Where to eat (and what to see) decently but cheaply on the strip in Vegas?

My wife, her mother, her mother’s sisters, and their adult kids are travelling to Vegas for a week. For the most part, they will be trying to live on a budget and are looking for dining and entertainment suggestions, ideally on or near the strip since only two of the group have been there before and they don’t want to wander too much.

I listed some buffets that can be had for about $15 or less, but cannot speak to their quality. I also suggested to them that they can generally sign up for the hotel’s ‘player cards’ and get a coupon book that will often have deals including 2-for-1 buffets.

Short of that, I imagine they will want to not do too many buffets and while they have one big Cirque de Soleil show already purchased, do not want to spend $80+ on shows every night.

Can the worldly traveled folks here come up with some suggestions on food and shows on the relatively cheap? Bonus points if you can find a way for them to save a few bucks to see The Blue Man Group (my wife and I saw them in Orlando and she’s dying to share it with her mother).

When I lived in Vegas, there were a lot of visitor coupon books that could be obtained with an out of state license. I don’t remember exactly where they were, but my husband was stationed at the AF base out in LV, and I had a Missouri license, and we got a few of those booklets. They had coupons in them for various restaurants and free plays (of craps, roulette, other games) at various casinos. I really wish I could remember where these booklets were.

Tell them not to be too quick to pass up buffets. Some of the buffets were low quality, but some were really, really nice. The trick to eating at a buffet is to take only a small serving of what you think you might want, you can go back for more. Also, they’ll have the cheaper stuff at the entrance, and the food will increase in quality as you near the end of the line. Plan accordingly.

Circus Circus has a midway…and free performances, starting at 11 AM. I really enjoyed the midway, and the acts, when I lived there.

Occasionally a casino will advertise very low priced slots. When I lived there, a couple of places had penny slots. If you like to play slots, and don’t care if you win or lose, this can be fun. However, the low value slots will have a low payout (they’ll pay out less often than higher coin slots) and of course, even if you hit the jackpot, you only paid in pennies or nickels or whatever.

I just got back from Vegas about 2 weeks ago and we had stayed at Caesar’s Palace. Anyway, in Caesar’s, near the Forum casino, they have a big food-court that’s full of different cuisines. It’s like a relatively cheap mall food court, only their food is really quite good. We had the barbecue from there and it was amazing (and at a really good price).

We only went to one buffet, and that was the Carnival World Buffet (which if you added all the buffet lines up, would be longer than a football field). I felt that if we were only going to go to one buffet, it might as well be the buffet of all buffets. It was good but a little pricey (~$28 a person I think). I made the mistake of going when I wasn’t as hungry as I could have been.

The thing about casino buffets is that they exist to keep people in the casinos, not necessarily to make the most profit. So you’re likely to get some pretty good food at a casino buffet. The casinos DO NOT want any gambler to leave the casino for any reason, so they’ll offer great food at a great price.

If the buffet is cheap, skip it. The only exception to this is the buffet at M Resort.

The first place they should check out is cheapovegas.com. Lots of good suggestions. They should definitely have the off-the-menu steak special at Ellis Island.

Half-price tickets go on sale the day of a show. See the ticket booth at Bill’s for details.

Another page on bargains in Vegas: http://www.vegas.com/traveltips/guide/bargainhunter.html

It’s a little off the Strip, but the seven dollar steak dinner at Ellis Island comes with beer and it’s actually quite good.

I got Blue Man Group half off on, um, I think goldstar.com. We had a blast.