Eating out used to be a rare luxury. Your stay at home mom would cook almost every meal at home. Eating out was a very rare treat and when you did get to go to a restaurant it was a special event. But times have changed considerably since then. A 2011 poll found that Americans eat 4.8 meals per week in restaurant.
But eating out is most often more expensive than eating at home so those on a budget are looking at ways to save. Rather than having to cut down on the amount of times you eat out, you can look at how to save money whilst dining out. You and your family deserve to eat out if that’s what you enjoy.
How can you save money when dining out? Some people read a menu from right to left checking prices first and then scan back to the left to see what it is. This doesn’t work for us at all with vegetarian, vegan and gluten free requirements you usually have limited choices! So fortunately there are other ways to dine out and stay within your budget.
Set a Budget
When I look back to the days when I was a student we ate our sometimes but we always had to stick to a budget. We didn’t have a choice. Going back to this frame of mind can save a lot when dining out.
This may seem obvious but choose a restaurant you can actually afford! When it comes to actual enjoyment of a meal it doesn’t have to be gourmet to be enjoyable. Some restaurants are just way over priced for the quality and experience they offer. You can get just as full in a reasonably priced café on quality food with friendly service.
Look For Special Deals
Some restaurants offer specials on certain days and discounts for eating early. Happy hour can often save you a lot on dining out as restaurants offer specials not just on drinks but food as well.
Check online, in newspaper ads or give the restaurant a call. Many chain restaurants offer special deals. If you’re a senior citizen they may have senior specials that offer smaller portions for a smaller price.
If you’re eating with no children in tow, try the happy hour lounge specials. For the price of a drink you can usually sample the heavy hors d’oeuvres. If you do have kids, some places have kids eat free nights.
Buying an Entertainment Book that usually offers buy one get one free can be real savings for the whole year.
Restaurant.com also has great deals where you buy vouchers (usually for around $10 for $25 worth but can be as low as $4 for $25) and you can redeem these at select restaurants. These are a great deal if you can plan ahead a little.
Portions can be large so you can often order one dinner and share an appetizer. This can not only help your budget but your waist line too. Some charge for split plates but many restaurants don’t.
Take home the leftovers. This is still very much an American tradition so take advantage of it! Have your leftovers and eat them for lunch or dinner the next day.
Watch Out For The Drinks
Drinking water in a restaurant saves you a fortune. Yes of course you get free refills on soda but you do have to buy them in the first place! Drinking water saves a lot of money and a lot of calories. Drinks are usually at least $2 and usually closer to $3 for soda so this saves a lot.
Water tastes a lot better with ice and lemon. Even the kids will soon get used to it!
Save The Dessert
The kids know that most of the time they just don’t get a dessert. Kids desserts do tend to be lower priced in restaurants but even so it all adds up. If you don’t feel that you can get away with this then strike a deal to have dessert one time but not the next. Or promise them that you will pick up a half gallon of ice cream on the way home for dessert the rest of the week – it is often cheaper to do this than just to pay for one dessert at a restaurant.
Fast food can be a good choice for a family as it needn’t be unhealthy these days. Fast food chains usually offer healthy options such as salad, soup and fruit. Check the nutritional information though – it may inspire you to make healthier choices when you realize you are consuming more than a days calorie or salt content in that one food item.
Check Your Receipt
Always check your restaurant receipt. Mistakes happen.
Also some restaurants offer free meals or a reward if you take a survey about your dining out experience.
It is more than possible to save money when dining out. You deserve to be able to dine out when you want – so enjoy but just be a little more smart about your choices and you will reap the benefits.
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