March 4, 2009

The Dollar Menu

Last week, my mother-in-law (who was visiting from California) took my kids to Taco Bell and let them order anything that they wanted. The problem with this act of generosity is that now my children know that there is life beyond the dollar menu.

"I'll have a Chalupa and a Mexican Pizza," said Kellen when we got to the front of the line yesterday.

"They don't have those today," I replied. "You can have a Crunchy Taco or a Bean Burrito."

"But..." he started to say.
"Zzzzt!" I hissed, holding up my hand. "Taco or burrito?"

"Mexican pizza," he growled.
"A taco it is," I replied.

The wail of indignation could be heard in the parking lot.

The memory chips in my other two children must be broken because one went on to ask for an Enchirito and the other, a Crunchwrap Supreme.

I repeated the choices and after several pitiful sighs and a few loud groans, my daughter decided that she would take "the disgusting burrito."

"One disgusting burrito," I told the man behind the counter.

When I picked up my food, there was a bag of Cinnamon Twists on the tray.


"You look like you need them," the man said, with a smile.

After a quick glance at the overhead kiosk, I accepted the gift. Cinnamon Twists are on the dollar menu.

***
Do your kids know life beyond the dollar menu? Do you regulate what your kids can/cannot order from a restaurant menu? Clearly you already know my answer to these questions. Now I want to hear yours!

Also...if you're new to this website (from the contest website or somewhere else) welcome! I'm glad you're here! For further proof of my meanness, check out the "Readers' Favorites" link on the left sidebar.

90 comments

Denise said...

hahahahahahaha.

seriously. we have six kids and the KNOW that they cannot have it if it costs more than a dollar!

We are still at the stage of buying one value meal and splitting it among several children.

Now that I have ones that eat like adults, they know, eat quickly, or the little ones will take your food.

Mindy said...

I figure, when they can pay, then they can buy off the "regular" menu...but, I've noticed when it's their money...the dollar menu looks pretty good!

Anonymous said...

Oh my that is harsh. Lucky for me my kid loves the dollar menu burgers at mcdoanlds. My mom and mother in law are cheap so I lucky dont have to worry about that. However my mother in law dont listen for anything. Tell my daughte no candy right in front of her and what does she do. My husband got so mad having to punish our 2 year old for his mothers mess up.
Candy

Peggy said...

My 11 year old regularly orders from thte adult menu at any restaurant...but he eats it all so what are ya gonna do?

HW said...

There was no dollar menu when mine were little; However, I never let them make special orders at fast food restaurants. No hamburgers with ketchup only at McDonald's or taco with no lettuce at Taco Bell. They had to pick off the yucky stuff or leanr to like onions and lettuce.

Steph @ Diapers and Divinity said...

oooh, you are my partner in crime on this one. I do dollar menu all the way, or like Denise mentioned, get one value meal and split it between the three of them. I also take coupons. And when we go through the drive-thru I never get drinks or condiments. We can get that stuff at home. Now the lucky thing is, for now, they like what they like and don't stray much from their preferences. So I don't think mine would ever order anything fancy like an enchirito. What if it has weird stuff on it? :)

Jen said...

Unfortunately, yes they do. My oldest is nearly 13, so he's been able to outeat me for some time. Now he just looks at his father in distain when told that he can't have the most expensive value meal- and settles for the one with 2 cheeseburgers.

Housewife Savant said...

I love your blog. Every time.

We our fam is out I insist that no one gets a beverage. Water will suffice.
There'll be no dessert except on the rarest occasion.

On the other hand, I have one picky eater who wants Subway ham & cheese, and nothing else. Even their "Five-for-Five" deal makes that one ridiculously expensive sandwich.

Anonymous said...

I don't have to regulate b/c my son is such a picky eater he'll only eat ONE thing at only McDonald's (nugget happy meal) and Pizza Hut (drive through). :(

-Donna

AverageMom said...

We don't have menu problems. Our problem came when Girl Terror learned to read. Suddenly, she could SEE, clear as day, that the sign said "Open" even though I was insisting that the sushi place was "closed".

The Cranes said...

To my kids, McDs and Burger King are a treat (and they always pick which one according to the toys they are giving away that week). We don't do "Toxic Hell" because we went into our local one several years ago and it was filthy, so I will not eat there again. And I wouldn't want my kids to know another Dollar Menu actually exists...

Amanda said...

We have yet to venture to Taco Bell w/ my two, but we usually stick to chicken or burger. Both will inevitably ignore the "protein" on their plate and opt for the fries.

Jen said...

I'm lucky for now. My son is still young enough not to get a choice or care about it. He just eats whatever I hand him.

Alicia said...

I am a little oposite. My kid will only eat McDonalds Chicken nuggets. So I am left wishing she would eat something else of the regular menu!

Lolli said...

That's great. Our kids don't eat at McD's or Taco Bell much...only when Grandma's visiting. So they know no limits. They want it all and a toy.

April said...

totally relegated to the dollar (or less) menu. and even then, i usually have a coupon. LOL. I've been known to save the McNuggets box and refill nuggets from home. :-)

Lisa said...

It gets worse as they get older....We made the mistake of taking the girls to Ruth's Chris Steakhouse (we weren't paying) and they both fell in love with it. They kept asking when they could go back. I told them when they were old enough to date and they get it paid for by someone else! I say teach them to be gold diggers from the start. HA!

It is an adjustment when your child starts ordering off the adult menu!

Cuddles, Kisses & Tantrums said...

You mean there is a menu besides the dollar menu? We don't see that menu...ever. It's the dollar menu- take it or leave it! LOL

WriterGrrl said...

We keep kosher, so the dollar menus (and the fast food in general) are not options. On the RARE occasions when we take the kids out to dinner, we call in our order ahead of time, and we limit the kids' choices SEVERELY. That way, when we walk in, the food is ready, and they never even get to see the menu. Our kids hate us. We're ok with that.

Amy said...

Soooo funny! I like the "Zzzt." I say that, too, and DD4 repeats it. :) Love the dollar menu limit. I'll take the "disgusting" burrito myself any 'ole day.

As for my girls, if they don't like tacos, too bad!

Then again, they know they don't get "treats" like fast food very often, and they don't complain (too) loudly.

emily said...

uhhhh, no. they don't. the kids get pb&j at home when we go out because whatever we order, they don't end up eating, regardless of how much they wanted it during the ordering process.

kori bates said...

You better believe that I do!!

Sarah said...

Luckily my kids can't read yet, so although I think that they know that I am lying to them about what is available, they can't really do much about it. I also tell them no all the time if someplace is stupid enough to have pictures on the menu and they try to pick something out that way. Now, if I could get my husband to keep his mouth shut when he is helping the kids order the world would be great. He has the tendancy to give in to them.

Janae said...

Our kids didnt know what rootbeer was until my Dad introduced them. When we go to a resteraunt they try to sneak in a rootbeer and dont understand why we are just getting water. Then I explain to them They get a Lemon.

Christa @ Quintooples said...

BUT I WANT A TOY!!!!!! WAHHHHHHH!!!!


Me: A cheeseburger it is!

(Can't beat lunch for $2.10 for 2 kids!!!)

MarMar said...

God bless that cashier for the cinnamon twists. And frankly, I"m happy if my daughter actually EATS, regardless of the price. I wish I had your problem, if you can believe it.

jenn said...

My kids don't know anything exists beyond a happy meal.....but I'm sure I'll use the dollar menu option in the future!

Holly said...

The harsh reality of switching over to dollar menu from happy meals has been cold and lonely for my kids.

But, as with others on here, when it's their money they are frugal goumets.

tcurry said...

yeah limits are the best and if you teach them young they learn that they have 2 options, sprite or milk....nuggets or a burger, thats it, one or the other pick.....tha has always been my way, i give him 2 choices thats it, and it usually works...:) i love your blog by the way, it really is awesome and also great to know that im not "the meanest mommy in the world"

rachie! said...

I just wanted to tell you that your contest has invaded my dreams! Two nights ago I dreamed I won your contest and then I had to escape this bad guy who wanted to steal my stuff. Then last night I dreamed that there was a stipulation in your contest that you had to write certain things in your comments, which I did not do, and I was disqualified. Thanks for ruining my dreamlife!
(This is what pregnancy hormones do! Argh!)

Renny said...

bah haha. I truly hate Taco Bell's nasty food. BUT I remember in Jr. High going on a school trip and my mom sent me with money for food, and I was rolling in the babysitting dough. So, we stopped at McDonald's and I actually ordered something off the value menu. It changed my life. I just say a number and they bring me a sandwich, fries, and a drink?!?!?! I felt like that kid in The Bicycle Thief when he finally got to order a plate of spaghetti and meatballs. Oh the joys of youth. Now I never go to fast food places, their food is nasty and why would I waste my money on that? Someday the magic will wear off their eyes as well, until then, enjoy those Cinnamon Twists!

Stephanie said...

Mine are still young enough that when we go out we order for them. But once they're older, they will of course be given a choice between all the delicious items on the dollar menu - on the rare occasion that we actually take them out to eat.

Sticky (not too) said...

Wow, bless that clerk! How nice!
I guess I'm pretty lucky, my son is a picky eater and all he really wants are fries! We don't do fast food very often, so he's just thrilled to be there...now the diner is a completely different story! Fill adult breakfast and he eats it all...same meal everytime!

(I use zzzzt a lot, stole it from the dog whisperer!)

CurlyQuinn said...

Can't say I'm familiar with the dollar menu. I tend to spoil myself and my family when it comes to food. I normally let my 4 yr old order whatever she wants, however she normally only wants chicken so it works out ok. I think it's b/c my Dad would not let us order our own food when I was growing up. I understand why he did that now that I'm a parent, but I still give in when it comes to my kids. I'm pretty picky myself so I hate to make my kids eat something they don't want.

Kelly said...

How nice of them to give you the cinnamon twists! Those are my favorite thing there!
Well, I have to say that when we do go out to eat, I let my boys order whatever they want. Dollar menus or not. We hardly ever go out to eat, so it's a treat when we do, so yes, I let them choose.

Sweetiepiejuly said...

Yes, we do the dollar menu too. If we want to splurge then we do the Arby's 5 for 6.95 thing but that is rare. We just moved to Alaska this summer and sadly enough, there is no such thing as a dollar menu at any restaraunt here (Mc Donalds, Taco Bell, Wendys - you name it). They are all "Value Menus" and things range in cost from $1(well, one thing in one place costs $1) to $1.65.

We eat out a lot less now, on principal. :P

Triplets + 3 ~ In Real Life ~ said...

Let's just say.. I have 6 kids 2 of which are 16 & 18Here is our conversation at the drive through..
THEM : Can we get something that's NOT on the dollar menu??

ME : Do you have your own money???

Them : Then we'll have a double cheesebuger.. no make that two.. w/ extra pickles???

Elizabeth said...

We avoid this issue by only eating fast food on long car trips - perhaps three times per year. We always get a Happy Meal because I need the new toy to keep them busy the rest of the trip. But I always order it with apples and milk, not fries and a soda, so there is a reason to whine about how mean I am!

WonderMom said...

Any kind of fast food is a rare treat for my kids and they're so picky that it wouldn't matter much anyway. The only fast food we really do is Chic-fil-a (I have connections so I get lots of coupons there and the food is *relatively* healthy). My boys have been known to pitch a royal fit when I order them one value meal to split instead of ordering two kids' meals. Of course, they've also been known to watch me eat their meal and send them to bed hungry afterwards!

And yeah, I hate it when we're in a restaurant and they point to a picture on the menu and I tell them "They don't have any of that today." Never fails that some well-meaning server will speak up and say "Oh yes we do!" I hope you weren't planning on a tip... :)

Destiny said...

We give our girls two choices from the dollar menu. They then split a drink (free refills, so why do they need their own) and on occasion, we let them split a fry, but they rarely even eat them. On special occasions, we let them get a happy meal.

Becky said...

Here's our rundown.

Wendy's: Dollar Menu, Everyone share's fries except dad who gets his own.
McDonalds: Dollar Menu with the exception of one value meal- the 10 piece nuggets which my two boys (5 and just-turned-three)share. Everyone shares the fries.. with the meal's drink I either get Diet Coke for me (if bad day) or something that *everyone* likes.

Exception: If I go shopping on Fridays when the oldest two are in school, I buy a Happy Meal for my 3 year old. I am no longer above bribing. I just need him to sit in the cart and be mostly quiet.

Going out: LOVE to eat out.. Chili's, Red Robin, Wingers, Village Inn, IHOP, etc. Oldest gets her own children's item, the boys share (I get an extra plate) and the baby eats off of whatever boy refuses to eat that night. Main choices are Chicken Strips and Mac n' cheese (while cringing that I can make this for CHEAP at home). No corn dogs.. they never eat them. No ribs.. cost more and you get like two.

I'm definitely the best. mom. ever.

Crystal said...

lolol... I regulate it to a point. My girls are so picky most of the "simple, plain" stuff they will actually eat is usually on the dollar menu or close to it lol. I do give in to happy meals once in a blue moon but I normally get food off the dollar menu and split it between them!

Fosters said...

Our family joke is that we (my twin sister and 18 month younger brother) didn't know what a candy bar was until our Uncle and Aunt were babysitting when we were 8 and 7!! We ran home and told our mom "Hey, there's this thing called a candy bar, and it's HUGE! It comes all wrapped up and everyone gets to choose their own!" Needless to say, my mom was not happy to have to finally buy four candy bars instead of breaking one for a bite sized treat!!

Becky said...

Oh, and if we go to Famous Dave's..

Oldest gets whatever off of kids menu plus a corn muffin. She doesn't care for Oreo's (??? If I didn't KNOW she was mine, I would wonder...) so I save hers for when 3 year old is about to run off all crazy like.

Boys order Chic. Strips or Mac and I order a second plate. They won't eat the potato wedges so instead I get a side of Mashed Potatoes.

They bring out Mac n' cheese, two plates w/ two Oreo's.

Baby eats the potatoes.

Anonymous said...

I have been known to go to McDonalds for the Dt. Coke, get the kids water, and then buy a happy meal toy seperately. Really that is all they want. Water and a toy.

Then I sit, chat with my girlfriend and the kids play on the germy toys or the video games.

Really, video games at McDonalds...no wonder American's are all so fat!

Carmen said...

I love the "no special orders" commenter. That's going to be our kids. When my husband is in the driver's seat and ordering at drive-thru, he DETESTS having to ask for anything special or different. I get a glare from hell. I can't wait to torment him and let the kids all order special things and then let him get to tell them no the next time.

Evil, I know.

Liz said...

Hysterical.. I often pretend they are 'out' of certain stuff. Gotta love it when the kids can't read the menu yet.

I'm glad I'm not the only one who's parenting resembles the Dog Whisperer!! I "Aaaaat" and "Shhhhht" and "Zzzzt" my kids ALL the time! :)

Terra Howard said...

Ditto for us as well. I've been a dollar menu-aire since college. We split meals as well between the youngest 2. The only difference is of course when gramma's payin. She likes to blow her retirement on shakes, cookies & super-sizing. Better her than me.

Tami said...

I was raised by ordering a burger, taco, etc. taking it home and having potato chips and lemonade. We rarely ate in restaurant.

So...I have rebelled and let my kids order whatever they want.

Now that they are older, it is interesting that they still order the kid size items. Not necessarily for value, but portions.

I also cook alot at home and they prefer homemade.

Sass E-mum said...

I was really proud of teaching her to use a straw... and now she gets a banana milkshake every Friday and Sunday.

But only because I MAKE her. It's not like I'm spoiling her or anything...

Angie said...

You are hilarious!!

lizcooper said...

Worse than knowing nothing more than the dollar menu, my daughter ONLY knows the dollar menu at the McDonald's! Of course, she eats like a bird anyway so it's not too big of a deal....it might be when her foodie sister gets a little bigger though.

Diva Ma said...

OH I am sooooo with y ou. My kids choices are MY choices. I regulate EVERYTHING! Food, clothes, toys... It's mama's choice and if you don't like it, get a JOB! (9,6 &4 LOL)

Nick and Tiffany said...

I'm glad my kids aren't to that age yet, they're just as happy with something off the dollar menu (i'm sure at 2 and 3 they don't really know the difference).

Screamin' Mama said...

Two weeks ago McD's had Hello Kitty watches as their happy meal toys. Well...I made all 3 of the kids order happy meals and get Hello Kitty watches...even the two boys. I ended up with 4 different watches for MYSELF. That was the deal...otherwise we would eat macaroni & cheese at home.

Deb C. said...

i TOTALLY regulate what my kids eat b/c i know what they'll really finish and what they won't. lots of times i get one happy meal, and then an extra $1 burger and they share the toy ;)

Michele S said...

We drove our quartet from Las Vegas to Michigan last summer and only ate from the dollar menu. We only spent like $40 on food for a family of six. Cha-Ching. They have no idea that food comes in a square box!

Malea said...

We go spitzies on the food that we order on the dollar menu. There is absolutely no reason for them to get full on crapfood.

girlnblack77 said...

Pssh. My kids don't know anything beyond the 'Grande Meal': bean burrito, crunchy taco, soft taco. I do let them choose between mild, medium, or fire sauce. ;)

Tattooed-Midget-Freak said...

Our kids are slowly learning the abuse of the cheaper side of things. For instance, when quarried as to whether or not we are eating out for dinner, the response is usually "did you bring your money".

Makayla said...

Grandma's are GREAT! I love crunchwrap supremes! :)

Actually, in all fairness to my own mother... she was pretty smart in that she always talked up the dollar menu stuff so much that even now... that's what we prefer most of the time.

Patti said...

I remember going to Wendy's every week before church on Wednesday nights and getting to choose off the dollar menu, we each got three items. I always wrestled with the notion of "should I get a pop or should I get extra food". I still wrestle with this notion in fact. :)

I have a 6 month old and plan on enforcing the dollar menu plan with her as well. If she balks, I will use that line that always worked on me.."You know we can't afford that!!". :)

Love your site, very sassy! :)

Natalie said...

mmmm cinnamon twists. Whatever happened to your basement loving brother/cop?

Heather B said...

PHEEEEWWWW! Good to know that I am not the only one who "punishes" my daughter by allowing only "dollar menu" items...although she's getting a little smarter and asking for 2 of the dollar items along with the small fries. hahahaha...still cheaper than the "Kids Meal" any day.

Laura said...

I just read a Dr. Rosemond column on this very topic, and he asserts that children should not have so many choices about what they get to eat at a restaurant. Good for you! I love your blog, by the way. You are my hero.

Vanessa said...

I grew up on the dollar menus. Even now I can't bring myself to eat anything other than the dollar menu stuff. My husband on the other hand buys whatever the heck he wants, regardless of the price. Sometimes his food costs as much as mine and the kids combined. When I go for fast food it is because I want something cheap. I'd rather spend as little as possible and save my money to go to a real restaurant rather than spend heaps for fast food. Right now our kids are 2 and 4 so they pretty much get what we offer them. It should be interesting to see how we handle it in the future when they can read. I will still be eating my jr bacon cheese burgers and bean burritos though!

Cami said...

It's all about brainwashing! On the way to McDonalds, just start up a conversation about mad cow disease and how it has affected everything except the dollar menu. Do this on your cell phone with a non-existent friend and by the time you get there,.....piece of cake! Er....small fry! :)

Ande said...

I don't have kids....................

Ethan, Zach, and Emma's Mom said...

I used to get whatever kids meals the boys wanted. Now I'd have to buy THREE, and it's just too much. Yay for the dollar menu! I usually warn them before hand-- "Today is NOT a Happy Meal day." They are surprisingly good about it!

Jen said...

lmao!!!

Anonymous said...

I have 3 kids, one with celiac disease, one with sensory disorder/aspergers and a 14 month old. Hmmmm? Dollar menu? If we make it out the front door we have to order what they can eat. I wish the dollar menu wasn't where my food is coming from. This is where my mean mom has to step aside for the one who has to live.

Rocket Ma'am said...

My kids are Phillistines and will only eat Chick-Fil-A or Wendys, and Burger King in an emergency. It's good for my waistline! And 9 of 10 times we are doing the drive thru, so I don't even give them options.
Our local Applebee's stopped their kids meals for a dollar, and I think that might have been our doing. But honestly- a bowl of easy mac with no sides isn't worth $3.99 plus tax (x5), even if I don't have to clean up afterwards.

The Eadle Family said...

We honestly don't buy that much fast food, but I always go for the meal. I just can't wait till they get older and instead of the fries we can get salads. :S

Hope said...

LMAO! I don't have kids (yet!) but I just about fell over because I was laughing so hard.....you cannot make this stuff up!!

Baseball Mom said...

Nice of the cashier to share the cinnamon twists with you.

Mine has always been able to order what he wants. Use to be the dollar menu, sometimes still is. But he has been known to order more than me. :)

To each their own I say.

I love your blog.

Jenny said...

LOL! I always try to order the cheapest things on the menu no matter where we go.

poetrystruth said...

That is too funny. I have a teenager and he thinks nothing of ordering a 25 dollar steak...I let him eat it...then I tell him if he pulls that again I'm taking the $$$ out of his account. He's more than happy to eat chicken when he's spending his own money!

Alexia said...

I always buy off the dollar menu, and I normally smuggle in my own fruit and drinks LOL

Hadley said...

that is so funny!

We can go to Sonic now that they have a dollar menu!

jennie w. said...

New to your blog. Don't know how I found it. This is so sadly true. But I generally just let the choice between crunchy and soft.

Anonymous said...

Yes I do. I even sometimes make them share a drink. Free refills! Can't beat it. They each get to take turns picking their favorite drinks...don't worry I let them have their own straws.

Erica said...

I rarely ever feed my kids fast food. We eat at home. When we do go somewhere (never to a place like Taco Bell) it is a treat and they can order what they want.

Sara said...

The thing that drives my kids nuts is that if we are at a Mexican restaurant I will not allow them to order chicken nuggets, pizza, or burgers off of the kids menu. Cheese quesadillas are also out as I refuse to pay $5 for cheese melted on a tortilla. I wouldn't even pay $1 for it. Mac and cheese is out at most restaurants as it is usually 1/3 box of Kraft for $3-5. I also do the you can have 1-2 items off the value menu at fast food restaurants depending on how generous I feel that day.

Bethany said...

Growing up as the oldest of seven kids, we rarely went out to eat or to fast food restaurants...but if we did, each of us had $2 to use at McD's/Wendy's. If we wanted fries and a frosty, so be it, but most of us went for burgers/nuggets and no drink. :)

Anonymous said...

I tell everyone that my children are the beneficiaries of my childhood traumas including not being able to order what I wanted to eat.

We only eat fast food on car trips. But wherever they go they get to order whatever they want.

Interestingly, the effect of this on them is to have been obsessed with not purchasing things that cost "too much". (I also let them buy whatever clothes they want). They learned how to read a menu and dollar sign at a very very young age....It's pretty funny.

Omgirl said...

My kids are still little. They don't know from menus yet. they only know that there are chicken nuggets out there that don't come from our freezer: star shaped, ring shaped, or blob shaped. But I debate on this issue in my mind. Because my mom was a "Plain burger and that's it" mom. No drink, no sides. My dad would let us order whatever we wanted. And we thought he was 2nd to santa. But I see a a cheap, controlling mom in my future. So what do I do?

Desiree said...

Okay, that one made me LOL. Something my mother would have done, and something I would do to my own children. Bwahahahaha!!!!!!

Hunnybee said...

I've done better than that. I taught my daughter at an early age that she couldn't have anything from the supermarket unless we had a coupon for it. She'd randomly pick cookies or sugary cereals and ask, Mom, do we have a coupon for this? If we did, there was joyous dancing! Now at 14, she is very aware of value and that money doesn't grow on trees. I love the value menu especially at El Pollo Loco BRC Burrito and Loco Salad! Healthy food for under 3.00. Woohoo!

Sarah said...

My daughter is 11, and an only child with a big appetite, so I don't limit her ordering choices. For fast food (a rarity) she gets a full sized adult value meal, and at sit-down restaurants she's fond of the biggest steak on the menu. She's healthy, active, and consumes what she orders so I've never felt a need to limit it- if I can't afford it, we don't go out to eat that day.

Liz said...

I have two girls (6 and 15). Once they move past the "kids meal", I do regulate what they order. My 15 yr old would always order THE most expensive item otherwise, not on purpose, but this is just how she is. EXPENSIVE.

Am I new reader and am ADDICTED!!!

Did you get my slick mouse trick regarding the steel wool?

Liz