Spending Less on Fast Food: 9 Menu Tricks for Families on a Budget

Estimated Monthly Savings: $60

Fast food is certainly cheap, but, for families on a budget, those orders can still add up. Fortunately, there are ways to get your burgers, fries, burritos, donuts and more at a discount. Here are nine menu tricks and tips for spending less on fast food.

  • Skip the soda. Lower your bill by opting for water instead of splurging on soft drinks. Bring your own bottles or see if the chain supplies small cups you can fill for free.
  • Order off the Value Menu. Almost every fast food chain has one and, while chains switch up their discount items from time to time, you can usually make a full meal out of the offerings.
  • Get a combo meal. Ordering a drink, main course and side dish separately typically costs more than just asking for a Number 5. If you’re feeling extra-hungry, opt for the bundle.
  • Consider a Kids’ Meal. On the flip side, if you want a little of everything, but tend not to finish your food, go child-sized. Kid combos cost less, but often come in reasonable portions.
  • Split it. Save extra pennies by ordering the largest size combo-meal on the menu and sharing with a family member. You can also split a side or soda.      
  • Clip coupons, or if you don’t have time to sort through circulars, sign up for a chain’s newsletter. That way, digital coupons will go directly to your inbox.
  • Google “2-for-1” deals. Before you head to the eatery, search online for family discounts. There are plenty of coupon aggregator sites that could have exactly what you’re looking for.
  • Enroll in a loyalty program. Many fast food chains offer solid rewards for repeat visits. Think a free soft drink, dessert or cup of coffee after you earn a certain amount of points off your dollars spent — and maybe a birthday freebie, too.
  • Download the app. You’ll likely get extra deals, points or freebies just for signing up, plus exclusive coupons down the line.

Remember, keep future penny-pinching in mind. Check for a coupon on the bottom or back of your receipt and, if you find one, save that slip for your next visit. If you’re looking to lower your food spending in general, check out our tips for maximizing savings at the grocery store.