Raising kids today might just be the most expensive job you’ll ever love.
From the moment a child was born in 2013 until the day he or she flies the nest, the average parent will spend $245,340 on child-rearing costs, according to a study from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Many parents probably secretly wonder if half of those expenses go to food alone!
No doubt, feeding your offspring is expensive — the third priciest aspect of raising kids, after housing and child care/education, according to the USDA. Costs are especially likely to be high if your family likes to frequent restaurants.
But if you plan your schedule carefully, you can get free or very low-cost meals for your children by visiting a restaurant on the night that it offers a kids special.
It is crucial to remember that these deals change quickly and may not be around forever. In addition, offers vary by location and may not be available in all regions. So,it is best to call ahead and check with your nearby location.
But as of right now, the following nine restaurants offer low- or no-costs dinners for children at least one day of every week.
Want a break from weeknight cooking? Grab the family and head to Denny’s on Tuesdays between 4 and 10 p.m. You can enjoy a mouthwatering Spicy Siracha Burger or decadent Country-Fried Steak while your little ones enjoy popular menu items like chocolate chip pancakes, cheeseburgers and mac & cheese for free at participating locations.
Find a Denny’s near you.
Craving beef brisket, pulled pork and melt-in-your-mouth ribs? Enjoy them every week at Dickey’s Barbecue Pit. On “Kids Eat Free Sundays,” you’ll receive a free kid’s meal of equal or lesser value for every adult meal you purchase. And you get to keep the cups. It’s a barbecue bargain!
Find a Dickey’s near you.
Tuesday night is Family Night at this fast, fresh Italian restaurant. That means you can purchase two kids meals for only 99 cents each. OK, that’s not technically “free” — but it’s danged close! Kids will also enjoy Spaghetti Smarts, a new and enhanced program designed to help improve “kids’ cognitive, spatial and creative skills.”
Find a Fazoli’s near you.
Who doesn’t love a “piping hot and piled high” sub? Hot subs, cold subs, under-500-calorie subs, salads and sides — this sandwich chain, which supports first responders, has it all. And your kids can score a free meal when you dine there. Contact your local restaurant to see which night kids eat free.
Find a Firehouse Subs near you.
Offering a Lemon Blueberry Pie Pancake Platter, Spicy Cajun Mahi Mahi and everything in between, Marie Callender’s serves up its trademark “Home Cooked Happiness” in states such as California, Nevada, Utah and Texas.
If you’re fortunate enough to live near this family friendly restaurant and bakery, drop in on a Tuesday or Saturday for a free kids meal with each adult entree you purchase. And don’t forget to order one of their legendary pies.
Find a Marie Callender’s near you.
Pizza is always a crowd pleaser, especially when it’s free. Pizza Hut offers up to two free kids Personal Pan Pizzas or ice pops with any menu-priced medium or large pie. The only caveats? Your kiddos have to be 10 and under and you have to dine on a Tuesday. Now that’s an offer we can sink our teeth into!
Find a Pizza Hut near you.
If you live near a Ruby Tuesday, you’re in luck. And not just because their expansive menu offers tasty items like Thai Phoon Shrimp, Double Decker Chicken and their famous, fall-off-the-bone Baby-Back Ribs.
Every Tuesday from 5 p.m. to close, kids eat free with the purchase of an adult entree. Tuesday may just become your favorite day of the week!
Find a Ruby Tuesday near you.
Applebee’s is another American family favorite, but you will have to do a little hunting to find the free meal for your children at this chain.
Applebee’s spokesperson Tom Linafelt tells Money Talks News that all Applebee’s restaurants are owned and operated by 33 different franchisees. Some of them offer free kids meals, while others offer children’s meals at 99 cents. You will need to call your local Applebee’s to find out its policy.
Find an Applebee’s near you.
If you’ve ever shopped at Ikea — the famed Scandinavian chain that sells ready-to-assemble furniture – you’ve probably seen plenty of couples with kids in tow, walking the winding pathways.
Ikea also offers a restaurant. On Tuesdays, you can get two free meals for kids 12 and under for each adult entrée you purchase. Do a little shopping and follow it up with dinner, all in the same convenient location.
Find an Ikea near you.
Do you know of other restaurants that offer weekly free meals for kids? Share your tips in our Forums. It’s a place where you can swap questions and answers on money-related matters, life hacks and ingenious ways to save.