codes for meals out. Before you go out, check the restaurant’s website for offers. Also O2 priority and 3’s Wuntu apps often have discount restaurant offers as well as others.
Tastecard – For anyone who doesn’t know about this, Tastecard is a scheme whereby you pay around £30 a year for a card which gets you 2 for 1 or 50% off food in a whole range of restaurants. If you’re eating at the big chain restaurants, you can often get similar offers direct through free discount codes, but Tastecard also includes lots of small local restaurants and pubs. It’s down to your personal situation as to whether it is worth paying the £30 a year for a Tastecard, but you can almost always get a free trial to see whether you would use it. (In fact I think I’ve had 3 free trials in a row this year somehow!!)
Choose between starter and dessert – Starters and desserts generally cost around £5 each. Try to choose either a starter or a dessert rather than going for both (or why not get the best of both worlds by sharing one starter and one dessert between two of you?)
Drinks – The drinks bill in a restaurant can easily come to as much as the food. Try limiting yourself to just one alcoholic drink each, or if you’re really serious about cutting the cost, enjoy the restaurant food and just drink soft drinks or tap water while you’re there, and then have a glass of wine when you get home instead.
Dine in – Don’t always assume you need to go out to have a luxury meal. For our last wedding anniversary we opted to cook a nice meal at home instead of going out to a restaurant. We bought some lovely expensive Ocado steaks and a good bottle of wine and enjoyed good food and drink in the comfort of our own home instead of a restaurant. Despite spending much more on ingredients than we would for a standard meal at home, the meal was much cheaper than if we’d gone out. Plus we didn’t have to worry about who was driving, or taxis or babysitters.
We used to eat out regularly, to the point that when asked what she wanted to do at the weekend my daughter would often say “go to a cafe”. Since keeping a closer eye on our spending we have tried to limit eating out to make it more of a special occasion treat. It’s amazing how much more you appreciate a nice meal out when you do it less often.