Welcome to eating out with your kids on a super tight budget.
Just because you are watching the pennies doesn’t mean that you have to go without eating out. We eat out regularly and love eating out, but we don’t spend a fortune on it either and never really have. Not that we end up eating rubbish food as we don’t, we just spend our money wisely.
I put my parents down to being good role models with this. As a child and a teen I remember going to the same pub for a Sunday pub meal. It was cheap as chips anyway, but my dad would wait until they had a special offer in the newspaper. Normally a coupon that you would take with you that would give you two meals for the price of one. My mum and dad could have paid full price (like many others did) but they chose to wait until the deal was on and then go then.
Just like here in Portugal we get excited about the daily special. Restaurants will always have some type of daily special running that could save you a small fortune. The one that we go to on a regular basis is just 7€ each. We will have the meal of the day and get a meal, drink and cake, along with bread and olives for the price. The actual meal is always better than anything else they normally have on the menu and has included chicken fricassee, paella, slow cooked lemon chicken with rice and chips and a few other favourites.
But also I could go out and spend way too much on a meal out. We have a wok takeaway at our local shopping centre. They make the most AMAZING noodles with your choice of meat, fish and vegetables. You then choose your sauce and take away a big bowl of stir fried goodness. The only problem is for a family of four this can often end up costing you 40€ and when you compare this with paying 28€ and getting dessert and drinks, it puts you right off.
If it was cheaper we would be there all the time, but for the price it really doesn’t offer value for money and will always be an occasional treat, rather than a weekly thing.
Making Smart Choices
When eating out you have to think like me and make smart dining out choices. Obviously gourmet dining is out…..and I find that certain cuisines carry a higher price tag for example Indian restaurants have always seemed overpriced unless they have a good meal deal option. I remember a favourite Indian restaurant (when I lived in the UK) that did a great meal deal for just £8 and you could bring your own wine.
Pub grub can also often have really good deals and early bird savings where you take your kids out for a meal for that quiet hour before everyone else piles in.
I also love buffets – they are often less than 8€ per person and you are then only paying for your drinks. Though I recommend when you go to a buffet that you buy a bottle of water to share as there is often high salt in the meals and they want to make their money off you with the drink sales and it will save you a bit more money.
Find A Good Café
I always go looking for a really good café. You know the ones. The ones that unlike the masses serve up really good home cooked food and have really good daily specials.
I have about five just like this. They give us the opportunity to sit out in the sunshine and enjoy some delicious food at the same time and it would be wrong if there was not wine as well.
One that we really like costs about 7€ and has an outside barbeque. You then have either BBQ sardines or Piri Piri chicken. It is then served up with chips and salad. They also don’t charge extra if you want more and the white wine is superb.
I love brands and openly admit my love for McDonalds, Pizza Hut & KFC. But often when we go out (and after ordering sides) your meal can be bumped up and you wonder why you have wasted the money.
However if you found a pizza buffet away from the big chains you would probably pay 30% less if not making more of a saving.
Sharing Saves Money
I also love the idea of saving money by sharing. So if you are going to follow this rule, make sure you have no Joey in your party. After all “Joey doesn’t share his food”.
Though, don’t take it as far as many Northern Portuguese do when they come down on a holiday to the south in the summer. They are obsessed with saving money and restaurants mention how they sit in a beach bar for three hours with one bowl of soup and one drink between four of them.
What I do like to do is share meals when the portions are big. A restaurant that I used to go to a lot used to do huge kebabs with a large portion of garlic potatoes, salad and loads of bread. So I would share a kebab with my son and we would then enjoy a luxury pudding each to make up for it.
On other occasions we will share a starter or share a portion of fries because there is plenty of food and with dessert as well we don’t need more than that. The cataplana’s that we like to get (think Portuguese version of the paella) are huge and could feed four, so two of us would share one and then just order extra bread.
All in all often we have found that eating out can end up costing us not much more than eating in. So why not enjoy the best of both worlds? As long as you can find places that offer excellent value for money, then why not?