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Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Five Road Food Rules

Now that we are a family of six, I've gotten more stingy with how much I am willing to spend on road food. I call fast food "road food" by the way. I know fast food is so bad for us and even worse for the children. But, you're on the road, it's mealtime, hungry kids are whining, and you see McDonalds on the horizon. It's inevitable. We are going to eat road food from time to time.

What made me start making road food rules was when we got our $27 ticket at that said McDonalds. We all got some sort of individualized meal that was marketed so well on the menu. They make it all seem like it's a value and you are getting a deal if you buy the value meals. Well advertising is a beast and should not be trusted in the face of a hungry consumer. Especially one with screaming kids. I want to just throw money at them by that point. "Take everything I have, just give me food and give it to me quick!" But it was getting expensive. I was spending just as much at that McDonalds as I did at our family's favorite Mexican resturaunt. I needed a better plan of attack. If I'm spending $27, I don't want it to be for bad road food that's fast and full of all the stuff we don't want in our bodies. It is not worth it. So, after some trial runs I made up some road food rules. I thought I would share just in case any other families happen to find themselves at one of these fast food places on the road (you know you will)!

1. Ditch the happy meal/ kids meal system. Unless its truly cost efficient, don't bring another plastic toy into your life! And those pre-sliced apples that never go brown scare me. How are they preserved?

2. Split the value meals. Not everyone may want or need the large fries or the soda. Also, think about it from the standpoint of portion control. We truly don't need that big of an order of French fries do we? Not for one person.

3. Use the value or the dollar menu. It's bad food. Might as well be cheap. Don't buy a $7 salad from a road food place! Buy the dollar hamburger and move on. Eat healthy at home or at a place where the salads are good and worth $7.

4. Order water as much as possible and not the sodas. Especially for the kids. My kids don't even know sodas are available at these places. You can stop at a gas station and get a much cheaper soda if needed. (Unless its a Sonic soda which I can't resist at happy hour).

5. Stick to the classics. You'll find that the tried and true items on the menu that have been on there for a long time are usually the cheapest and the safest bet that they will be at least edible.

Here's an example of how my family of six ate at McDonald's for $9. (Really it was five because we are not including the infant who is still nursing).

I ordered my husband and I cheeseburgers from the dollar menu. I ordered my oldest daughter (age 7) a hamburger (plain with mustard) from the dollar menu. I ordered the 10 piece chicken nuggets value meal for my middle daughter (age 6) and son (22 months) to split. I ordered an extra dollar menu fries. My middle daughter doesn't like fries so I split the small fries between my son and oldest daughter. My husband and I split the larger fries and one of us got the soda that came with the meal. The rest got water to drink. Everyone was happy and satisfied. And it kept us all until we could take the time to make and eat some real food (at home later on). Now it took a few times to break the kids of their needs for happy meals, etc. But, the easiest way I did this was not going through the drive thru. My husband lets me out and I say, "I'm going in to get our food and I know what everyone likes". And be done with it. No room for whining. That's easiest when you have both parents on board at the time. It takes some getting used to either way for the kids but they get over it. It's not life or death. In the end, my road food rules have made these places less desirable for everyone which was my goal. Even if you are not on a budget like me, or even if you don't have as many kids as me, do you really want to spend that much for road food that's not going to make you feel very well afterwards anyway?

Stay tuned and I'll soon tell you how we order at real restaurants with our children to keep it cheap. I'm still perfecting that one.


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