Eating at restaurants is expensive and anyone on a budget knows that this is one luxury that all the experts say to give up.
While I agree with that, I also know that sometimes we either need to dine out or we just really want to.
When you find yourself in that situation, here are 12 things to remember that can save you money.
1. Don’t order appetizers.
Entree portion sizes in restaurants are usually pretty huge. So, ask yourself if you really need an appetizer to go along with it. Chances are, you don’t. Appetizers usually add $6-$10 to your bill, each.
2. Don’t order alcohol.
Sure, it can be nice to have a beer, a glass of wine, or even a special cocktail with your dinner. But, at $4-$10 per drink, it adds up. Unless it’s a special occasion, save the alcohol for home.
3. Don’t order dessert.
Those decadent desserts are very tempting, but at $3 to $8 each at a typical restaurant, they add up. If you must have something sweet, stop by the grocery store on the way home and get a pint of ice cream.
4. Drink water.
Not only is alcohol expensive, but even non-alcoholic drinks are not cheap. At $2-$4 each, a family of four could save up to $16 just by drinking water instead of soda or iced tea.
5. Share a meal.
Restaurant entrees are usually pretty big. If you aren’t big eaters, maybe opt to have two people share an entree instead.
6. Order an appetizer instead of a main meal.
Appetizers are usually much smaller portions than entrees. It’s perfectly acceptable to order an appetizer instead of an entree. This could save $5-$10 per person.
7. Find a restaurant offering a “kids eat free” night.
Lots of restaurants have one night a week where kids can eat free. Usually it’s a slower night like a Tuesday or Wednesday. The kids have to order from the kids’ menu, and usually you have to buy one adult entree for each free kids’ meal. But, this can easily save $5-$7 off your bill.
8. Take advantage of senior discounts.
If you are over the age of 55, many restaurants will give a 10-15% discount on your bill. It doesn’t hurt to ask!
9. Clip coupons.
Some restaurants will publish special coupons in the local newspapers, city magazines, their websites, and Entertainment books. Sometimes these discounts are substantial, such as buying one meal and getting one free.
10. Eat lunch out instead of dinner.
The lunch menu is often less expensive than the dinner menu at most restaurants, even though the meals are just as good. Consider eating earlier in the day and you can save several dollars.
11. Eat at buffets.
This may not be less expensive at first glance, but if you or anyone in your family is a big eater, a buffet can give you more bang for your buck. And appetizers and desserts are included.
12. Eat at diners.
Some of the best meals I’ve ever had have been at little rinky dink diners that don’t look like anything special. Their prices are usually cheap and their food is usually hot and fresh. If you don’t know of any, ask around! Every town has a hidden gem that offers great food at cheap prices that you’ll never find on any recommended restaurant list.
I absolutely love dining out! I’m not a big cook, and would much rather someone else do all the work for me. But, it’s expensive and I consider it a luxury, certainly not an everyday occurrence. When I do plan to eat at a restaurant, I try to incorporate at least some of these tips to get my bill down to a more palatable amount. You can do the same!
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