Okay, first I have to point out that my husband came up with the title for today’s post after I had trouble thinking of an all-encompassing description for it.  And it took him about .02 seconds to do it. I love being married to a clever wordsmith who can also fix my computer glitches and build a hall-length closet from studs to mudding/texturing in about 4 days (yes, that was one of our “projects” last week). Sorry, girls, he’s aaaaalll mine.

Anyhoo, I suppose I should stop advertising for a man you can’t have and get on with the business at hand, huh?

We don’t eat out just tons. Sure, there are periods of extreme busyness during which we find ourselves in the car more often than usual, which always translates into more pit-stops at our favorite (or at least most convenient) restaurants. But I’ve still been cooking all my meals for the week each Monday, which I luuuuurve. So at least Monday-Thursday are taken care of. But even when we do eat out or treat ourselves to something else non-homemade, I prefer to keep the tab as low as possible. After all, who wants to blow $20 every time you have a smoothie-craving? (something that’s crazy-easy to do with 5 littles in tow).

So, without further ado, I give you:



Buy the Kids’ Meal.


{Who could resist such an offer?}

Those of you with small children may be shaking your heads at such a rookie suggestion.  After all, at most restaurants, you pay close to $5 for a white-bread PB&J, 6 oz. of milk, and two apple slices. But hear me out. Because, while I think that buying individual kids’ meals for the munchkins is a way to spend major money fast, buying the kids’ version for yourself at a fast food restaurant is actually a money-saver.

I’ll give you my favorite example.

Chick-Fil-A (which, yes, can primarily be found in the South…so, so sorry, Northern friends!) has a “sandwich kids’ meal” that doesn’t even show up on their menu, and here’s what you get:

  • A full-sized sandwich
  • A small order of fries, which, because it’s served in a sack instead of the rigid cardboard containers that the larger sizes come in, actually has just as many French fries as a regular adult order
  • A kid-sized drink (which you can refill as many times as you want if you’re eating in)
  • Ice cream (did you know you can exchange the unopened toy or book that comes with the meal for a cup or a cone?)

That’s a full-sized meal, dessert, and a drink for…wait for it…approximately $4.50 (because it’s not officially on the menu, I have found that the method for ringing it up and reaching the end total varies from store to store and can end up being a little less or more depending on where you are).

Both Dairy Queen and Braum’s are other great examples, offering a decent-sized burger (which you can load with adult-quantities of veggies and condiments), a reasonable quantity of fries, a drink, and a treat—all for less than $4.

Are these super-healthy options? Um, negative.

However, for an occasional treat or quick meal on the go for not much dough, it’s hard to beat.




{Clearly, these kitties understand that sharing is caring} 

My children are learning from a very early age that the term “MINE” is practically a nonexistent word in our vocabulary. We share everything…including especially food.

Example: I loooooooooove Coke Icees. It’s one of the few items that will tempt me to “drink my calories.” I average about 1 every week and 1/2. And although my children never drink anything other than milk, water, or watered-down 100% juice at home, I do occasionally let them join me in my Coke Icee indulgence after a particularly long round of errands in “town.”

If I were to buy my older kids their own Icees, they would be consuming 14 oz. each of sugary bad-for-them-ness, and—my drink included—the total would exceed $5.

So, instead, I keep extra cups/straws in the car and buy only one of the largest sized Icee to divvy up between us. That’s 32 ounces split 4 ways (although, the kids definitely get less than Mama), and there are several gas stations in my city that have a constant $0.99/any size special.

Do we get less? Yes, but that’s a good thing! And for 1/5 of the price, we get a nice little treat without OD’ing on the sugar or the price tag.

Runner-up: We love ordering the Chicken Crisper adult meal from Cheddar’s to split between our three oldest. It comes with a massive amount of chicken plus two sides for about $7.50. All three kiddos get full, and we usually have some to take home.


Go with bottomless appetizers (to-go too!)

chips and salsa


With a big family, one of the best money-savers when we eat out is going somewhere with lots of “complimentary,” or at least cheap, appetizers to take the edge off the hunger, so we don’t over-order for the main meal.

And there are puh-lenty of options for complimentary bread or chips.

Our favorite thing to do recently is order Chili’s chips and salsa to go. You get a really big bag of chips that they fill completely to the top (as opposed to the expanse of empty space at the top of every store-bought version I’ve ever encountered), and you can ask for multiple containers of salsa at no extra charge (because it’s “bottomless” when you eat in). It’s so much fresher and tastier than store-bought chips and salsa, and it always lasts us at least 2 meals (with some snacking in between) for only $3!!!


Buy in bulk 

We have a Sam’s Club membership, and, while we’re not there every week, we definitely have certain items we stock up on regularly that more than pay for our yearly fee.

First up:

raisin bran

Ezra, Simon, Della, and I all eat Raisin Bran every. single. morning. (Apparently, we’re all old-at-heart). And, while it’s pretty easy to pay $0.20/oz. for Raisin Bran at Brookshire’s, the Sam’s Club price is a mere $0.09/ounce. It’s practically the cheapest cereal (name brand or otherwise) that I’ve found anywhere.

Another favorite is gum.

orbit sweet mint 

{I love Orbit’s Sweet Mint flavor}

It’s my go-to “bribe” or reward for the kids for small accomplishments. And I like it a whole lot too. In fact, I used to be addicted. About 10 years ago, I had a pack-a-day habit. Gasp! (I know). And that can add up fast—especially if you end up snagging a pack for $1.70 at the gas station every time you realize you’re out. Even the grocery store versions cost at least $1 each.

But if you buy gum in boxes from Sam’s (or another bulk food store), it brings the total down to anywhere from $0.60-$0.70 per package. Which is totally doable—especially since our entire family only consumes a pack every 3 days or so.


Get the ice to go

sonic ice

If you’re a Sonic Happy Hour addict (I’m not, but I have frequented it at times more than others), then you might be thrilled to know that they will sell their “pellet ice” for about $2/large bag (I think it’s a 10-pounder). Outside of the caffeine kick or sugar rush, from what I can glean from friends’ comments, the number one reason for a twice-a-day “cheap drink” habit seems to be those awesome nuggets of crunchy, icy perfection that you just can’t get at home.

Except now that you know you can take the ice to go, you can! Because even at “only” $1/large drink, that’s a bill that can give you chills pretty darn quick (get it? chills? because it’s ice? ahem).

I could go on, but I’d love to hear from you. Because I know you guys have some awesome tricks up your sleeves for saving moolah when you’re buying instead of making your food and treats.

So, spill!

What are your favorite tips and tricks for saving your money where your mouth is?

P.S. Did you SEE that Texas-sized giveaway from yesterday? It’s so stinkin’ awesome, I’m actually having a debate with myself about the ethics of having my husband enter to win (okay, not really, but it’s sooooooo tempting!).

Disclaimer: I am in no way associated with or endorsed by any of the brands I mentioned today. They just so happen to be my faves.

Linking up:

Monday Funday


  1. I love buying Sonic ice especially when I am entertaining. It has a way of making even the simplest drinks fancy. Also, last year I found a drink by Wal-Mart named cherry limeade. It is sugar-free and it is available in a 2 liter bottle or in cans. It tastes really close to Sonic’s cherry limeade drink. Serve it with a maraschino cherry and fresh lime slice (don’t forget the Sonic ice.) And it is very affordable since a 2 liter is only 99 cents!

  2. Oh yes…I know how expensive the Dollar Menu at McDonalds has become with 5 kids….and three of them being boys (ok, my 2 yr old daughter seems to eat as much as they do). Making a Micky D’s stop is not something we do often anymore.

    However, if I know we are going to, I’ll often through a bunch of bananas, or a few apples in the car, so that I can tell everyone to only order ONE thing off the Dollar Menu (like in the good ol’ days, when one thing used to fill them up!). After that, they can eat some fruit. lol

  3. Well around here, up in “da” north, ahem, we have what you call Culvers! YUMMMO best butter burger in town or state for that matter https://www.culvers.com/
    Either way I agree with you 100%, I (the adult) usually buy the kids meal at most places I go when eating out. Culvers is no exception, with the kids meal you get a regular sized butter burger, small crinkle cut fries (perfect size ratio per fry to per bite of sandwich), small soft drink (again just like you mentioned free refills for when eating-in), and the best part is the child size frozen custard that comes with a free topping. The dessert is the perfect size for a treat, not a meal.
    Ultimately, I’m not being paid from this Wisconsin based store, but you can get all that I mentioned for a mere $5.05 after tax. Bonus!

  4. Abbie- love your tips, but my guys, 11, 11, and 7 (and football players!) have hit the bottomless pit stage! We have a few local restaurants that sponsor either “Kids Eat Free” nights or $.98 kids’ meals. We’ll split 2 less expensive appetizers- filling ones like potato skins or chips and espinaca to counter the constant hunger and share a salad as well. Thank goodness my daughter, 19, is off at college!

  5. Ok, so you have to tell me more about this Chick-fil-A “sandwich kids meal”! Is that how you tell them when you order? I’ve gotta try this! I do LOVE Chick-Fil-A, but don’t always love their prices. With this deal, we could do it. In fact, if one wasn’t 1hr+ away, we would eat there tonite….haha!

    All of your tips are great, and I think we could be eating-out w/ kids BFF’s! I HEART Coke Icees!! I don’t drink them very often cuz I try not to drink my calories either, but when I do….it’s totally worth it. Hadn’t ever thought to split w/ the kiddies. They are just like yours….milk or H20. Juice is a treat ’round these parts 🙂

    And that Chicken Crispers meals from Cheddars is HUGE and crazy good! As little as my kids eat, I think I could share it w/ them….LOL! And Chili’s chips & Salsa…..tasty! I’m getting so hungry reading this. 🙂

    Headed to Sams to stock up tomorrow! I have a giant pack of Orbitz Sweet Mint in my pantry right now. Its my go-to way to stave off a sweets craving. Sams is a great way to save $$, just hate storing all that giant stuff when I get home. 50+ rolls of TP under the bed….LOL!

    I also LOVE Sonic ice…..not to addiction level, but it is just the perfect crunch. I do buy it sometimes to satisfy that craving!

    I don’t have any great tips. But have learned that often times the “kids meals” at restaurants aren’t always the best deal. If we go to a Mexican restaurant, I will order a side of rice & beans + an order of flour tortillas for my 3 munchkins. Then we make their own burritos. That + the chips & salsa is always plenty for them. (Although, I have yet to reach the bottomless pit stage w/ my boys which is apparently coming since they are only 6yo & 4yo….after which we will probably rarely be able to afford eating out :).

    But splitting an adult entree (which hubby & I do too cuz who NEEDS that much food), is usually a good way to go. Then I just order water for the kids.

    Fun post! And let me know how to get the Chick-Fil-A deal….I’m all over it!

    1. Wow, you and I really do sound like “deal-twinkies!” And my boys haven’t gotten to the bottomless pit stage either (I’m dreading it), so eating out is still doable.

      Oh, and yes, you just order a “kids’ meal with a sandwich.” Or a “sandwich kids’ meal.” I have been to one place that said they didn’t offer that, but the rest knew what I was talking about.

      Hope it works!

  6. I am a Texas girl transplanted to the Chicago area 8 years ago. You can’t believe the joy (and the lines!) when they opened a Chick-Fil-A in our area last year. My younger kids finally got to taste what they had been missing. YUM! We have Dairy Queen here as well, but you can’t buy a Dude. There should be a law against that.

    1. I had heard that Chicago got a Chick-fil-A. CONGRATS!

      Oh, and I’ve never had a Dude, but it does seem strange that Dairy Queen exists without it.

    2. Well, if they are available there, you should work out really hard for a couple of days and then try one. : ) Or opt for a steak finger basket. Same meat, different format…but maybe more calories because the basket comes with cream gravy….really yummy cream gravy.

  7. A lot of restaurants have a “kids eat free” night. It’s a good idea to keep track of those so, if you need to grab dinner, you will know which place will offer you the most bang for your buck.

    1. Really, the only one we ever take advantage of is Chick-Fil-A (again…we’re fans! ;)), but I know a lot of people who know every restaurant that does this and what day and everything, and it seems to work for them!

I love hearing from you guys!