How to Save Money When Dining Out

1.  Avoid Appetizers

These small portions, while delicious, are not a good value for your money.  In general, appetizers are expensive for the amount of food that you’ll receive.  If you’re looking for an additional dish, consider ordering an extra entrée.  You’ll be able to feed more people, and extras can go into a takeout box to eat later.  Alternatively, if you can’t justify the extra food, then don’t order it.  Even if you’re extremely hungry, one entrée should be plenty.

2.  Ditch Drinks

Drinks tend to have some of the highest markups of any item on a restaurant menu.  Instead of ordering one, ask for a glass of water.  It will cost you nothing and will complement any meal.

3.  Clip Coupons

If you’re an expert couponer, you know that finding restaurant deals can be tricky.  Try signing up for email lists, visiting your favorite restaurant’s website from time to time, and keeping your eyes open for happy hour deals or seasonal promotions.

4.  Split Meals

If you’re visiting a restaurant with notoriously large portions, split your meals.  There’s no need to order more food than you can eat, and you’ll get plenty of enjoyment out of sharing.

5.  Eat Half

When you receive a big portion, you shouldn’t feel obligated to eat all of it.  Health-wise and wallet-wise, you’re better off eating half your food and taking the rest to go.  With some entrees, you can even split your meal into thirds.  This strategy will help you bring down your cost per meal.  For instance, if you eat a $10 entrée over two meals, you will end up paying $5 per meal instead of $10 per meal.  An added benefit is that you won’t have to cook for two meals in a row.

6.  Shop Around

By reading reviews, you’ll quickly learn that expensive isn’t always better.  You’ll be surprised what great food you’ll find at your neighborhoods’ hidden gems.  Before you take your family to a new place, preview the menu online so that you can budget your night out.  Research other options before letting big names win you over.

The Bottom Line

Cooking at home will always be your least expensive option, but that doesn’t mean you have to deprive yourself of a good night out.  Enjoy what the chefs of the world have to offer, but do so in moderation.  Don’t waste food, and despite what your hunger cravings tell you, stick your budget.  Your stomach and wallet will thank you.

Credit: Ritika Puri

Published in: on June 4, 2011 at 7:12 pm  Leave a Comment  

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