At a Restaurant


1. To promote awareness of the potential costs and savings associated with dining out

2. To provide the tools to make informed choices

Subject Area

English Language Arts (K-12), Math (4-8), Foods and Nutrition (5-8)


Introduce money management as it pertains to eating at a restaurant with the following discussion points:

  • What kinds of restaurants appeal to you?
  • What are some of the costs associated with going to a restaurant?
  • What might an average individual meal cost?
  • Who pays for meals at a restaurant?
  • How are taxes and tips calculated on restaurant purchases?
  • What are some ideas for saving money at a restaurant?


How Much is a Meal?

Length: (45 minutes – 1 hour)
Materials: How Much is a Meal Handout, real restaurant menus from your local area (sample menus included), arts and crafts supplies

  • In this activity, students will come up with three restaurant meal ideas and compile them into a creative menu. Have them look through real menus and find two restaurant meals that cost less than $15 and one that costs less than $10 (including taxes and tip). They can brainstorm and record their ideas on the How Much is a Meal Handout.
  • Once the students have come up with three meal ideas, they can use arts and crafts supplies to create their own menu, and cite the restaurants from which they drew inspiration. The menu can include special deals their restaurants offer and some tips for dining on the cheap.
  • Once the activity is complete, the menus can be displayed in the classroom to offer other kids money-saving ideas. Or, some students could compile the class's meal ideas into one book for distribution to all of the students.


  • Encourage students to categorize local restaurants (i.e. take-out, family-style, fine dining) and determine the average cost associated with each. Research some of the categories and record actual prices.
  • Have students participate in a coupon exchange where they bring in restaurant coupons that they find in flyers, saver books or online.

Collaborative Feedback

  • After discussing savings ideas as a class, record the group's ideas (i.e. drinking water, finding coupons, splitting meals, specials, etc.).
  • What are the pros and cons of dining out vs. eating at home?

Teacher Tips

  • Organize a debate around the idea of "to tip or not to tip" as a means of saving money. Should a consumer's tip be based on the service or out of obligation? Is a 15% tip average, minimum or high? Do you need to tip everywhere (i.e. take-out, over-the-counter restaurants/cafés, hair salons, taxis)?
  • Ask the foods and nutrition teacher to talk to the class about the relationship between restaurant costs and food quality, nutritional value and quantity.
  • Note: Tell students who have not yet learned percentages to set aside $1 for tip and $1 for taxes. They will still get the lesson without being hung up on the calculation.

Pre- and Post-Assessment of Lesson

  • How does choosing an appropriate meal at a restaurant make a difference to your spending?
  • How did choosing an appropriate meal at a restaurant make a difference to your spending?