Until recently, whenever we ate out, I would consult the menu (or children’s menu if there was one) and order my 22-month-old daughter a meal of her own, say grilled chicken, a chicken burrito or beans and rice.
However, more often than not, she would barely touch her plate, taking no more than a few bites, and would clamor for whatever my husband or I were eating. So, lately, I’ve hit on a trick for cutting the cost of eating out that is today’s hint.
The budget-saving strategy: I no longer order my toddler her own meal when we’re eating out. Instead, my husband and I share our meals with our daughter, a variation of a cost-saving strategy we’re already employing at home.
It turns out that proper toddler portions are actually pretty small – in fact, recommended toddler serving sizes are about one-fourth the size of an adult portion. So, giving our little one a small part of each of our restaurant meals actually adds up to a full toddler-sized meal.
Not only does this approach help us keep our eating out bills a bit more reasonable, it also helps us cut calories, since restaurant portions tend to be too big for one person. And it enables our little one to try more food than the bland pasta and chicken fingers on most kids’ menus.
Finally, whatever is on her parents’ plates is really what my daughter makes clear she wants anyway (whether we’re at home or in a restaurant), so by giving her our food from the get go we’re potentially avoiding some public temper tantrums as well.
To be sure, I’m not the first parent to advocate sharing restaurant meals with small children. Parents commenting over at Chow.com and bloggers at Magical Childhood, Let There Be Light at Fill Your Money Box suggest it, and I love how Kristen, who blogs at When at Home, puts it “Anyone less than three does not get their own meal” in a post on “How to Eat Out for Less Than $20.”
Of course, some little ones may be very voracious eaters who aren’t satisfied with a shared meal (in that case, an additional side dish or two may do the trick). And some kids have allergies or special diets that require they get their own meal. Still, for most parents, the money saving share-a-meal strategy is at least worth a try.
What are your tips for eating out for less, and for eating out in general, with babies and toddlers?