Don't bust the budget on your next family outing. Check out this list of awesome places where kids eat free no matter where you are in the US.
The average cost of raising a child in the United States has reached $233,610, and the average household income in the U.S. was just $73,298. Having just one child takes a very sizable chunk out of your years over the course of 17 years.
Now, imagine you have multiple children, and you're a single parent whose income falls below the average. Successfully raising a child suddenly seems to be almost impossible.
Suffice it to say, with the dire financial straits we're in, everyone is feeling constricted. But we're here to help you pinch a penny where you can, so that you and your kids have more financial freedom.
22 Places Where Kids Eat Free
Of that $233,610 mentioned above, 18% are expenses related to food. But it doesn't have to be that. There are ways to be frugal with your food spending, and one of them is to dine at establishments where kids eat free.
We've compiled a list of the best, most kid-friendly restaurants below. Let this be your local guide.
It seems like you always find a youth baseball team having a group dinner every time you step inside a Beef's. This is for good reason, because many locations offer free meals for kids on Tuesdays from 4-8 PM. Your mileage may vary on this tip though, as it isn't explicit company-wide policy, so just check in with your closest location before you stop in expecting to chow down.
Their kids menu offers the usual staples: grilled cheese, quesadillas, hand-breaded chicken tenders, cheeseburgers and more. Each kids entree also comes with a side of french fries, cole slaw, broccoli, celery sticks, apple sauce, or potato chips.
Bennigan's policy is more straightforward. On Mondays, kids eat free if you purchase an adult entree.
Bennigan's kids menu offers slightly healthier options including grilled shrimp and chicken caesar salad.
Similar to Beef's, kids eat free at Denny's every Tuesday from 4-10 PM. As an added bonus, Denny's provides free meals to anyone of any age if you go on your birthday. Make sure to bring valid ID, though!
Denny's kids menu includes a luxurious cinnamon crunch pancakes, french toast, chicken kebabs, a build-your-own-grandslam option, as well as a rich cake batter milkshake.
If you have a child (or children) under 10 and under, you definitely want to head over to Cody's, where kids eat free on Mondays and Tuesdays with the purchase of an adult entree. They're actually extra generous over there, allowing up to two kids to eat per one adult entree.
Cody's kids menu includes a cheeseburger, Kraft mac & cheese, chicken tenders, shrimp on a stick, pepperoni pizza, a corn dog, a pulled pork sandwich, and a grilled chicken sandwich with cheese.
Okay, this one is sort of out of left field, but IKEA makes some seriously good food! Have you had their meatballs? On Tuesdays, kids eat free. You can treat your kids to some fine Swedish dining with the purchase of one adult entree.
Steak 'n' Shake is looking out for all the weekend warriors. Instead having their deals on some random Tuesday night like the rest of these blokes, Steak 'n' Shake lets kids eat free all weekend as long as you make a purchasing total $9 dollars or more.
Their kids menu offers a steakburger, mini corn dogs, mac & cheese, grilled cheese as well as chicken fingers and fries.
Welcome to Moe's! On Tuesdays kids 12 and under get a free kids meal with the purchase of an adult entree over $5. The kids meal includes mini burritos and quesadillas, as well as a cookie and a small drink.
From 5 PM to close, kids eat free at Ruby Tuesday. Kids can choose to eat at the salad bar or eat off the kids menu which includes mini cheeseburger sliders or tomato-basil pasta. Of course, this deal only comes with the purchase of one adult entree. Also, did you know Ruby Tuesday was named after the Rolling Stones song? Pretty neat.
Like Dairy Queen, Firehouse Subs are independently franchised, so they have no uniform policy. But the brand is well known for giving discounts to first responders and having Kids Eat Free Nights! Just call your local location before taking the drive over.
Of course, Firehouse is known for making behemoth subs, which are usually much too large for children. Their kids menu boasts smaller versions of the classics they offer including hot meatball, turkey and provolone as well as ham and swiss. Lastly, the kids that may not like subs, they offer a grilled cheese sandwich. Each meal also includes a 12 oz. drink, a dessert and a kid-sized fire hat to take home.
The famous International House of Pancakes has been generous enough to offer all-you-can-eat pancakes to adults as well as free-meal-deals to kids every day from 4 to 10 PM. The hours are subject to change, though, so just check with your local IHOP first.
IHOP also a pretty robust kids menu, offering a breakfast sandwich, silver dollar pancakes with eggs and bacon, a chicken and waffles combo, as well as french toast with Nutella.
For those of you that live in the American South, Ghengis Grill is a great place to bring your kids on Tuesdays, where kids eat free with the purchase of an adult entree.
Ghengis' hearty "Khan's Kidz" menu offers teriyaki fried rice, chicken lo mein, macaroni and cheese as well as a small build-your-own-bowl option.
If you're fortunate enough to have been to a Dickey's before, you probably already know about their free soft-serve ice cream station. But did you know that you can get one free kids meal with a $10 purchase?
Out of all the restaurants listed so far, Dickey's might offer the most generous portions on their kids menu. Their menu has four options: A kids meat plate that comes with your choice of meat, a roll, and a side of your choosing, a slider plate that offers the same but on a sandwich, as well as chicken nuggets and grilled cheese.
This one is just for the folks living in Florida and Georgia: kids eat free at 4 Rivers every Monday through Wednesday with the purchase of an adult entree. Anyone who's been before can attest, this is the best barbecue in town.
Their "lil bites" menu is also pretty expansive for a kids menu. They offer 9 options: brisket, turkey or pulled pork sliders, 1/4 of a roast chicken, hot dogs, quesadillas, chicken tenders, or simply, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
This is probably the most generous offer on this entire list. Per purchase of one adult entree, up to 4 kids eat free as long as they're 12 or under. You don't even have to be a guest at the hotel either!
This is location-dependent, but at most Applebee's, kids eat free (or for only 99 cents) on Mondays and Tuesdays. Just be sure to check with your nearest location first.
Applebees' kids menu offers mini cheeseburgers and hamburgers, as well as top sirloin steak, chicken tenders, chicken grillers, and grilled cheese, as well as a few more items.
Though you may have some qualms about the, uh... decor in Hooters, they do offer some kids-eat-free deals from time to time. Last year they offered free meals to kids on Tax Day Weekend. It's worth checking in with your nearest location to see what kind of deals they'll be offering this year.
Hooters give kids something of their own to gawk at, offering burgers, wings, chicken strips, hot dogs, and corn dogs on their kids menu.
If you live near a Fazoli's it probably holds a cherished place in your heart. There are plenty of fast-casual Italian restaurant chains, but Fazoli's is probably the only Italian fast food restaurant chain in American. What's more, on Tuesday nights they offer kids meals for just 99 cents with the purchase of an adult entree.
Fazoli's kids menu offers all of the same traditional Italian staples it offers to adults. At Fazoli's your child can eat classic fettuccine, spaghetti with red sauce, as well as penne, ravioli, tortellini, rotini, and slices of pizza if they wish.
Kids aged 10 and under eat free on Sundays at Slim's with the purchase of an adult entree. With 50 locations in 11 states, there's a decent chance you live close by.
Slim Chickens just offers one item on their kids menu: a kids tender meal. It comes with two chicken tenders (fried or grilled), Texas toast, applesauce or fries, 1 dipping sauce and your choice of soft drink.
Harold and Kumar famously went to White Castle, and it turns out your kids can too! Kids eat free from 4-8 PM on Sundays with the adult purchase of a meal over $4.
White Castle's "My Size" kids menu feature a choice of cheese, savory, or original grilled chicken slider or a 3-piece chicken ring order, as well as your choice of applesauce or french fries.
This beloved fast-food chain offers free meals for kids under 10 years old in exchange for the purchase of one adult entree.
Red Robin has one of the biggest kids menus on this list, featuring hamburgers, mac and cheese, meatballs kebabs, corn dog bites, "swirly twirly pasta," friend chicken tenders, grilled chicken tenders, and cod-fish sticks, fried and battered.
As an extra generosity, their kids menu also offers bottomless drinks and sides, like orange juice and broccoli, so that your little one can really fill up.
Want to find a place to watch the big game and eat frugally at the same time? Buffalo Wild Wings is your spot. On Wednesday nights, kids can get a meal for just $1.99 with the purchase of an adult entree. It's not quite free, but it's close enough.
The Buffalo Wild Wings kids menu offers all the traditional staples the adult menu has like traditional hot wings, boneless wings, and cheeseburgers, as well as grilled chicken tenders, mac & cheese, and mini corn dogs.
On Tuesdays, kids 12 and under eat for free all summer long! Purchase of an adult entree required.
Last but not least, the famed pizza chain, Pizza Hut, lets kids eat free all day on Tuesdays as long as an entree-buying adult is present.
Pizza Hut's kids meals typically include your choice of pizza, salad, ice cream, and a drink.
Any one of the restaurants on this list should have you and your little one stuffed to the brim.
But there are plenty of other ways to eat cheaply. Some you can take advantage of without ever leaving the house for dinner. You can get hooked on couponing at the grocery store. You can buy in bulk from warehouse stores like Costco or Sam's club. A lot of food delivery services like Blue Apron offer tremendous discounts for first-time buyers.
It may look like your financial situation may be catastrophic, but with enough diligence, you can pinch enough pennies to adequately feed your family and perhaps save some money on the side to save for investments.
One moment you may be eating for free in an Applebee's, but in the blink of an eye you could have enough money saved to start a stock portfolio! Then you'll really be rolling in cash.
Or you could save your money to take the family on a great vacation this year. That'll really score you points with your little monsters. You'll even be pleased to know that Disney World is offering free dining plans to kids all Summer this year.
If you need any more parenting tips and tricks, check out the rest of our blog. It's chock-full useful information for parents!