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With Planning, You Can Dine Out and Be Frugal

Taking advantage of free meal nights, using coupons and sticking to the basics can allow families to dine out despite a struggling economy.

Eating out is a real treat. There’s a certain value, beyond the strictly monetary, to being waited upon, being served, and not having to do the labor of prepping, cooking and cleaning up. Even in today’s economy, families still enjoy a night out every now and then.

Here are some ways to get the most bang for your buck while enjoying a night of good food, relaxation and family time.

  • Be sure to choose restaurants offering “free" or "discounted" kids’ meals. Most chain restaurants have such a program. Some offer entertainment in the form of a cartoon character or in the case of Applebee's, a clown who makes balloon animals. (Restaurants listed below offer FREE kids meals unless otherwise noted.)

Tuesday: Applebee’s ($2.99 meal), Perkins

Thursday: Perkins (character night)

Friday: IHOP

Sunday: Fiesta Ole (with locations in Emmaus and at 2955 Linden Street in Bethlehem), Boston’s (with character), Dickey’s BBQ Pit (3221 Schoenersville Road, Bethlehem)

Everyday: Pizza Hut (under 3 is always free)

Each restaurant has different restrictions and requirements, so make sure to check them out before you go.

  • Use to save big bucks. For just a few dollars, you can purchase gift certificates to your favorite local restaurants and pay a fraction of what you’d typically pay. Once you buy a gift certificate, you'll receive further discount offers, worth up to as much as 90 percent off future Restaurant.com purchases. 
  • Invest in a local coupon book such as KidStuff or Entertainment. Most schools sell these in the fall as fundraisers. For a few bucks up front, you can save a bundle throughout the year. Before going out to dinner, flip through the coupons and decide on your destination based on the best savings for your family.
  • Watch the local ads and coupon magazines for coupons to restaurants. For example, Perkins often publishes ads offering discounts on meals. Valpak and Coupon Clipper offer great local discounts to restaurants. Also, check restaurants' websites for specials and printable coupons.
  • Be smart about your dining out. You don’t need to order appetizers, desserts and fancy drinks to have a nice dining experience. Keep it simple. Order your entrée and get water with lemon rather than a soft drink or iced tea (these beverages can sometimes cost upwards of $3).

Every dollar adds up. Sticking to the basics will allow you and your family the opportunity to eat out more regularly.

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