Friday, February 5, 2010

Frugal Friday: Restaurant Freebies

**Speaking of Free Food - TODAY Feb. 5th only, Starbucks is giving away KIND bars to their customers. Be sure to grab one if you are there! Also, Feb. 9th from 6am to 2pm - Denny's is giving away a Free Grand Slam breakfast (don't forget a free Grand Slam on your birthday.) AND, I recently saw a McDonald's commercial advertising free Frappe's on Wednesdays - but I don't know the details yet. **

School, work, sports, clubs, meetings, What's dinner?

Pack up the family, head to your favorite dining spot and hand them $35 for a $10 meal.
Sounds way too familiar, right? We all do it.

Time seems to be a rare commodity for many families. Gone are the days of full, homecooked meals - replaced by meals "on-the-go." It's rather sad in my opinion, but it's the truth. Even as hard as we try to sit together and enjoy our food each night, there are times when we have to resort to the local dive.
Have you ever sat and really (and I mean REALLY) looked at how much you spend on dining out? Not just dinner, but the morning coffee drive bys, the bakery donuts, the gas station soft drink - I would bet to say it's more than you think. Start keeping your receipts and add it up. How much did YOU spend this month? What ELSE could you have done with that money? Was it money well spent? (Probably not)

I'm not here to tell you there is a solution...because there is not one. Does it seem feasible to pull our children out of sports or quit all of our clubs and committees? No, not really. Though, we do have options to help alleviate some of the needless stress and spending.
  • Meal Planning - grab your local groc shop sale flyer, plan your meals for the week around what is on sale, buy the items you need and post your plan on the fridge. Believe it or not, it's sooo less stressful if you know ahead of time what you are making each day. It allows you to pull meat out of the freezer for defrosting or even make items ahead of time. When you already know what you are having, you are less likely to eat out. Try it - it works.
  • Once a Month Cooking (OAMC) - if you are not familiar with this, I'll let you google it (but you will probably be overwhelmed.) So, you aren't into the OAMC. But, what you can do is double your dinner recipes and freeze one for another time. For instance, you are having Lasagna tonight. Be sure to have enough ingredients to make TWO. Bake one and freeze the other. If you do that five times per month, you've just created a week's worth of dinners are that "pre-made." Not everything freezes well - be sure to research it a bit before wasting any food.
Let's face it - many of us ENJOY dining out, it's what we do. But, start making a conscious effort to be more money savvy about it. Not often do we go out for $100 dining experience; it's usually a sandwich shop, drive thru or local greek restaurant. Even with those, we try to use coupons. Before heading out, check your local paper for specials. For instance, at the Greek joint, I know that children under 12 eat free on Tuesdays AND they offer $5 off a second meal with newspaper coupons. It may sound petty, but it all adds up.

Restaurants all across the county OFTEN have birthday specials, free item giveaways or food coupons. Here is a good list of free birthday meals. Of course, always ask before assuming each place is participating. A few that I have received recently:
  • Long John Silvers: Coupon for a free piece extra crispy breaded fish - while my son and I were out running errands and grocery shopping, I decided to use this coupon. We went through the drive thru - ordered the fish, 6 hush puppies and they threw in a coleslaw as well - all for $1.07. Since I had just gotten groceries, we grabbed a Capri Sun from the bag and were on our way. (THAT'S a cheap dinner)
  • Noodles & Co.: Noodlegram coupon for Buy one meal get one free, free dish on your birthday and surprise on your Noodlegram anniversary. I used mine a week or so ago. I was out late shopping and needed to bring home dinner for my husband and son. Stopped in and got large beef pan noodles and large mac & cheese w/crusted chicken for around $7.00 total (husband ate all of his but son had enough left for lunch the next day!)
  • Burger King: BK Kid's Club (13 & Under) - they will send you a free kid's meal coupon on your birthday. Also, a few week's ago, they emailed coupons for free kid's meals (not anywhere near my son's birthday.)
  • Bob Evans: Same as Burger King - these coupons don't expire (to my knowledge.)
  • Coldstone Creamery: Free creation on your birthday, not just for kids.
  • TGI Fridays: Sign up for the Stripes club and print a coupon for a free appetizer or dessert AND a "jump to the front of the line" pass
The fact of the matter is, I could go on and on and on...but I will spare you the time. Start doing a little internet searching on your favorite places to eat. You will probably find SOMEthing that will help stretch your dining budget.

Do you have a blog post about restaurant freebies? Leave a comment and share with us!

More Frugal Fridays at Life as Mom

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