People love to eat out, and for good reasons too. Eating out provides a chance to relax, take a break from cooking and a time to feel a little pampered, and hopefully, you choose a place where the atmosphere is entertaining.
But frankly, eating out is expensive and can take a big hit on the old budget if done often. Here are some tips to help you eat out for less:
- Time your outing so you can take advantage of Early Bird Specials. This is when some restaurants lower the price of meals if you eat during specified early hours (or as my nephew says: the time when old people eat!), usually right before the dinner rush. Be sure the waiter has given you the Early Bird menu and keep in mind your options may be more limited than the regular dinner menu.
- Split the meal if it’s going to be on the large side. Restaurants are making their meals bigger and bigger (and causing our waists to go in the same direction), and you can capitalize on this. Ask them to split it in the kitchen or give you an extra plate. Sometimes (it doesn’t always work ) I ask for a to go box as soon as the meal comes out so I can split it in half right then and there and have a meal for later on.
- Have everyone drink water with their meal and see how much you save off your bill. Alcoholic beverages are expensive and even a round of sodas for everyone can add up.
- Skip the appetizer and/or dessert. If you’re absolutely famished, have a handful of crackers at home. This is wise anyway because then you won’t order the biggest, most expensive thing on the menu. Likewise, you can do dessert at home later for much cheaper.
- Use coupons for restaurants. Those weekly coupon envelopes you get in the mail are sometimes full of gold. And to think I used to throw them away! Save coupons, especially the “2 for 1″ kind, and put them in a folder. When you’re in the mood to eat out, select one of the coupons from your folder. Note: It won’t do you any good to leave this folder in your house since you’ll need it when you’re out. Trust me, I’ve left many a coupons at home sitting on the counter! SMH
- Many restaurants have specials like Kids Eat Free on Tuesdays. If you have kids, take advantage of these deals! Check out Frugal Living’s list of over 50 places that break out where kids eat free or very cheap!
- Ask the waiter about any specials. Sometimes they’re not on the menu and you miss seeing them on the marquee board in the front of the restaurant.
- Eat lunch out instead of dinner. Lunches are usually smaller portions and less expensive. If you’re feeling like a meal out, why not do lunch and save?
- Eat appetizers instead of a meal. Often times you’ll find appetizers to be filling and yet cost less than a main entree. Let me tell you, the Lunch portion of the Nachos at Lotawata Creek (Fairview Heights, IL) is still enough for 2!
Eating out in restaurants is a chance to relax, have some good food, and spend time with family and friends. Follow these suggestions for eating out so you don’t have to spend as much of your hard-earned paycheck.
Do you have any other tips to share regarding eating out for less? Please share and let’s all save and dine out on a budget!