Saturday, 21 November 2009

Eating out with Kids... cheaply!

Top Ender and Baby Boy love to go out to eat. It doesn't matter if it is a Sandwich in the park, a picnic at the lake, dinner in a restaurant or a snack in a cafe. Anywhere that isn't home makes the food taste magically better and I know it isn't because of my cooking skills or my lack of culinary art!

It is because of their love of eating out that I have a list of places that we can go to where we can grab something to eat, not break the bank and not have to resort to McDonalds... although plenty of that is eaten at times! Here is the low down on where you will find me and family when we can't be bothered to cook!

Costco's restaurant is a marvellous thing. Pizza, Jacket Potato's, Salads, etc are sold at a fraction of the cost that you could get them at other restaurants and the portion sizes are bigger too. This does mean that a slice of pizza and a bit of Mummy and Daddy's Jacket potato or salad will feed both Top Ender and Baby Boy!

You can refill your fizzy drinks if you wish and the food is cooked so that you can see it being prepared as they have large glass windows down one side of the Kitchen. Of course if you don't want to eat in you can take the food away which is sometimes a plus as the small seating area gets very crowded!

The only issue that we have is it is Fizzy Drinks. Top Ender refuses to drink anything remotely fizzy and Baby Boy pulls a funny face if he steals a sip of Daddys drink! Mind you seeing as it is Costco's you could just go and pick up a family pack of squash or water from one of the aisles!

Ikea has not one but two places to eat, the restaurant and the Bistro. At the Bistro you can buy hot dogs, meatballs and chips as well as puddings and they will offer meal deals so buying a combination will work out cheaper too. Of course there are no chairs. just circular tables that are chest height to either lean or put your food on, with a ring further down the table leg for children to put their food on. Just don't get me started about the Ice Cream Machine...

Top Ender eating an Ikea breakfast

The restaurant is Top Enders favourite (and mine for a cheap full English breakfast!) and she will often beg to be taken there. They serve a kids menu and a main menu as well as having plenty of Swedish snack foods too. The Kids menu is comprised of pasta with sauce or a choice of fish (Haddock) or meatballs and you can choose if you want potatoes or chips with the latter two and with the fish you normally get a vegetable serving too. It is even better value on a Wednesday because it is half price for Meatballs! The Main menu is basically the same as the Kids menu but bigger portions and you can also choose a starter if you want such as Gravalax and occasionally the chef will add other seasonal Swedish food items to the menu.

An Ikea breakfast

And of course if you want to recreate it at home you can always stop by at the Swedish shop and buy Swedish foods. Not that I have done that ever... okay so several times including Top Enders 4th Birthday.

Top Ender eating Swedish Meatballs on her fourth birthday

Marks and Spencers cafe is at the upper part of our budget, but we do like it there as they always have gluten free and wheat free cakes out. This makes eating with Daddy a lot easier as if we just want to have a drink and snack it is nice to be able to have a choice rather than a packet of crisps. They tend to sell mostly Sandwiches, Jacket Potato's and Soup but they have been known in the past to sell other things!

The good thing about the M&S cafe's is that it gives me a chance to sit there in my best velvet voice saying things like;

"This isn't just any cafe table... this is an M&S cafe table."
or
"This isn't just any fork...this is an M&S fork."


I could go on for hours like that.

Sparks and Censor spoof of Marks and Spencer advert

Little Chef use to be a favourite of ours, we would often take Top Ender to one of the local restaurants for an ice cream or a meal. It is also great fun to go to Little Chef as I find the colouring pages particularly fun to do and you get a free lolly when you pay! Well maybe the kids do, but if I smile nicely I get one too.

Then there are the Supermarkets Cafes that you can find in most Tesco's, Asda's, Sainsburys and Morrisons. All have their charms and serve what you would expect from a Supermarket cafe and round here all of them are staffed with helpful staff members who will carry my tray to my table if I have Baby Boy and Top Ender on my own and the ladies in Tesco even came and cleared up for me when Baby Boy was a few weeks old and I was sat in the corner breastfeeding whilst Top Ender ate her sandwich!

So if you are ever in one of my local haunts pretend you don't know me, you will be safer that way!
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