Going Out to Dinner; Oh, and My Toddler and Infant are Coming Too

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As summer comes close to an end and the school year quickly approaches, every parent is wondering the same thing….”Will the video of my happy dance, as my kid boards the school bus, break the internet?” While some videos will, most parents have a better chance of breaking a hip!  But in all seriousness, there are a million things parents begin to think of as the school year approaches; if you have more than one kid, the list is even longer.  The good news is that there is a ton of very good advice out there that can help the overwhelmed parent.  If your are looking for some great advice on meal planning, saving some dollars or an awesome Back to School Breakfast idea, check out this Eat Drink and Save Money Blog Post.  It’s super easy, quick, and you AND the kids will love it.

And while planning every meal is without a doubt going to help reduce your stress levels, sometimes there is nothing more you want to do then go out to eat.  I get it.  All the time you spent planning every meal, for the entire week has led to the day where you would like to sit and have someone else cook you dinner.  I know what you’re thinking- I’ll just order takeout. We can’t go out with the toddler. We will never eat. It’s just a waste of money because my kid never eats what we order for them and only wants to eat our food.  These are all very legit thoughts.  But if you are anything like me and enjoy dining out, hopefully by the end of this post, you put your worries aside and take the entire family, TODDLER AND LITTLE ONE TOO, to the hot new dining spot in your city…carefree.

Try Brunch 

You’ve already planned for most of the week, right? I’m not here to tell you to throw away all that hard work; but now that it’s the weekend, this is the chance to dine out and what better way than hitting up a Brunch spot.  Bruch is  perfect. You get the best of breakfast and lunch!  If your toddler is a picky eater, brunch offers you more options.  I mean, how many times have you tried to go to dinner only for your toddler to tell you they want pancakes!

What’s also great about Brunch is that many of the nicer places you would want to go for dinner will likely offer Brunch during the weekends.  So what better way to try the new hot spot?  And as if you did not already know, Brunch is generally  cheaper than adult dinner entrée options.

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Our Little One Got all Fancy for Brunch at Marchand’s Bar, located in the Vinoy Resort in St. Pete, Fl

DAD ADVICE 1– if you can, ask for seating outside.  As parents, we know for sure that our toddlers and children leave a mess.  Somehow, every child between the ages of 2 and 6 is wired the same way- 1/4 of the food in the mouth and 3/4ths of the food on the floor, on their clothes, on your clothes, on another diner!  Eating outdoors, at the very least, means the kid can be a little louder and a little messier without so much worry.  I’m not saying you still shouldn’t pick up after your toddler– PLEASE PICK UP AFTER YOUR TODDLER; but compared to chocolate milk all over the nice table cloth or carpets inside,  chocolate milk on the outdoor floors and tables won’t be so bad.  Hell, you may have a better view outside too!

 You’ve Got 99 Toddler Problems… Money Dining Out With Your Little One Shouldn’t Be One

So maybe you’re weekends are busier than your weekdays.  Now a days, that is definitely true.  Swim practice, soccer practice, birthday parties, church— I mean the weekend event list is HUGE.  So maybe trying a “dine out night out” during the week is a better option.  You may end up saving even more money going this route because of the different options/specials restaurants offer during the week that they do not offer on weekends!

First– several restaurants always have a day when they are running a kids eat free deal.  Sometimes, no adult purchase is necessary, while other times it is.  Check your local restaurants to see what kids eat free options are available since they do change.  If you are ever in the New Tampa/Wesley Chapel area, Union 72 (one of my favorite BBQ places) has been offering a kids eat free special on Tuesday evenings!


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… no, I’m not suggesting you go get hammered and bring your toddler or infant with you.  But if you haven’t heard, Happy Hour is no longer specials on drinks only; many places now offer several food selections on a Happy Hour Menu.  It will be cheaper and just as good as if you order it any other time.  Happy Hour is also NO LONGER ONE HOUR.  It seems that some places offer Happy Hour for a few hours if not for most of the day.

Third– So you can’t make it on a day where kids eat free OR during Happy Hour.  Maybe the restaurant that you want to try doesn’t offer either of these things- well aren’t you FANCY!  But that’s okay.  Now, many fancy restaurants offer “snack plates” or “small plates”.  Let me tell you about these “snack plate” “small plate” options.  You are not getting a plate full of Cheetos.  You get very good food at a very reasonable price.  Don’t believe me, check out the menu at Haven in Tampa, Florida. And if you didn’t know, Haven is one of the Bern’s Steakhouse Company dining locations- and if you haven’t heard of Bern’s Steakhouse in Tampa, contact me immediately, we will make dinner reservations and you can thank me later 🙂

DAD ADVICE 2– don’t forget about appetizers and sides.  If your toddler is a mac and cheese eater, skip the kid’s meal option and order the side option!  Does your kid like chicken tenders but never finishes an entire kids meal?   Maybe ordering the appetizer option of tenders is the better route; at least you can have some too!.  Better yet, some of these options will be an awesome way to sneak in vegies!  With restaurants serving things like Buffalo Cauliflower or avocado fries, it makes it much easier for a kid to eat their veggies (maybe ask for the buffalo sauce on the side).  The take away- we sometimes overlook appetizers and sides as kid entrée substitutes.  Don’t make that mistake!

It is More Important Than You Think

This, to me, is the most important thing to remember.  There are tons of studies about the benefits of eating with your children, especially at a young age.  This Washington Post Article does a good job discussing the studies and health benefits.  But to me, it is much simpler than that: its getting to spend time with your little one before they grow up and it becomes “embarrassing”.  It’s experiencing that time of surprise/happiness when your little one eats an entire cup of German Sauerkraut Soup (yes, my toddler did this when she was a little over 1).  Our children will always surprise us; often times in positive ways that we didn’t think would happen.

Dine out, eat with your toddlers and little ones.. it won’t be the end of the world.  Heck, you all may end up with a full belly and happy!

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Want to see more of my dining adventures when I go out to dinner with my little trouble makers, Follow me on Instagram @outnumberedfather and like the Facebook Page http://www.facebook.com/outnumberedfather.

Feeling outnumbered, don’t forget to tag @outnumberedfather or #outnumberedfather. “Reminding all parents that together, we can take back control of the living room. Since 2018.”

4 thoughts on “Going Out to Dinner; Oh, and My Toddler and Infant are Coming Too

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