Saving money on Kid’s meals: 6 things to remember


Estimated Monthly Savings: $75

With the official start of summer nearly upon us, families are adjusting their budgets to accommodate the many changes that come with it. One aspect of your budget that may require significant expansion involves snacks, meals, and dining out.

When school ends for summer, that means more meals and snacks for the kids who are no longer eating lunch and or breakfast at school on weekdays; more playdates, sports team gatherings, and other outings at restaurants; and more family dining out in general. And if a family vacation is part of your summer plan, your food budget can quickly get out of control if you fail to adequately plan for it.

One of the best ways to save money when dining out with the kids is to choose restaurants which offer free meals for children. When choosing a kids-eat-free restaurant be sure to plan ahead. Familiarize yourself with the details of the offer. Use this checklist to help you guide your decision-making:

  • Are beverages included?
  • Is a coupon required
  • Is a special restaurant card or membership required?
  • Is there a limit on the number of children who can eat free?
  • Is there a minimum purchase by a minimum number of adults to qualify for each free kid’s meal?
  • Do the menu items available for the free kid’s meal appeal to my child?
  • Are certain times of day or days of the week excluded from the offer?

Saving money when dining out on vacation can make your budget stretch to include other fun activities. When planning your vacation, be sure to consider this when choosing your accommodations. Some hotels, for example, offer free breakfasts, not only for children, but for adults, as well. If a hotel, home rental, or bed-and-breakfast is located near a restaurant that offers free children’s meals, it may actually be worth it to spend a little extra on your accommodations if you save enough to offset it in your food budget. The key is to do your research ahead of time. And plenty of it.

For some families, vacations are not in the budget, and just getting a meal on the table while school is out of session is a severe struggle. For these families, there is hope. To get quick information on where your child can get a free meal this summer in your area, text the word “food” or the word “comida” (for results in Spanish) to 877-877. The No Kid Hungry initiative along with many generous partners such as Arby’s, Walmart, IHOP, and the FoodNetwork have pulled together to sponsor this valuable program for families in need.