By Kelly Hines

Tuesday is one of those days. Sit in the car with two little kids, engine idling, waiting for the big kid to get off the bus. Then we race into town for her piano lesson, then race to the other side of town for her acting class, where the little kids and I sit for an hour and wait. It’s only an hour – not enough time to go home, not enough time to do anything, really.

“I’m hungry,” one of them always says.

I’m hungry, too, but I’m also frugal. I now have four mouths to feed (including a take-out order for my actress after her class) and less than an hour to get it done. The thought of going through a drive-thru fast food place makes me want to hurl. Where can I get that much food, that quickly, without having to take out a loan?

“Let’s go to Firehouse,” my youngest daughter says. She is brilliant, and obviously takes after her mother.

Firehouse Subs has become our go-to restaurant for a fast and healthy meal, without breaking the bank. Eating out for a family of five gets expensive, but Firehouse sandwiches like the Hook & Ladder Light start at just $5.49. Plus, through January 31, three locations of Firehouse Subs (Hanes Mall Food Court, Stratford Towers and High Point) are offering a Kids Eat Free ALL DAY, EVERY DAY! There are the normal rules to keep in mind (kids under 12, one free kids’ meal per regular combo meal purchased, kid must be present, dine-in only), but I don’t know if any other restaurant in the area that does that! And if this offer proves popular, it may be extended!

The kids love the kids’ combos, and my teenager loves the big sandwiches and fresh salads. Teenagers have hollow legs, and these portions are big enough to satisfy even that kind of appetite. I like that everything is custom made to order with fresh ingredients, which means lots of healthy options. Their Hearty & Flavorful menu features 6 sandwiches and 4 salads each under 500 calories. The emphasis here is on hearty; the sandwiches don’t skimp on meat, using the same portion of meat as the regular medium subs. Instead, they feature a light wheat roll and light mayonnaise to lower the calorie count. Salads are huge, with romaine lettuce, Kalamata olives, green peppers, red onion, mozzarella, cucumbers, and a lite Italian dressing, with optional meat additions. No one walks away hungry here, and I know we’re filling up with healthy options.

We roll into Firehouse with exactly 42 minutes to order, eat, and get back across town. My four year old son loves the Firehouse decor because firefighters are ‘like superheroes, but real life’. He’s super excited when he learns that Firehouse Subs was founded by actual firefighters! Everyone knows that the greatest cooks in the world are your mom, and firefighters. What you should also know is that Firehouse is one of the fastest growing restaurant brands, now with more than 850 restaurants across the country. They also have some of the highest rankings for quality and service in the industry, according to industry experts like Consumer Reports and Technomic. They remain dedicated to their roots, too, giving back over $2 million dollars to local fire departments across the country last year, including $50,000 right here in the Triad over the past 4 years.

I don’t tell my son all of this, because he’s too busy trying to figure out how to get the cool stuff on the walls down (is that an axe?!). I stop him from trying to climb the wall and glance at my watch. We’re down to 37 minutes!

The young woman behind the counter is friendly and efficient, taking our order with grace, even when the 8 year old changes her mind 12 times. 7 minutes and 13 seconds later – yes, I timed it- I have a Hook & Ladder Light ($5.49 plus the combo upgrade), an insanely delicious-looking take-out Sriracha Beef for my actress ($6.59, also off the Hearty & Flavorful menu), a Kids Meatball Combo ($3.99), and a Kids Turkey Combo (FREE!). I also find out that I can order online, saving even more time. Mind blown.

10 minutes and a full belly later, we’re back in the car and on time to pick up my oldest. Everyone is full and happy, and I spent less than $20 to feed four of us. There aren’t many places where I can get fresh, healthy, fast meals for that price!

Want to check out Firehouse Subs and take advantage of their Kids Eat Free program? The all day, every day offer lasts until January 31, 2015 at these locations:

Firehouse Subs – Hanes Mall Food Court
Inside Hanes Mall
Winston-Salem, NC 27103
Sunday: 10:30 AM to 06:00 PM
Monday – Saturday: 10:30 AM to 09:00 PM

Firehouse Subs – Stratford Towers
205 S Stratford Rd
Winston-Salem, NC 27103
Sunday – Thursday: 10:30 AM to 09:00 PM
Friday – Saturday: 10:30 AM to 10:00 PM

Firehouse Subs – Deep River: Near Palladium Shoppes
5815 Samet Drive
High Point, NC 27265
Sunday – Thursday: 10:30 AM to 09:00 PM
Friday – Saturday: 10:30 AM to 10:00 PM

*Sponsored by Firehouse Subs