One of the best ways to save money on food is to cook at home. But let’s face it, cooking every single meal can be time-consuming and frankly, a bit boring. So what’s a budget-minded foodie to do when they want to eat out without breaking the bank?
Here are a few tips:
1. Research happy hours in your area. Many restaurants offer reduced prices on appetizers and drinks during specific hours. This is a great way to sample a new restaurant or get your favorite dishes for less.
2. Look for Meal deals. You can often find great discounts – sometimes even 50% off – on Groupon and other deal sites. You’ll get more food for your buck when you buy restaurant gift cards at less than face value. Restaurant.com, for instance, is a website that sells certificates for a fraction of their worth. You may be able to score a $25 certificate to your favorite Chinese place for just $10 (minimum purchases could apply). Warehouse store Costco, too, sells bundles of gift cards for less than they’re worth.
3. Ask about daily specials. Most restaurants have at least one special each day, and sometimes these can be quite a bargain. In addition, you could be eligible for a cheaper meal simply based on who you are. Children, seniors, students and members of the military are some of the most common candidates for discounts. Research a restaurant’s discounts online or inquire before your server brings the bill. It doesn’t cost anything to ask.
4. Skip the alcohol. Alcohol is often one of the most expensive items on a restaurant menu, so skipping it can save you a lot of money. If you must have a drink, order something from the happy hour menu or stick to water.
5. Order an appetizer as your main dish. Appetizers are usually smaller portions and therefore cheaper than entrees. Plus, they’re often just as filling – if not more so – than a full meal.
6. Share a dish with a friend. Restaurant portions can be huge, so splitting a dish with someone else is a great way to save money and still get to enjoy your meal.
7. Skip dessert. Desserts can be delicious, but they’re also often very pricey. If you’re trying to save money, it’s best to skip them altogether.
8. Join the club. Pesky marketers aren’t the only ones who want your email address nowadays. Many restaurants have mailing lists that they use to distribute news and promotions to customers. Sign up to stay in-the-know. You’ll usually get a special offer just for making an account and another the month of your birthday. But if you find the emails are tempting you to eat out more, hit “unsubscribe.”
9. Dine on National Days. From National Ice Cream Day to National Chicken Wing Day, there’s a day of observance for just about any food you can name. Plan your meals around these offers to take advantage of free appetizers, entrees or desserts. Stay tuned to social media for promotional details.
By following these tips, you can eat out without blowing your budget. So go ahead and enjoy a night out on the town – your wallet will thank you for it!