• Heather

How To Teach: Restaurant Meal Budget Skills

Importance of Using a Restaurant Meal Budget

We may want to order everything on a restaurant menu that sounds delicious (including cheese fries, cheese curds, and a chocolate shake), but we just don’t have the money or stomach space for that. So, deciding how much money to spend on a meal outside the home (the meal budget) and choosing the menu items to best meet that need will make your restaurant experience both relaxing and enjoyable.


Focus Skills

-Defining budget

-Determining need vs want in a food order

-Identifying dollar values in relation to a set budget amount

-How sales tax impacts cost

-3 types of restaurants and a budget for each type



Why Focus On These Skills

Well, we eat 3 times a day and at some point your students will be eating a meal outside the home. Giving them the skills to stay within a budget you set, they set, or their family sets while still getting enough to fill them up (and possibly have healthy choices) is important.



When To Teach

You may want to cover this lesson concept before your first restaurant trip or immediately after, to get a baseline of where your students are with meal budgeting skills. Helping students see that they are within a budget when they are shopping (even shopping for food at a restaurant) will help them to see that this is a typical expectation and will teach them how to approach developing an order.


I’ve created a complete lesson unit of materials for teaching this topic. The materials are comprehensive (5 full lessons) and most appropriate for life skill lessons at the middle school, high school and transition level students. Below are some lesson unit highlights!


Lesson Objective

Students will spend within a $10, $15, or $20 budget, including food and sales tax (and tip_.

Students will identify the type of restaurant and corresponding/appropriate budget.

Students will identify a need versus a want and adjust a meal purchase as needed.


Lesson Vocabulary

Budget, casual, complete, need, over, quick, restaurant, sales tax, under, want


Resource Perks

  • Pre and Post assessment

  • 1 page narrative explaining the skill with and without visual text supports (to incorporate functional reading)

  • 5 skill practice activities to learn and/or reinforce the focus skills

  • Game for students to practice their skills (because learning is fun)

  • Boom Cards for practice or assessment

  • Student learning reflection worksheet (thumbs up or down)

  • Encouraging on-topic quotes (use as a classroom poster or starter for each class period)

  • 5 strategies for success (tips for being successful with the focus skills)

  • Coloring page with on-topic graphics

  • Skill mastery certificate for positive recognition and reinforcement

  • Data collection sheet on specific focus skills

  • Homework sheet to encourage students to practice the skill outside of the school setting

  • Word search of key vocabulary terms

  • Visuals for focus skills with age appropriate colors and graphics



Ultimate Goal

Like I mentioned when I talk about Budgeting, staying within a meal budget when ordering at a restaurant is a practice in self control and decision making. If students can see that not every meal needs a dessert and not ordering will keep them in budget, that one item may be more expensive and less filling so they can order something else, or that ordering water saves money (and calories), then you are on the right track to helping them understand self control AND decision making, and the ability to stay in budget will be easier!



Links to Curriculum


Restaurant Meal Budget Lesson Unit


Order Food at a Restaurant Lesson Unit


Restaurant Manners Lesson Unit


Sit Down Restaurant and Tip Lesson Unit


Going to a Restaurant Lesson Unit Bundle


Life Skills Curriculum Bundle





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