Living with credit

Be a rebel — order from the kids’ menu

Emily Crone

As I’ve previously bemoaned, it’s not easy to be young and on a tight budget. I’ve learned many lessons about money management since I graduated from college last May, including ways to live more frugally and increase savings. Today I picked up a new trick that helps trim both the waistline and credit card bill, and I think it’s worth sharing.

I’m a small person. Just under 5 feet 2 inches, to be exact, and on the slender side. Most dishes I order at restaurants, regardless of how casual or fancy, contain twice the amount of food I can possibly eat. American portions continue to grow, which may partially explain the obesity epidemic. While it’s nice to almost always have leftovers, many times I really wish I could just pay less for half the portion. It’s not fair to assume all Americans have a Herculean appetite. My 6-foot-2-inch boyfriend does, but us “wee people,” as I’m often affectionately categorized, often do not, and certainly do not enjoy paying so much for the massive portions.

So today when I was ordering lunch to go at Pei Wei, a casual Asian restaurant, I took a long look at the menu. Did I really want to spend $9 on an entree I could only eat half of? I looked at the kids’ menu and saw that teriyaki chicken was $3.75, or $4.25 with a drink! Very tempting. Yet the words “for children 12 and under” floated above the children’s menu. Would they care? It was time to find out.

Sure enough, when I asked for a kid’s meal, the person behind the register didn’t bat an eye. Granted, the drink cup was quite small, but who really needs all those empty soda calories anyway? While the teriyaki chicken portion was large (I didn’t finish it), it came with just rice and chicken, and the adult’s portion has veggies. But I threw in a delicious edamame appetizer for $2.95, which gave me my veggie fix and my co-workers a nice afternoon snack (and still cost less than an adult meal). Plus, because the portion was small and reasonable, I wasn’t tempted to overeat. Some people feel like they must eat until the food is gone. If you’re one of those people, ordering from the kids’ menu may be a great new way to save money and keep your figure.

I should mention that I was at my orthodontist’s office right before my Pei Wei visit, and the first thing the he said to me was, “How’s school?” I know I look young, but I definitely do not look 12 or under. So if you are constantly racking up expensive meal purchases on your credit card (which I do, since I live alone and don’t like to spend the effort of cooking just for myself), I encourage you to give this a try. Ignore the fine print. Be a rebel and order from the kid’s menu! If they say no, just order appetizers or split an entree with someone. If they say yes and you find the portion filling enough, your credit card bill and your tummy may find themselves a little less bloated in the future.

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  • Elle

    Great idea- I will try it!

  • Carrie

    Interesting thought… however most restaurants will not let you order from the children’s menu. I have tried this at many different restaurants and the majority will not let me. Consider yourself lucky that this restaurant did.

  • Thanks for your comment, Carrie. I wonder if they were more willing to give it to me because it was a to go order, and they had no way of verifying who was actually going to eat it?

  • Kevin Anderson

    I don’t see what the hell the big deal is all about. If it’s on the damn menu and it’s normal portion sized (I’m 6’3″ btw) as opposed to “obese normal” size (which most foods are), why not just let me order it?
    I’m not ordering it to be cheap, but I’m only ordering it because it’s well proportioned. I just had a fat ass owner of the restaurant I went to say, “Normally we don’t allow it. I’ll let you do it this time only, but never again. This time only, never again. Okay? Okay?”
    I ordered an appetizer and the kids meal. Had I ordered the normal entree (which could feed 3), it would have been wasted. I’ve been on the fat end of the spectrum and if I wanted to gain that weight back again, I’d eat the damn large portion.
    But people who say no to me (I’m 27 btw) ordering a kid’s meal because of portion control, are just plain rude. 🙁

  • Cj Smith

    Order kid’s meals TO GO. They cannot question you then, and you won’t have to tip, if you don’t want to. I know it defeats the point, of eating out, and eating a modest meal there, but, is IS a way to get a reasonably priced meal, without having to cook it. If I were a restaurant, and wanted people’s money & tips, I’d let the customer order what THEY actually want to eat, vs. not ordering at all.