Can a family of five eat out for less than $15?

Cash Register

We are a family of five and never thought we would find a place to eat out for less than $15 and it not be the $1 menu at McDonalds.

We rarely go out to eat, but a friend of ours told us about a restaurant where we could get a full dinner that would feed all five of us for super cheap. He told us that he regularly takes his wife and son to Johnny Carino's, a "country" Italian restaurant chain, where every Monday they order a family portion entree and pay just the single entree price.

That sounded too promising to pass up, and since this week was both my son's 11th birthday and our 14th wedding anniversary we decided to "splurge" by eating out. We had to go into town for grocery shopping anyway, so we just went a little early to eat at Johnny Carino's last night.

We ordered their baked lasagna, and while we waited for the lasagna we enjoyed the salad and endless bread that came with the meal. Although we were nearly full with the bread and salad by the time the meal came, we did manage to finish off the entire lasagna. In the end, all five of us were more than satisfied and our total bill was just $11.85! I gave the waitress a $3 tip and we left having spent less than $15 on a sit-down dinner for five…and there weren't even dishes to wash afterwards!

We just might have to make this a monthly tradition. Our family of 5 ate for less than $15 including the tip.

UPDATED: Based on some of the comments I have received accusing me of stiffing the waitress, I feel I need to explain a bit further. Our total bill came to around $19 before the family entree discount was applied. I left over a 15% tip based on that pre-discounted price. I usually tip more than that, but this waitress brought us dirty plates to eat on not once, but twice. I feel that leaving the $3 tip was both fair and appropriate.





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  1. ferrarohome says

    YOu can erase this if you want….

    but I just want to say I love your blog…but I am a little upset you would tip a waitress only 3 dollars for 5 people!!!

    I wait tables at night so that my husband can finish his masters degree….I would be so mad if I only made 3 dollars on a table that would require a lot of work. You should tip on work not just on total bill! I don't like working "kids eat free" night for htis reason. People just don't know how to tip. You should tip on what the meal would have cost you if it hadn't been a "special".

    That poor lady maybe trying to feed her kids on 2.13 an hour.

    This post just made me so sad for that lady.


  2. says

    Wow! That is so cool to purchase a "family" entree. Cost effective to. I do think that the tip should have been a little more. I would have actually evened it out to 20 dollars for a family of five. I know that it almost as much as you spent for the food, but think how much it would have cost at full price for each of your family….plus it would be a nice thing to do for the waitress being generous.


  3. yestheyareallmine says

    That is a fantastic price for all of you!

    I read the comments above about the tip, and while having been a waitress myself, the size of the tip depends on the quality of the job she does. If she earned a $3 tip then she earned a $3 tip. I would hate for you to feel bad because you left her what you felt she earned.

    We have a local restaurant that lets children 12 and under eat free Monday nights. That is fantastic for our family. We don't base the tip on the amount of the bill but rather the waitress. Sometimes it can be as high as 10 (absolutely awesome, no empty tea glasses and a little extra) or as little none. We had one waitress who was so bad we had to do everything for ourselves. That was bad!

    I am not trying to dispute the comments above just voice the other side of the tipping issue. So many people really are bad tippers while other times it is a bad waitress or waiter.


  4. jean miller says

    Happy Anniversary guys and Happy Birthday to Jaden & Joely. As for the thinking on the tip I agree that when you yourself have to find this kind of a deal to eat out leaving what you did is perfectly acceptable, So tired of guilt being put on the customer and not the employer.


  5. runningamuck says

    NO WAY!!! I think Hubby has eaten there before but I haven't yet. We are definitely following your lead and checking this out. How awesome was that family time, out of the house and under $15??!!! Thanks for passing along the info.

    And happy belated anniversary, and birthday. =0)


  6. Connie says

    There is a standard rule of thumb whenever you take advantage of a special. This applies whether it is buy one get one, kids eat free, a coupon you are using or whatever. You always tip according to the price the meal would have been without the special. If your service was not up to par you can deduct from there. I have left no tip on two occasions when the service was pretty much non-existent. We got our food but had to complain to get it and refills, no way. Not great service gets a deduction. Very good service gets extra.
    As for jean miller's comment, if the restaurant paid a living wage our prices on the food would probably triple. Also, are you aware that a waitress is taxed based on a baseline number of what she should have received as a tip based on the bill? The argument that it is the employer's fault about the pay is usually used by people who don't tip well. BTW, I have never worked as a waitress.


    Joy Reply:

    @Connie, Several people commented, implying that I stiffed the waitress by leaving only a $3 tip on our meal. I did figure our tip based on the original price of the meal, pre-coupon, which was around $19. I left over a 15% tip on that amount (15% on $19 would have been $2.85). I would have left a higher tip, except she brought us dirty plates twice. I felt that leaving the tip I left her was more than fair.


    Roxanna Reply:

    Unless you have been a waitress alot of people think waitress/waiters get paid min. wage in reality this is suppose to be true if the 2:15 an hour plus tips do not equal min wage the employer is suppose to make up the difference but most do not and most servers do not know this to argue it out.
    And if you had bad service you should not have to tip on that ,that should be left to the employer to make up not you.


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