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My Friend Eats Off the Kids’ Menu to Save Money. Is He Insane?

Actually, this may be the best lifehack you’ll read all week

Sam Dworkin, MEL’s senior designer, is a 27-year-old man who makes his own money, pays his own rent and sure as hell does his own laundry. But despite being a fully grown adult, he has a childlike penchant for ordering from the kids’ menu to save cash.

“There’s this Mexican place in Venice Beach that has a $1 delivery fee on Uber Eats,” a notably enthusiastic Dworkin explains. “They have a kids’ bean and cheese burrito for around $5. It’s kinda the perfect size: It’s not too small, but it’s also not huge to the point where you feel like you’re going to die. Plus, it comes with chips and salsa.”

For Dworkin, this is solely about saving money. “It’s definitely not about cutting calories, since I’m getting a burrito,” he says, although that’s certainly a secondary benefit to this strategy. “It’s the perfect size meal, but it’s $5 cheaper than the regular version.” Dworkin also mentions that he sometimes uses this same strategy to order more standard kids’ menu items, like chicken tenders, but he prefers to do so using Postmates or Uber Eats, since “they can’t check your age on those apps.”

After learning of Dworkin’s strategy, I found myself questioning everything. Is he really saving loads of money and calories by ordering from the kids’ menu, or is he only saving a few pennies in order to end up with significantly less food? Sadly, his beloved Mexican spot doesn’t have their calorie counts listed anywhere, so I took a look at some more popular kids’ menus to get answers.

First, let’s take a look at some items from Chili’s. They have Crispy Crispers (i.e., chicken tenders) on the kids’ menu, which cost $5.75 at my nearest location and come to 640 calories. A kids’ drink (a kids’ Coke contains 70 calories, whereas a regular one contains 110) is also included, as is a kids’ side (kids’ fries contain 210 calories, whereas regular fries contain 420 calories). Meanwhile, the adult Chicken Crispers cost $10.89 at my nearest location and come with fries, corn on the cob and honey mustard sauce, all of which totals 1,320 calories. So when you consider that the kids’ menu tenders include a kids’ drink and fries, the whole meal comes to 820 calories, which means you would save about $5 and 500 calories by ordering it. This also means you’d be paying half the price for significantly more than half the food — that’s a good deal!

To make sure this isn’t a one-off, let’s also review the kids’ menu from Applebee’s. They sell a Kid’s Grilled Chicken Alfredo, which contains 720 calories and costs $6.49 at my local one. Compare that to their Classic Broccoli Chicken Alfredo, which boasts a whopping 1,480 calories (including a bread stick) and costs $13.89. So in this case, by ordering the kids version, you save 760 calories and $7.40. In other words, you’re basically paying half price for half the food, and you miss out on broccoli and a bread stick. Still, though, considering the average person should eat somewhere between 2,000 and 2,500 calories per day, the kids menu item is much closer to a healthy amount of calories for a single meal than the adult version (although, you could also just save half the adult version for later).

As you can see, then, at least in these cases, ordering from the kids’ menu can provide a healthier portion size — one that’s not too small — for about half the price. The downside, however, is that you’re usually limited to chicken fingers, cheese pizza and mini corn dogs. So while ordering from the kids’ menu might seem like a great idea in some cases, especially if you can manage to convince the waiter you’re actually 11 and not 37, you’ll have to put up with the fact that the offerings are usually pretty shit.

Then again, for $5 less, I’ll take all the mini corn dogs you’ve got.