Ways to Eat Out Without Eating Out

Here’s how to eat out without eating out. What in the world am I talking about?

I’m talking about enjoying outings with your family that are a special treat – but that don’t cost much and offer a fun variety to restaurant outings.

I’m not completely opposed to restaurants, but for our family right now, they simply do not work. Why?

Why Our Family Doesn’t Go to Restaurants Right Now

  1. Because we have so many kids (11 plus two daughters-in-law) and many of them are very small. Taking seven kids under age nine to a restaurant sounds the opposite of a treat to me. Oy.
  2. Because feeding 15 people at a restaurant costs much more than we want to spend.

Therefore, Matt and I have gotten creative as we find ways to give our kids outings without spending money beyond what we are already spending for regular groceries. Here are some of the ideas we’ve tried. I’d love to hear yours too!

1. Take Food to the Park

This one is a no-brainer that you didn’t need me to share as “go on a picnic” isn’t a brand-new idea. BUT, it is worth sharing because we’ve relied on this over and over as a great way to have outings with all 15 of us! And we’ve become creative with the food we enjoy at picnic tables together. Think wayyyyy beyond the sandwich!!

Here are some food ideas we’ve enjoyed in various parks:

2. Take Food to Outdoor Games

I always pack our dinner when we go to Malachi’s spring soccer games. Here’s a picture of our kids eating hot hamburgers that I made at home and packed for them to eat on a blanket. :) As an added bonus, this keeps them occupied for a while so that I can actually watch the game. Sort of. ;) Here are some other great foods that work well to pack and take to games.

3. “Splurge” on a Costco or Sam’s Meal

This is the only way our family can “eat out” for around $35! I usually grab a bunch of hotdogs and a pizza and all 15 of us can get full for a very reasonable price. The kids love it when we do this!

4. Find a Grocery Store with a Seating Area

Find a grocery store that has a section of booths and tables. Typically they have prepared food to purchase there, so take advantage of that if you want. Otherwise, grab a cart and run through the store and grab any variety of:

  • Sandwich or wrap fixings (even just a loaf of bread and a jar of jelly and peanut butter)
  • Carrots and other veggies with dips
  • Fresh berries, cut melon, grapes, or oranges
  • Chips and dips
  • Fun drinks
  • Yogurt or applesauce pouches

Then go through check-out, and sit down in your booths and eat!

Our littles had so much fun the last time we did this, and our older kids enjoyed it too (grabbing some prepared sushi!).

5. Play Restaurant at Home

This idea is only fun for littler kids, but it’s worth a mention! My 9 and 7-year-olds enjoy coming into the kitchen at dinnertime and ordering “tonight’s special.” I tell them what their cost is (usually something ridiculous like $1,000), they put their fake, invisible money on the counter, and they grab their plate. Somehow dinner tastes better this way. :) :) :)

Bonus Idea:

Eat at the shopping mall food court. But take your own food.

I felt weird about this at first but tried it anyway on a day we were going to be shopping with most of our family. It was too cold to take our food to a park to eat, so we just sat down at the food court where we were shopping, passed around the food, and it was all just fine!

What are some of your “ways to eat out without eating out” ideas?

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