Tips to Save Money on Dining Out
Everyone loves to enjoy a meal at a restaurant, but for couples with children and/or living on one income, dining out can really be a budget breaker. Of course, it’s far less expensive to prepare your own meals at home (you’ll save at least half), but it’s always nice to treat yourself (and your family) to a nice meal out once in a while. Here’s a few tips to help you save money while dining out, so you can eat out and relax, knowing you’re saving money.
Get a discount. Click here for Restaurant.com, where you can save over 50% on local dining. Simply enter your zip code to find participating restaurants. They often offer $25 vouchers for $10! Or try the 2008 Entertainment Book, which offers discounts on dining, hotels, and fun. The book varies by area, but usually contains “two for one” dining coupons, as well as coupons for free drinks, appetizers, etc.
Share. If you go out with your significant other for a date night, don’t order two meals. Instead, order one meal and one appetizer and split them both. Most restaurants go WAY overboard on portions anyway, so splitting a meal and an appetizer will keep your wallet fat and your waistline trim.
Special Days. Many restaurants have special family nights, discount nights, or allow kids to eat for free. Make note of these restaurants on your family calendar, so you will be aware of what nights you can save extra money.
New restaurants. Many times, new restaurants want to attract customers and will offer specials and/or coupons during their first weeks of business. Keep an eye out for ads or coupons in your local paper.
Eat earlier. Generally speaking, lunch prices are cheaper than dinner prices, and breakfast prices are even cheaper.
Drink water. You dine out for the good food, not the soda. You can get soda at the grocery store (and much cheaper). When dining out, just drink water, maybe adding a twist of lemon for flavor.
Fast food. Fast food is, of course, the cheapest way to dine out. Dine smart, though. Eating cheaply doesn’t have to mean eating unhealthy. Check the menu for healthy fare. Salads, baked potatoes, and grilled chicken are much healthier than burgers and fries.
Eat affordable. If you don’t think you can stick to the healthy options at a fast food restaurant, head for a medium-priced restaurant. Places like T.G.I. Fridays and Chili’s offer decent meals at prices that won’t cost you dearly. They’re not pricey, but you still get to enjoy having someone wait on you (instead of schlepping your own food to the table like in a fast food establishment).
Skip dessert. Desserts in restaurants are usually ridiculously priced. Don’t pay $3-$4 per scoop of ice cream. Pick up a carton of ice cream on the way home, and your family can all enjoy a sweet treat at home (and the entire carton will probably cost what a restaurant would charge you for one or two scoo