18 Creative Ways To Save Money Eating Out
You must be more critical of your eating places, payment methods, meal times, and the dishes you order. Read our guide on 18 Ways to Save Money Eating out!
Do you desire to eat at KFC every day? Who wouldn’t? But when you make it a habit to dine out, you will find that you are straining in your financial area. The most famous piece of advice to eating out is to shun from it. Besides, eating out makes you pay not only for food but also for the hard work put in preparing and serving you. Also, the eatery has to earn a profit; they will charge four times the gross amount. Thus, even though the restaurant gets its ingredients at a meager price, you will still end up paying way more than preparing it yourself.
Studies show that, on average, you can spend up to $39.50 for just a one-person meal. It is way more than the money you will use if you are to go grocery shopping and prepare your food at home. If you are looking forward to early retirement, then this will be a huge set back to your goal.
From a practical view, all these make perfect sense.
Preparing food isn’t a fun activity. If you always have a busy schedule and a hectic day, then doing grocery shopping and the idea of cooking may not be exciting. Eating out and ordering food will be a relief.
Hosting people is hectic, and you will always find yourself appreciating dining out with friends. Aren’t you guilty of using the restaurant for socialization purposes? Well, it’s not fun to reject every single meet up just because it’s defying your budget. In case you do, in the long run, you will lose touch with your friends.
Fortunately, you can enjoy your eat outs with friends without disrupting your budget. You can also enjoy your favorite foods without ending up bankrupt. Below are strategies to help you slash the cost of eating out.
1. Serve Your Meals
At a nice restaurant, you will pay over $20 for the entree. When you sum up with the cost of the meal, dessert, and drinks, your entire bill will be $60 per person. In a cheaper eatery, the entree will cost about $15, thus cutting up your price.
However, we are looking for ways to slash the cost. You can do this by going to a self-service restaurant. You will not have an entree cost plus the food in such restaurants are way cheaper without compromising on the taste.
The meal will just be put on display, and you get to serve yourself. It will be a bonus if you are starving as they do not limit the quantity you put at a flat price. The price can be about $12 at the hometown buffet or any other casual buffet outlet.
It is a mixture of fast food and full service. You make your order at the counter and pay via the cashier. Afterward, you get your order at the end of the table. You may end up saving so much as the main course meal may cost you just $7.
It is similar to fast-casual only that you receive your order immediately. You are now thinking of the dangers of sticking to fast foods most of your eating out. Well, quick-serve isn’t merely an outlet for fast food. Some restaurants like the Wendys also use the system. Most sandwich outlets also adopt the system. The quick-serve offer the most affordable meals, where a whole meal could just cost you $6.
2. Avoid Famous Restaurants
Although the famous restaurants or five-star hotels have enticing offers, you may want to stick to independent restaurants. Well, the low price offered in the remarkable hotels may still be on the upper end of the ethnic restaurants.
The dishes in local restaurants are very affordable without compromising on the taste. Besides, they offer more food which you may save for your next day’s lunch or make you fuller.
3. Analyze Customer Reviews
You probably know how bad it feels to try out a new restaurant only for it to provide mediocre service. Well, the feeling is worse when you imagine all the time and money you’ve wasted. Going through the customer reviews will give you an idea of how the restaurant is like. You will get to know their level of service. Thus, you can avoid it early or anticipate to dine in it. Also, you get to know their best dishes. However, people’s opinions differ. You, therefore, need to be very discreet and critically evaluate the reviews so that you don’t miss on your next favorite restaurant because of being misinformed.
4. Get a Takeout
Did you know that dining at the restaurant makes you pay for the sitting service? Most restaurants offer lesser costs for customers who prefer to take away. You will only save so much with this if you go to a cheap restaurant. Besides, a take away will help you avoid the temptations of having desert.
Your lasagna and appetizer may cost you $25, plus levy and the waiter’s tip. However, a take out of the same will be $11 with the inclusion of tax. You can get home and add any extras you desire; besides, a salad will need $1for the greens.
Do you reside in an area with a college campus? Well, lucky for you as a seamless and grub hub can help make your dining out experience much cheaper. You could make your order online and get your food delivered, or you pick it up.
Be sure to also check out “8 Budget Stretching Food Items You Can Find at the Dollar Store” to see what food items you can get to last you a long time.
5. Skip Dessert
Unless your restaurant is famous for a great dessert, it would be better to ignore your sweet tooth. Desserts don’t make you satisfied; instead, they will make you hungrier.
They are not the reason you were eating out.
Desserts at the restaurant are often expensive. If you find it hard to tame your sweet tooth, then it would be better to buy your favorite dessert from the bakery instead of the restaurant.
6. Make it Lunch
Eating out costs tends to be much cheaper at lunch hour. Most restaurants vary their prices depending on the time.
They tend to be less expensive on meals at lunchtime. It is a way to attract more customers to the restaurant as most people who are working eat out during their lunch breaks.
For instance, the cheesecake factory charges up to $30 for dinner entrees, which significantly lowers to $14 during lunchtime.
Fortunately, most of these restaurants do not restrict lunchtime to be at midday. They often extend it too late in the afternoon. Thus, you can consume your early dinner at a low price. Therefore, acquaint yourself with restaurants that give affordable extended lunch and take advantage of the opportunity.
Make sure to also check out “Best Slow Cookers to Save Money on Food” for our guide to slow cookers for bulk food preparation.
7. Eat Out On the First Days of the Week
Business is usually low at the restaurants during the first days of the week. For the eatery to attract more clients, it gives special money-saving offers. Thus, visiting eateries on Monday or Tuesday could significantly save you cash.
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8. Celebrate Your Birthday
You probably already know of one or two restaurants that offer birthday and anniversary clubs. Take advantage of them. All you have to do is sign up on their website. Then, enjoy free coupons such as dessert, entrée, or drinks.
Since you may not be able to finish up all this in a day, most restaurants email you your voucher way earlier than your birthday. You also get enough time to redeem it.
9. Timing the Happy Hour
There are so many special offers offered during the happy hour, such as half-priced meals and drinks. Thus, if you do not mind taking your lunch a bit earlier, then you can take advantage of the happy hour at your desired restaurant.
Thus you can enjoy excellent dishes during eat-outs without straining financially. Besides, it can be fun to hunt for the best restaurant to enjoy a happy hour with your friends.
10. Split a Meal
Occasionally, you may find that the food offered is way more than you need. Failure to finish will just put the rest to waste. Eating the entire serving will mean that you overeat. Either way, you are also losing money as you are paying way more than you need. Your waistline also gets affected as the extra food gets stored as fat.
The best thing is sharing the entrée with your friend. You can tell the server to serve you a single entry but offer an extra empty plate. But most restaurants charge $2 for an extra empty plate. Alternatively, you may order the main course and another small order like a salad or appetizer. You may then share the dishes.
Thus, if the main dish is $14, you will not just save $7 when you add the tax and tip; you may end up saving over $9. The dish ordered by your friend will also save you lots of money compared to if you had ordered two main dishes.
11. Carry Your Leftover
What if the meal serving is way more than you require, but you are eating out alone? What if your acquaintance isn’t for the idea of splitting meals? Do you waste your money on the extra food you don’t need?
Well, this is another alternative you can apply to avoid food and money wastage. If you are going to eat out and you are not that hungry, carry your go-to bowl. Once you are full, pack your leftovers to dine at home. You will get to eat it the next day at lunch.
If you find it hard to avoid overeating, you can start by dividing the food. Put the bowl away and start your meal. Therefore, your brain will adjust that it just has the meal available on the plate. Thus, you will end up not overeating.
Since you will pay for the entire entree, you may not feel like you are saving. However, it will save you on your next day’s lunch, plus you will not harm your waistline.
12. Avoid the Drink
Restaurant owners confess of charging four times higher on drinks than the buying cost. If the food you order is already expensive, adding a glass of wine to your favorite beverage will only make it more expensive. Replacing the drink with a soft drink does not solve the problem. They are also quite costly and will add up to your total meal price.
The cost of one cup of tea is ten times the price of a tea bag. Besides, all these do your body more harm than good.
Instead, take a glass of tap water after your meal. Just remember to specify that you want to tap water so that you do not end up paying for it. Some restaurants sell mineral water as high as $3.
Well, some meals don’t taste right without a bottle of wine. Well, you can choose restaurants that allow bringing your bottle. Just know that some restaurants find ways to make a profit through this by including fees such as discarding fee
13. Take Something Special
Well, you probably are guilty of thinking that you get to save so much money by eating the cheapest meal. It seems obvious that a $12 plate of pasta is way less expensive than a $30 bouillabaisse. However, this does not make pasta the best eat-out option.
Pasta is so insignificant that even a person with the worst cooking skills can prepare a perfect one. Thus, when you go to a restaurant and order pasta in place of bouillabaisse, you end up wasting money instead of saving it. How do you spend your money buying pasta when you can prepare it at home?
Going to a restaurant means that you are seeking unique services and atmosphere. You can’t achieve that when you order a meal, you can prepare at home. You need to find value for your money by buying a meal that you wouldn’t cook at home. For instance, eating out some rice and meatballs may not be as worth as going into a restaurant for duck a l’orange.
Check out “Tips for Using Discount Groceries to Make Gourmet Foods” for our tips to gourmet meals with discount groceries.
14. Order Appetizers as Your Meal
The price of appetizers and that of salads can’t compare to the cost of entrees. Some eateries serve generous amounts of appetizers. Thus you can take it as the main meal, and it will be satisfying. When dining out with friends, you could buy a couple of appetizers instead of each person ordering and entree. Later you can distribute the meal. You will save so much money with this that you won’t see a need to forgo eating out.
15. Go for a Discount
Menus provide generalized prices, but it does not necessarily mean that you have to pay the stated price. You can always find ways to reduce the amount, using discounts and coupons. Below are ways you can acquire discounts and coupons
You can use Restaurant.com to look for the nearest eatery that offers discounts. Once you find your favorite restaurant, click on to buy $25 for just $10. However, you should read the conditions of use carefully as some eateries will require that you use over $50 for you to utilize the awarded $25 coupon that cost only $10. Thus you will end up paying $35 and not $10 for the gift.
Well, joining other shoppers could win you better discounts. You can participate by first signing up for your desired group-buying site and put in your desired restaurant. Each day you will receive exclusive deals on purchases and restaurant deals as well. You will save so much money, and it may even be 70%. But again, don’t forget to carefully read the terms and conditions to familiarize yourself with the expiry date.
Sites like Valpak or the newspaper may also help you identify coupons and discounts. Valpak has a mobile application that allows you will have the voucher on your phone. It makes it more comfortable as you do not have to print it once you decide to the restaurant.
Once in a while, local restaurants promote themselves through the selling of discounted gift cards. Thus, you should be on the lookout at their websites or Facebook page. Besides, some restaurants offer exclusive coupons when you like their page on facebook. You shouldn’t miss such discounts as they are easy to attain. They may add up to be so much when you are going out with friends, and you all have them.
You should always deduct the coupon and discount should be deducted from the original price. It is easy to confuse and subtract it from the already reduced price. Even if the discount and coupon reduces the whole amount or just part of it, remember that it makes you better off.
Be sure to also check out our piece “9 Ways To Find Coupons Online” for our full guide to finding coupons online.
16. Cash Back Cards
Your money-saving shouldn’t just stretch out up to your restaurant payment. You can also get a beneficial discount by using a cashback card. You will earn from 1% to 5% money-back guarantee once you use your listed credit card.
Other cashback gives a fixed discount for every meal you buy. Conversely, others offer a money-back when you purchase from specific categories that change with time. Thus, you need to stay updated on the dishes that have an offer to avoid confusion during your eat out billing. You will also easily maximize your opportunity.
Alternatively, you could list your card with the iDine. It will allow you to use it at any of the diners that accept it. You will then get an invite to review the place. After writing the online review, you get back 5%-15% of the amount used in the particular eatery point. Once you attain iDine money back of $20, they will give you a gift card which they send via American express.
Unfortunately, iDine will only work after accepting to receive marketing emails from them. You thus should start by creating a new email account as you wouldn’t want your primary email getting bombarded by promotional content.
Another downside is that you have to spend a specific amount at the listed restaurants. For an instant they may start an annual expenditure of $250 will earn 10% and $750 will get 20%. However, you can list your reward credit card with iDine. Hence, you will get your cashback in varied ways each time you eat at their listed restaurant. There are also companies with similar offers, such as American airlines.
17. Get Your Loyalty Membership
One of the creative ways to save money when eating out is by signing up for a membership using your email to your favorite restaurant. The association will earn you discounts and other beneficial promotions. Don’t you hate it that you spend your hard-earned cash at a restaurant only for it to go unrecognized? Well, with a loyalty card, you can now earn points with your every restaurant visit. Later you could redeem the points for a discount or free food without having to pay.
18. Speak Out
Do you hate speaking out on the poor services received for fear of getting termed as rude or getting misunderstood? Well, that is where you go wrong. You must get value for your money. Since you will offer them the full amount, they ought to provide satisfactory products and services.
However, you must be calm when doing this. You don’t have to be rude about it or finger point to the server. Reach out to the manager and let them know why you feel the service was not up to standard. Clearly stating your disappointments will earn you more respect than if you are rude retort about it.
The manager will appreciate your desire to help make their restaurant better. Thus, you may earn a discounted next meal, a free dessert or dish and get to save money.
Although you will always spend much more on eating out than having homemade food, it offers so much convenience. The tasty meal and full service will help you relax after a long day. The above tips should help you save more during your eat outs so that you can treat yourself often.
Thank you for reading! Do you have more tips to save money eating out? Leave a comment below to let us know your ways to save money!