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16 Ways to Save More At Restaurants

Want to learn how to save at restaurants? Here are 16 ideas for saving money on eating out:

16 Ways to Save More At Restaurants

Guest post from Sarah who blogs at Sidetracked Sarah:

Does your family eat out a lot?

We don’t do it very much, because we have a large family and the cost can be outrageous if we’re not careful.

Throughout the years though, we’ve learned ways that we can still eat out as a family and not spend way too much.

Here are 16 different ways we save more at restaurants!

  1. Save any restaurant coupons you get in the mail or newspapers. I like to put them in the glove box of my car or in my purse so that I’ll have them when I want or need them.
  2. Order water to drink. Imagine my family all ordering drinks at $2 per person. We have 9 in the family, we’d be spending nearly $20 of our tab on drinks.  Not only is drinking water better for you, but it saves you dollars!
  3. Share meals. Some restaurants are notorious for providing extra large servings. If you find one that you always end up stuffed with and come home with leftovers, try sharing meals among your family. Instead of buying a kid’s meal for each kid, buy an adult meal for 2-3 kids and enjoy the savings.
  4. Sign up for text messages, birthday clubs, and any email clubs that your favorite restaurants offer. Any restaurants I frequent, I sign up to get their emails and texts because they love to let us know about the deals that they have each week.  And I love to use those deals when it’s a good time for our family.  They typically send us something free on our birthdays and anniversaries, too. (Check out these Birthday Freebies.)
  5. Look for Kids Eat Free Deals. We especially love to find the Kids Eat Free restaurants on vacation, but any time you can find a good restaurant that lets the kids eat for free, you’ll save quite a bit of money. Some only let one kid eat free, while others let two eat free per each paying adult.
  6. Utilize the dollar menu. When traveling, we will often buy everyone in the vehicle a one dollar item (like a sandwich or burger) and buy fresh fruit and/or chips to go with it for us to all share. It’s a great way to stretch out our dollars and keep our tummies happy at the same time.
  7. Adults, order kid’s meals. Not all restaurants will allow adults to order kids meals, but several do. A friend of ours always does this at Cracker Barrel. We do it sometimes at our favorite local Mexican restaurant, but they add a dollar to the price, which is typically still a great deal.
  8. Try ordering off of the lunch menu even at dinner. Some restaurants will let you order off of the lunch menu, with a small up-charge ($1 at our favorite restaurant). Not all will do this, but it’s worth asking about.
  9. Don’t order desserts or appetizers. Nothing increases the price of your meal at a restaurant more than ordering appetizers and desserts. Try going to restaurants that have free bread or chips and salsa if you’re really desiring an appetizer.
  10. Only eat out at lunch time. If you can help it, just go out to eat at lunch, when lunch menus are offered.  You’ll save several dollars per meal by doing this.
  11. Eat at buffets. Buffets tend to give children very discounted prices, but some buffets tend to hike the prices up for everyone. Be sure to watch for the economical buffets and see where you can save money.
  12. Watch for specials. Sometimes restaurants are slower on Mondays and Tuesdays and they may have a special for just those nights. Other times, there may be a happy hour during certain hours of the day. Often, restaurants will rotate their specials out. Watch for exterior signs and be sure to ask your server about any special you may not want to miss.
  13. Plan ahead. Just doing a little bit of research before you head out to eat, is a great way to save some money. Sometimes, I will check out the menu online to see if I can afford the food at a specific restaurant or I’ll search for any deals in the area.
  14. Order ala Carte. At one of my favorite restaurants, my favorite food is a lot cheaper when I order it as a single item, ala carte. When I think of ala carte, I often think of it as being a really small portion, but in most cases, it’s plenty for a meal.
  15. Sign up for Educational Rewards Programs. Many restaurants will offer kids rewards for reading books. We like to sign our kids up for Book It with Pizza Hut and Braum’s Book Buddies every year. Sometimes, libraries will also have reading incentive programs where kids can earn gift certificates for reading more and more books.
  16. Evaluate Why You’re Eating out. Lots of times, you’re eating out because you forgot to plan your food, or you just got too busy. Try spending some time planning and assembling some Crockpot Freezer Meals more often.

As you can see, there are many ways you and your family can save money when going to restaurants.

It takes a little bit of planning ahead, but if you’re trying to pay off bills, go debt free, or just save money, cutting corners is something we’re usually willing to do. It’s nice to know we don’t have to give up everything and can enjoy a meal out from time to time.

Sarah is a busy, work from home, homeschooling mom of 7 who blogs over at Sidetracked Sarah.  She loves helping families spend less time in the kitchen and more time with their families.  She loves using her Slow Cooker and Instant Pot on a daily basis to help her do just that.

How to Convert a PDF into a Fillable Form for FREE

Guest post from April of Love Our Real Life:

I have downloaded AND created lots of different printables over the years. These printable PDFs are a great tool to keep track of your budget, home cleaning schedules, kids’ chore charts, you name it… and I’m a sucker for pretty printables!

Unfortunately a problem I frequently run into is that most PDFs do not allow you to type directly on them. You typically have to print out the printable and write in your own information.

But, since my handwriting isn’t always the best, I needed a solution that allows you to type directly onto the PDF.

There are programs that help you create a fillable PDF, but most are NOT free.

However, I recently came across PDFescape.com.

It’s pretty basic, but it gets the job done! Let me walk you through the process with a PDF that I created for keeping track of Charitable Donations:

Charitable Donation Tracking Worksheet

1. Go to PDFescape.com and upload your PDF.

PDFescape is a free program that does NOT require you to create an account to have access to the PDF editing tools!

Once the webpage is open, you click on “choose file” and select the PDF (from your own files) you would like to edit.

PDFescape: PDF editor and form filler

2.  Create fillable areas on your PDF

By following these steps, you will have the ability to type on any portion of your PDF.

Within PDFescape, select “Form Field” under the index tab.

Process for creating a fillable PDF: Select Form Field

Next, select “Text Paragraph” from the drop-down menu.

Select "text paragraph" in PDFescape to make box fillable

Click on any portion of the PDF. A  green box will appear. Drag this to the area you would like to be able to type information into down the road. Adjust the size of the box to fit!

NOTE: When it is saved it will no longer appear green, this is just so you can more easily see what you are doing!

On the PDF I’m showing in this example, I had several boxes I wanted to be fillable. So, after I made a box to fill the space, I right clicked to duplicate and create more the same size.

Then it was just a matter of drag and drop.

Drag box to fit space in PDF to allow typing directly on form.

3. Click on Save and Download button

When you are finished adding fillable spaces to your PDF, all you have left to do is save it! I use the green button on the left to “save and download” my new edited version of this PDF to my computer.

Save and Download button on PDFescape

Now you have a PDF you can type on!

This is a FREE way to customize any PDF / printable to work better for you.

Sign of from April at Love Our Real Life

April is the author of Love Our Real Life where she shares DIY home decor ideas, organizational tips, and craft projects. She lives in the Kansas City, MO area with her husband and two children.

How to Throw a Starbucks Birthday Party on a Budget

This Starbucks birthday party is SUCH a cute and frugal idea for a teenage girl who loves all things Starbucks and coffee!

Guest post from Heidi

My daughter turned recently turned 14 and her most favorite thing in the world is to go to Starbucks — so I decided we could throw a fancy and frugal Starbucks birthday party for her and seven of her friends.

Here’s how I was able to throw a Starbucks birthday party on a budget…

What I Bought:

From Dollar Tree = $31

  • white goodie bags
  • tablecloth
  • 1 package balloons
  • 1 package green streamers
  • 1 package plates
  • 1 package napkins
  • 8 white mugs
  • Piñata fillers (candy, chapstick, face masks, nail polish, etc.)

Walmart: = $26

  • Cake pop sticks and candy melts
  • Piñata
  • Starbucks drinks for prizes

Aldi: = $5

  • Cake mix
  • White frosting
  • Popcorn

I also bought the Starbucks stickers I used on the goodie bags from StickerMule.com. They were running a special… 10 stickers for $1 shipped!

How We Partied:

I printed the “Frappy Birthday” banner off the internet at no cost, pasted it on construction paper, cut it out, and hung it up.

We hung green and white streamers, white balloons, and used all white and green paper products.

Each girl got to pre-order a Starbucks drink and it was waiting for them when they arrived to the party. The total for 8 drinks was $32, but I used 15,000 Kelloggs Family Rewards points to buy 2 Starbucks gift cards and that took off $10 — only $22 for the drinks!!

When I picked up my drinks, I asked for a few empty cups for the popcorn and the cake pops. Starbucks provided these at no charge.

At the party, each girl got to decorate their own coffee mug using paint pens and sharpie markers I already had.

We also played a “Who knows the birthday girl best?” game which I made and printed at home for no cost. The prize was a Starbucks drink purchased at Walmart.

Using old coffee beans I already had, I set up a “Guess How Many Coffee Beans Are in the Jar” game. The winner got a Starbucks drink from Walmart.

Total spent for this very fancy and VERY fun birthday: $85 before tax!!!

My daughter and her friends had so much fun and she said it was one of the best parties she’s ever had. All for well under $100 and 8 girls! There you have it — a Starbucks birthday party on a budget!

I am Heidi Evans. Mom to 6… 5 boys and 1 girl. Always looking for ways to save money!

How We Changed Our Financial Blueprint

Were poor money management habits passed down to you from another generation? This is SUCH an encouraging post!

Guest post from Hope of Under The Median:

Whether we realize it or not, the way we handle money is primarily a result of a template, set in childhood and reinforced by our parents. In other words, we tend to spend and save money much like our parents did.

This financial blueprint is a strong force in our lives, and if it’s not a fiscally strong one, it can take a moment of crisis to overcome it. This is my story.

My mother was widowed at the age of 42, with four children and no idea how much money was coming in or where it was all going. When I was 18, she told me tearfully one day that she and my father had never lived with a budget. He just made money every month and they paid the bills. There always seemed to be enough money. She was terrified!

Even though I watched her go through this experience, I didn’t live with a written budget (or any spending plan) until I was well into my 20’s. I worked with the only blueprint I had ever known — much like my parents, I just made money and hoped that there would be enough to go around.

Two moments of terror stand out in my mind.

The first, when I was 20. I had moved out of my mother’s home and was living with two roommates. One evening, my bank account dipped to just $25 and the ATM would not let me withdraw any money. My gas tank was nearly empty. I prayed every day on the way to work that week that I would make it there and back without the car dying. I got paid at 4pm, and by 4:15pm I was at the gas station!

The second incident occurred when I was 24. My husband and I had been married for just two months and our checkbook indicated an almost zero balance. My stomach plummeted into the pit of my stomach. My mind reeled as I realized we had spent nearly every penny of our wedding cash gifts in just a few weeks. If we didn’t make immediate changes, we would be in big trouble in a very short time.

That’s when the light went on!

I worked at a Christian radio station and a man named Larry Burkett had just begun a daily program called “Money Matters.” It was the first generation of live Christian money management call-in programs. I listened carefully and began to implement Larry Burkett’s suggestions.

Within weeks, I had plugged into some great authors and teachers. I read a lot of books. I figured out what ideas I could implement right away, and created a list of ideas to consider for the future. I learned to cook from scratch and how to track my expenses.

We focused on one or two areas at a time. When we had those areas streamlined and under control, we move on to another couple of areas.

Over the next thirty years, we rewrote our family’s financial blueprint.

We gained financial traction as we lived within our means. Although we made a salary which was significantly under the national median income, we paid off our first mortgage in five years. We brought up four sons in our tiny two bedroom bungalow, while saving money to pay cash for our second home.

I won’t tell you that it was easy… because it wasn’t!

At times the road seemed long. But, now I see my 20 and 22 year old sons living on a written budget, paying cash for automobiles, planning for the future, and sharing financial principles with their peers.

I realize that our change wasn’t just for us. It was also for them!

I’m Hope Ware, married to Larry since 1988. We’ve raised 4 amazing sons debt-free on an income which averaged under the national median. I blog over at Under the Median. In my spare time I teach in the high school department at our local homeschool co-op and I sing second soprano in a semi-professional ensemble.

photo source

5 Tips to Save Time and Money on Groceries

Save money on groceries without sacrificing too much time! These tips are GOLD!

Guest post by Jenna from Particular Pantry

Need some quick and easy tips to help you save more money at the grocery store in 2019? Here are five of my favorites:

1. Plan Your Meals

It has been said time and time again, but meal planning really is the one of the best ways to save both time and money at the grocery store (here’s a great free printable meal planning kit).

Of course this tip comes at the expense of spending a good amount of extra time at home planning out the meals and grocery list at least a week at a time.

However, when done well, meal planning saves some serious cash by giving every single item on your list a specific purpose. It also helps you find places to trim or double up on certain items and you are creating your plan and even includes planning for leftovers.

2. Make Well-Organized Grocery Lists

While your meal plan can help save you money, a well-organized grocery list can help save you time at the store.

I’ve tried paper lists, grocery list apps, and everything else under the sun and they can all work. But the list only makes your shopping faster IF you follow one important rule… organize your list by department.

That means instead of writing your list in whichever order you think of adding them (ie: eggs, avocado, chicken, bananas) causing you to run back and forth across the store, your list should have like items together so you can work your way through your list and the store at the same time.

Bonus points if you set up your list to follow the floor plan of your actual store.

3. Shop Your Pantry First

Before you head to the store, make sure to shop your pantry, refrigerator, and freezer first. In fact, this should probably come before tip #1 because if you really want to up your game, you can plan your meals based on the items you already have at home!

By using what you already have, you are not only saving money by not buying more groceries, but also saving the time it would take to think about whether or not you have a certain item in your pantry already.

4. Use Technology To Your Benefit

Once you finally get to the grocery store, make sure to use technology to your benefit. Because… there’s an app for that!

Remember the list you made? There’s an app for that too! My favorite is Our Groceries because my husband can add items from his phone and it will instantly appear on my list. Also, it’s automatically organized by store department and you can edit the department if you need to.

I haven’t tried every app out there, but I’m sure there are plenty of others that would serve this purpose just as well.

There are also apps for helping save you money at the store, from Walmart’s Savings Catcher to the Target Red Card (and Cartwheel) you can always save money if you take a few minutes to check out the deals before heading into the store.

5. Order Groceries Online

I’ve saved my very favorite tip for last because it compliments every other tip from this list AND makes my life exponentially better.

Ordering groceries online is the one-two punch you might not have expected to see on this list… right?

There is a stigma that ordering groceries for pickup or delivery is a luxury and very expensive. In truth, ordering groceries online can be a great way to save money (and obviously time) on groceries.

While there is often a slight markup on some product and/or a delivery fee, those extra costs are often offset by the other benefits of buying groceries online.

  • No more worrying about shopping while hungry.
  • No more making unhealthy or unnecessary impulse purchases.
  • No more going back to return an item you’ve decided might not fit the budget or meal plan for the week.

All of the grocery delivery services I’ve tried not only let me see the running total as I add items to the cart but they always have sale sections that are very easy to find and plan meals around.

I shouldn’t even need to mention how much time you can save by not stepping foot in the grocery store, but ordering groceries online allows you to fit groceries into your schedule when you can’t manage a full trip to the store.

Bottom line, grocery shopping has to be done… but if you can do it faster and within your budget maybe it won’t be such a source of pain!

What are YOUR best tips to save time AND money on groceries?

Jenna is a mom to four awesomely exhausting children. She believes that finding the right food for your family should be easier. That’s why she is committed to providing information you need to make deliberate choices for your family over at Particular Pantry.

Toddler Mom Hack: How To Make Mini Freezer Meals With No Extra Effort

Guest post from Keri of Families & Finance:

If your kid are anything like my kids, they eat ALL THE TIME!

It’s no secret that young children eat about every two hours. If you are in the throes of motherhood, you have probably wondered how in the world they can fit all of that food into such tiny bodies. I sure have!

I have also wondered how I can get away from spending all of my time in the kitchen slicing apples, doling out PB&J’s, and cleaning up the inevitable mess. I really didn’t want to pay for ready-made snacks and meals as they aren’t healthy or budget-friendly!

There had to be a way to streamline the process without shelling out more money.

My Solution = Mini Freezer Meals

I’m all about practical shortcuts, so I put my thinking cap on. After a bit of trial and error, I figured out a no-stress way to create toddler sized freezer meals! It’s so simple that you might just cry happy tears.

My “secret” is to use silicone muffin liners.

When silicone muffin liners first came out, they were all the rage, weren’t they? I saw them everywhere! People were making homemade chocolate cups, and using them as lunch box dividers. I thought “Well, I’d better get myself a set of those and see if they are all they’re cracked up to be.” It turns out, they are.

The idea came to me after I saw someone freezing soup in muffin tins. I thought it would be pretty difficult to remove the soup without a liner. Suddenly, I realized that although soup might not be a great thing to put into a silicone liner, other leftovers would work great!

That night, I took the few leftovers from our meal and dumped them into a muffin liner. I stuck it into the freezer in a snack-sized Ziploc bag. The next day, I fed my two-year-old his very first homemade freezer meal. It was a miracle!

Homemade Freezer Meals Save Time, Money, and Energy

I have been doing this ever since and it is a complete lifesaver!

Right before I had my third baby, I made a few dishes to turn into muffin cup meals so that I could feed my boys without having to cook. I can’t imagine what I would have done without them!

However, my favorite thing about this is that it can be done without any extra meal prep. My youngest two would be hard pushed to finish two muffin cups each. This doesn’t add up to much food at all!

Whenever we have a little bit of a recipe left after dinner, it goes right into the freezer. If I’m running low on mini freezer meals, I usually steal a couple of muffin liners before everyone eats. Nobody is the wiser, and it saves me a lot of work.

This has relieved me from dishes and cooking so many times!

Homemade Freezer Meal Tips

Make sure to label the snack bags. It won’t take long before you have a variety of meals to choose from. If your toddler is anything like mine, he will want a say in what he eats for lunch, and everything starts looking the same pretty quickly.

When you are ready to feed your kids, just pop a muffin cup into a dish and heat it up in the microwave. The muffin cups take about thirty seconds each to defrost. Then, stir them up and they are the perfect temperature for little ones. If your kiddo is a bit older, zap it for another fifteen seconds or so.

Make Your Own Mini Muffin Meals

This idea is incredibly simple and it can be applied to almost any leftovers. I have frozen mac and cheese, casserole, and breakfast bowls to name a few. The sky is the limit!

It’s amazing how much of a difference this one simple trick has made in our lives. Give this mom-hack a shot if you are looking to save money, time, and energy while feeding your kids!

Keri is a mother of three, Financial Planner, and founder of the blog, Families & Finance. She helps struggling stay-at-home-moms relieve the stress of money through frugal living, personal finance, and entrepreneurship so that they can find fulfillment in their everyday lives.