How To Eat Out On A Budget

If you’re exhausted after a big day with the kids, or have been swamped with work at the office, cooking may be the last thing you want to do. Treat yourself! Take a well-deserved break from the kitchen and head out for a family meal at a restaurant or café in your local area instead.

Check out these money saving tips which will help to ensure the wait staff don’t present you with an astronomical bill at the end of your meal!


  • Breakfast is a great meal to have out with the kids on the weekend – you’re up early most of the time anyway!
  • You’ll save money because menu prices at breakfast time will generally be cheaper than those at night time.
  • Enjoy a fancy “light” breakfast (a bowl of yummy homemade muesli topped with fresh berries) which will be cheaper than a big cooked breakfast. And better for your waist line too!
  • Have a coffee, but try to limit the number of refills! It can add a lot your bill.
  • Fill your children’s tummies with a slice or two of thick-cut toast and jam and they can wash it down with a small drink.
  • Combine eating out for breakfast with a visit to a nearby park and you’ll have the perfect start to the day.


  • If getting the kids ready to go out early on a weekend morning doesn’t thrill you, then a casual and relaxed midday lunch may be more your style.
  • Choose a local café for a lunch (or brunch!) because its prices are likely to be cheaper than those at restaurant at night.
  • Save money by making the kids a sandwich or two and taking them with you – most café owners won’t mind. Buy a special milkshake and it’s a certain treat.
  • Or, if you don’t mind sharing, order your own lunch and then make-up a meal for the kids from your plate. This will save you money on ordering food that the kids are most likely to push around their plate.


  • If you’re keen to go out for the occasional dinner then it’s best to take a mid-week break from the kitchen.
  • On weeknights, restaurants often have cheaper “meal deals” to get people though the door.
  • There may be an early-bird menu which offers meals at cheaper prices if you dine between 5pm and 6pm.
  • These specials may disappear from the menu on Friday nights and the weekend when restaurants are packed with patrons.
  • You can save money by saving dessert for an ice-cream on the way home
  • Or, have a glass of wine and a cheese plate at home (make fancy cheese and crackers for the kids) and a dessert for the kids
  • Consider limiting the number of drinks you order with dinner. There’s often a big mark-up on both alcoholic and soft drinks (it’s where restaurants make their money!) and it can add more than a few dollars to the bill.

This article was created for Kidspot, New Zealand’s leading parenting website.


  1. dawnblyth 30/09/2018 at 9:27 pm

    Eating out is something we don’t do as a family very often as pointed out here it can be a very expensive exercise. Having read this article it shares some great ideas that would allow us to eat out more – a little forward planning can be a great thing.

  2. Alezandra 30/09/2018 at 9:23 pm

    I’ve heard that buying the entertainment books (that has dining vouchers) help as well when eating out. I like looking at Zomato too and see what the reviews are out there too and it helps to plan and budget for certain places as it also gives price range.

  3. felicity beets 27/09/2018 at 4:10 pm

    Great tips, we often share our meals with our children and also have an entertainment book app which has been worthwhile for us.

  4. SarahBlair 26/09/2018 at 11:56 pm

    Great tips! We haven’t taken the kids out for a meal (other than McDonalds) in years, we always thought that it would be far too expensive! I will check with our local eateries to see if the offer mid week or early bird specials. I think that the kids would really enjoy the experience!!

  5. Jen_Wiig 26/09/2018 at 4:08 pm

    I love these ideas! it makes it more realistic for me to be able to eat out with my boys occasionally now after seeing these. Ive always shyed away from eating out as the cost for something i feel like i could just make at home for cheaper far out weighs the experience. I liked how these tips cover all 3 meals not just dinner …i never once considered having brekkie out then heading to a park afterwards…what a wonderful start to the day and great treat for over school holidays as well.

  6. MuddledUpMolly 25/09/2018 at 9:41 pm

    There are some great ideas here! We don’t often eat out as a family but some of these ideas definitely broaden our options and give a range of feasible and fun ways to eat out on a budget.

  7. Shorrty4life1 18/09/2018 at 10:01 pm

    These are great ideas. This is quite good tips for the school holidays I know I love to try and spoil my children and spend lots of time together with them on days off but money just doesn’t go far enough these days. I think he idea at lunchtime to go to a Cafe have the kids have a sandwich for lunch beforehand then go for a milkshake after is a brilliant idea and a money saver rather than buying kids a meal also at a Cafe. I really liked reading these ideas and handy hints for dining out.

  8. Shelz69 17/09/2018 at 5:46 pm

    I love going out for dinner and not having to cook. I look for specials where ever I can and we never order drinks. I think the drinks just make the bill really expensive and without them I believe its an affordable option. Plus save on power from cooking and Mum gets a night off. Finding a restaurant that the two kids and I all like now that a different story!

  9. kymmage 13/09/2018 at 10:31 pm

    Love going for brunch on the weekend. If I get a big breakfast style, I can give my youngest 1/3 of mine too. Another thing we sometimes can do is order sides to add, but ask for them to be on seperate plates. Then that’s the kids sorted. Also some local restaurants have cheap dinner nights or kids eat free or 1/2 price, and we make use of that or grabone vouchers too.

  10. Bevik1971 13/09/2018 at 2:19 pm

    We rarely eat out as a family due to budget. We go to our local Indian Restaurant as they have a 2 for 1 curry every night from 5.00pm dine in – so 3 of us can have a meal for around $23.00! Apart from that we just eat at home, or take a picnic somewhere when the weather is good 🙂

  11. Mands1980 13/09/2018 at 12:25 pm

    These are all great ideas and very true especially night time meals they can soon add up by either having an entree or dessert it’s best to do this at home and also drinks are very expensive when going out for tea so only have one drink and another at home. We tend to go out more for dinner because of where we live otherwise like they say lunch is cheaper than dinner usually.

  12. charlie 03/07/2017 at 11:23 pm

    These are great ideas – we don’t usually eat out as a family due to the cost, but these tips are making me rethink this, thank you.

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