Feeling like a special night with the family, but just can't afford it?  Put your coupon stockpile to work!

Ever since I started couponing, I can barely force myself to go out to a restaurant for dinner.  Our family loves to go out to eat.  We especially like to go to Red Robin – from the freckled lemonade to the bottomless fries!  But with five kids, we'd spend over $50 just for one meal.  To me, that's just too expensive.  And if we wanted to go to a movie on top of that, we'd end up spending $100 or more!

I love spending quality time with my kids, but our money is always tight and couponing has been our saving grace.  It is what keeps us from not having food in our home – so I came up with a way to make the "normal family dinner" feel like something special.

Play Restaurant

What we do is pick a restaurant that we like to go out to and then recreate it in our home!  I pick our favorite items from that restaurant, search the internet for recipes (they are all over the place), and then hit the stockpile. I look for how I can recreate the restaurant food and environment for cheap.  I look for what my family loves about the restaurant and find a way to make it.


Search the Internet for Recipes

There are dozens of websites available that list full recipes for all your favorite restaurants. Here are a few sites I've found:

Set the Menu

My family loves the Banzai Burger – which comes with grilled pineapple on it – and the Royal Red Robin Burger – which comes with a fried egg.  So, when I plan the menu, I offer a few different types of burgers.  And, of course, no trip to Red Robin would be complete without the bottomless fries!  I find coupons and buy a couple bags of fries, or sometimes I just find a deal on bags of potatoes and cut them up myself.  Just find items that you have in your coupon stockpile and make it work.


Set the Mood

If you want, you can choose to create and print a menu featuring the dinner items you have created.  Or, to save even more money, use pens and crayons to make your own menu from scratch.  Next, set the table to resemble the restaurant.  You can go down to your local newspaper, buy newsprint remnant rolls, roll it out over your dinner table, and turn your table into a coloring station. You could also print up coloring sheets from many sources online.  If the restaurant wraps their food in paper, wrap yours in paper too. Try to recreate the environment as much as possible.  Most times, I'll have one of my kids act as waiter or waitress.  Everyone has to go outside and act like they're coming into a restaurant.  I even talk to them differently and act like I am their chef instead of just mom.

Our kids totally love it and you can have a great time without breaking the bank.

 After dinner, pop some popcorn in the microwave (you can get it for next to nothing with the right coupons), get some candy from your stash, grab a few Redbox movies (or hit up Netflix), and settle in for a great time.  The seats are more comfortable, you can pause the movie if (when) your kids have to go potty, and you save a ton of money.

This has been a guest post by Becky from Pendleton, OR
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