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5 Cheap Ways to Eat Out

I'm on vacation!  But I'm still looking out for you personal-finance-hungry mongrels; feeding your addiction… While I bask in the beautiful Georgia sun, enjoy a guest post with a juicy bit of saving intel. 

Eating out is always a treat, when someone else is doing the cooking and the washing up and you can concentrate on spending time with your family or friends over delicious food. However, with budgets tightening, there may be fewer chances for you to loosen your belt in appreciation of a good meal out.

Instead, you need to be smarter about the way you eat out, because it can be done cheaply, and you don’t have to compromise on any of the quality or the experience. Firstly, you will need to plan your dinners out into your budget – eating out appears to cost you so much because you do it so often. However, if you plan to go out just once every second week or once a month you will find the expense can be affordable. You can even choose the restaurant in advance and pick up a menu or view it online to help you plan your budget even more accurately.

Also remember that it doesn’t hurt to be nice, and if you find a restaurant you like, sign up to their mailing list or fill in a feedback form and you are likely to receive discounts and vouchers, and notifications of specials and promotions. In addition, you can follow these five tips to eat out on the cheap.

1 – Look for a local family restaurant

This doesn’t have to be a family friendly restaurant, but rather a family owned and run restaurant which has an authentic, ethnic style, as their meals are likely to be more affordable than the glitzy restaurant on the main road. The restaurant may be smaller and have fewer staff, but that also means they have fewer overheads, and running their business on a smaller scale, family restaurant owners are able to maintain good quality affordable meals, so it pays to seek out your local gem.

While you’re looking, keep an eye out for new restaurant openings. You may see the signs or you may receive a flyer in your mail box, but often new restaurants will run specials or offer coupons to entice you in to try them out.

2 – One course meal

You’ll notice that your spending can skyrocket when you eat out because there is just so much food. However, aim to avoid a full three course meal and eat just one main meal, in addition you can save on your meal choices by:

Eating the bread provided on the table. Many restaurants will offer you bread and butter while you wait for your meal for free, so use this to ward off your hunger rather than opting for an entree or garlic bread. 

Share a main meal with your partner if you can see that the portions are large, or you’re not very hungry, the extra food would go to waste anyway. 

If you know you won’t be able to eat all of your meal from the moment the massive plate is set in front of you, then don’t pick at it, ask to take the rest home and it can serve as lunch the next day. 

Ordering the entree size. To avoid a doggy bag all together, simply order a smaller size and save several dollars compared to the main meal. 

Ordering several adult meals for the kids. If they’re getting a bit old for the kids menu, you can order one adult main meal to be shared among several of your children to save on orders. 

Skipping dessert and picking up a tub of ice cream on the way home. you can pick up a few plastic spoons too and share your dessert in the car at your favourite lookout point or snuggle up on the couch when you get home. 

Having dinner at home and going out for dessert. Alternatively, you can eat before you go out and have coffee and dessert at a restaurant to enjoy the experience without the full expense. 

Ordering food you wouldn’t normally cook. This makes your dining out experience more worthwhile as you are able to enjoy food you wouldn’t normally eat. 


3 – Watch the wine

Take the time to see what others at the table will be drinking because it is often cheaper to purchase a bottle of wine, rather than the wine by the glass. Alternatively, look for restaurants which will allow you to bring your own bottle of wine, as they will often charge you a corkage fee of around $12, but that is much cheaper than the average $40 bottle of wine on the wine list.

You can also save on drinks by asking for still water for the table. You can save on your non-alcoholic beverage as table water is provided free, and you’re quenching your thirst more effectively than you would be with sugary soft drinks.

4 – Order from the specials menu

The specials menu is compiled from product which is in season, or the chef has received in excess. The meals are of the same good quality as the rest of the menu, but are cheaper because the restaurant wants to be able to use all of the produce.


5 – Lunch date

Instead of going out to dinner, consider a late lunch as many restaurants charge less for lunch meals, even if they use the same menu. Plus when you have a late lunch out, you can save again when you get home by having just a light dinner.

If you do still want to go out for dinner, look for early bird specials, where you usually have to be finished by 7 pm but can order meals for under $10.

Alternatively you can go out for breakfast as a treat for the family or some romantic time together, as many restaurants serve breakfast until 11 or 12 o’clock on weekends, and breakfast menus are even cheaper than lunch.

At the same time, don’t forget why you’re eating out – to get out of the house, to spend time with friends and to have a break from cooking, so why not save on the entire restaurant bill and eat out at home? Organise with a group of friends to rotate as the host of a dinner party. In this way you each take turns cooking and sharing the cost, you’re still enjoying good company and you’re getting to experience different meals. 


Alban is a personal writer at Home Loan Finder, which provides free information on home loan equity.

Article publié pour la première fois le 14/10/2010