Enjoying Fast Food Without Spending a Fortune

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The FishFam loves to eat out! My 6 year old recently commented that he liked to eat out ’cause he didn’t have to clear and wipe the table. Yes, I hear you, my boy.

But, eating out, whether it’s for convenience or for the pure enjoyment of the food, can be very expensive, especially when you’re feeding 7 people. For a birthday outing a few weeks ago we headed to Sonic, a FishBoy favorite. If we hadn’t had several free birthday meals, we would have easily paid $40 for our family to have dinner. Ouch! No thank you. We just can’t do that.

But, that doesn’t mean we don’t enjoy a meal or two of “fast food” every week or so. We just have a few tricks up our sleeve:

Don’t get drinks. If we want sodas, I can get those super cheap at CVS, Walgreens or the supermarket. So, we make it a practice to order water when we eat out. It’s better for us, anyway.

Split some fries. Again, health and frugality are both on our side in this. We don’t each need to eat a ton of fries. Everything in moderation. So, if it’s me and the kids, we split a large. If FishPapa is along, we splurge and share two orders. Either way, enough is as good as a feast.

Avoid those kids meals! Talk about OUCH! Half the time kids don’t eat the full meal and then you’ve got a junky toy to trip over for a few weeks until you finally decide to chuck it. Instead, we order everybody his choice from the dollar menu.

Look at fast food as a treat, rather than an entitlement. It’s a fun convenience, but it’s not really good for you, nor necessary to life. Enjoying it sparingly will help your heart and your pocketbook.

The kids and I can run through McDonalds for about 8 bucks for six of us. It’s definitely more expensive than a home-cooked meal. But, considering that if I bought everyone a meal, our cost would be at least twice that amount.

For more frugal tips, visit Crystal’s blog every Friday.

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  1. Lovin your fast food tips. I succumb to the kids meal just for ease, what a waste. I’m going to graduate my big boy up to the “adult” dollar menu – hopefully it will work!

  2. We have tried to do these things as well. I always have my children share their meal because they give so much. I don’t know if I will be able to do this for long, as my kids are eating like horses lately!

  3. Great tips! 8 bucks for 6 of you is amazing. One thing we discovered recently when we were a far drive from home and very hungry, is that Taco Bell has these cheap (I think 79 cents) little cheese things(like a rolled quesadilla) that were just enough for the kids. Then for mom, they have a “fresca” menu, so I got my taco with cilanto, onion, tomato and I can’t remeber what else came on it, but it was actually really good. If we were to drive through Mc Ds and get their happy meals like we’ve done so often before (oh the pressure!) we can easily spend close to 20 bucks for 3 very young children — yikes!

  4. Yeah, we dont normally buy the kids meals unless the prize is something “cool” like from a movie we saw at the theater. This way we have toys from there instead of him bugging us for the action figures at walmart or target.

    Otherwise he gets a sandwich from the dollar menu, which are much smaller than the ones offered in the combos, or a pack of nuggets.

  5. Believe it or not, those cheese roll-ups at Taco Bell used to be an “unadvertised item.” Long, long ago, a gramma-type working there told me about them. They used to be 45 cents! I guess they finally saw they had a (too) good thing going.

  6. *smacks forehead* I cannot believe I NEVER thought of just ordering adult for the boys! You are genius! Does Sonic give you a free meal on your birthday? Thanks for the frugal tips 🙂

    Oh, and I wanted to apologize for all of the questions I have been pestering you with lately. As if you didn’t have enough to do all ready! I just really admire your writing skills and think that I could learn a lot from an expert like you 🙂

  7. Mrs. Q., thanks for the compliments. I appreciate it. I will try to answer your questions in a “timely” manner. We’ll see. They take some thought. 😉 I don’t always have that.

    Yes, if you sign up with Sonic online they will send a free kids meal on their bday and a discount kids meal on their 1/2 bday. The way all our bdays fall, the exp dates fell very nicely. We actually had 3 freebies and 2 halfsies good on the same day. Very nice.

    Today we’re going for free Chick Fil-A

  8. great tips! Sounds about the same thing I do for my family of 7.

    Thanks for sharing!

  9. Those are all the things that we do. For my birthday the hubbie took us to chili’s and let everyone order drinks and such. It was well over $90. YIKES!

  10. It’s funny…those cheap toys entertain my daughter longer than the ones I spend big bucks on!

  11. We used to share fries and a drink when my kids were younger, and my husband and I still do it! To me, it isn’t so much about saving money as not being wasteful. I’ll tell you something funny about “Happy Meals,” though. Being as my youngest is 18 (and a boy, so you can imagine what he eats), we’re well past the Happy Meals stage. But I buy them for…me! If I am in the mood for fast food, I’ll order one. It’s just the right size for me (why do all restaurants serve portions big enough for starving truck drivers?) and I bring the toy to the pediatric office where I work. I honestly have to say I only do this take-out. I’d feel a little silly (at my age of 52) eating a Happy Meal in the restaurant.
    My husband and I don’t go out to dinner much any more, but we still have a ‘date’ almost every week–for breakfast! It’s much, much cheaper, the pace is slower and I really look forward to it.