I used to eat out often, now as I am trying to reduce my debt and be more healthier, so I eat in more often. If you can afford it, eating out occasionally is harmless and can give you temporary relief from cooking, cleaning kitchen and dishes for that day. Best ways to save money is to eat at home of course, however, you can always save money when eating out by using following tips and actually enjoy the experience.
1. Use coupons if available by using Restaurant.com or Food Coupons site from various restaurants. You can always check the restaurant’s official website for coupon code, some of the places may offer it.
2. Get a entertainment book , you can buy these entertainment books by year and by your local area. We know a friend, who buys this entertainment book for travel too, as it has coupons for not only fast food, sit down nice restaurants, but it has coupons for movies, museums and other fun things to see and buy. You will recover the cost($20) in 2 outing or less. It might be worth it, and you can buy 2009 book for 50% off right now.
3. If you eat at one restaurant often, find out if they have frequent diner program or club which you can join. You can sign up at official website with an email and get coupons and special deal information via email. Here is an example for joining frequent diner club for Fresh choice restaurant.
4. Do not order drinks, Tea, Coffee, if you do, do it occasionally only. As drinks can add up to $2-$5 each. Same thing about ordering wine or speciality drinks.
5. Go to restaurants which offer free appetizer while you are waiting for your order, such as some Mexican restaurants offer free chips and salsa with order, a few Italian restaurants offer free bread, butter with order.
6. US restaurant portion sizes are huge, so spilt a entree with a family member or friend you are dining with. Order appetizer instead of full entree. If you can not spilt entree, take it remaining half to go, for dinner or next day’s lunch.
7. Go to ‘all you can eat’ buffet places. These places are best for most people as for fixed price you can try out variety of food items, including, appetizer, drinks, salad, main entree and dessert too.
8. Eat out near college town/city restaurants, which caters to students so usually food item prices are reasonable to cheaper there.
9. Order water. It is free. If you like Coke or Pepsi, Coffee, find out if they have a free refills, it might be worth it, if you drink more than one glass/cup.
10. Look for special deals day or times when some restaurant may offer, ‘kid eat free’ day or ‘buy one, get one free’ deal. That may stretch your dollar further when eating out.
11. Some restaurants may have happy hours time, during which they offer drinks and appetizers at 50% off. Times for happy hours are usually early at 5PM and usually on Fridays.
12. Eat at small, take out place or fast food type of restaurant, you can avoid 15% tip. If you do eat at sit-down places, please do not save money on tip as waiter’s wages usually counts tips towards their pay.
13. Go for lunch or brunch. During dinner time, price is usually bit higher.
14. If you order dessert, ask for extra spoons and share it with whom you are out, as dessert are huge and pricier.
15. Work part time at restaurant, you may some discount when dining in. 🙂
16. Work as a mystery shopper, sometimes you will get paid to survey restaurant and can get free or discounted meal. Check out here for more information.
17. Sometimes, valuable coupons mailed with “Value Pak” promotion , look for coupons and deals for local restaurant or newly opened restaurants which may offer discounts.
18. Choose more vegetarian choices when eating out, generally vegetarian items are cheaper to
19. Stay away from cream, butter and cheese food choices, as it will be pricier or unhealthy.
20. Some restaurant offer free small food/meal to birthday girl/boy, check it out here and go there on your birthday or friend’s birthday.
Last remember, If you are out, enjoy the food, chew slowly and forget the guilt. That may not save more money but at least you will enjoy the experience and you will not have to do dishes for that time.
Do you have any other tips to add? How do you save money when eating out? How about where you live? What works with your budget and eating out plan? I will be curious to know more.
Image source: Feng Zhao, getty Image