Don’t you wish there was a way to save money when you’re eating out even if it’s just so you could eat out more often? Most of us love eating out, it’s just so expensive and can totally blow our budget in one fun night. I have great news, though. Below you’ll find 12 amazing tips that will help you afford eating out more often.
We can all agree that eating out is expensive, right? And, it seems like the cost of restaurant meals keeps going up fast. It has become one of the quickest ways to destroy a family’s budget.
I’m sure you don’t want to make it such a large part of your monthly spending, but it’s hard. You’ve got 5000 things going on and trying to cook dinner one more night just isn’t fitting in with your plan.
So, you go out to dinner — again.
But, there’s got to be a way to spare a few dollars … there has to be a way to save money when eating out.
Well, there is. There are actually several ways that you can take those restaurant dollars and S T R E T C H them.
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How To Save Money When Eating Out
Try out some of these ideas and you could easily save hundreds of dollars this year. If you’re a family that eats out every week, you could save hundreds just this month. See which of these tips work best for your family.
Order From The Lighter Fare or Seniors Menu
Not only are these smaller meals, but they are priced better than the standard dinners. Now, I’m not a senior, but I have never had someone challenge me about ordering off this list.
If you order this way, you won’t have to worry about finding someone to split the meal, and you won’t have to deal with taking home leftovers. There should be enough food there for anyone smaller than a linebacker.
Buy Ala Carte Items
If you’re splitting a meal with someone else, add a side salad, or a baked potato to round it out. Or, just order the main dish and skip all the sides. Your wallet will appreciate it. Sometimes I’ll just get a baked potato and a side salad for a complete meal that is delicious and frugal. (Shhh, then I steal a bite or two from everyone else at the table).
Skip Kid’s Meals
If you have more than one child, buy an adult meal and divide it amongst the kids. These are usually healthier meals anyway since kid’s meals tend to be fried, fast-food-type meals (chicken fingers, pizza, fries, hamburgers, grilled cheese). Depending on the age of your kids, one adult meal could be split between 2-4 children.
Ordering sodas, alcohol, juice or milk at a restaurant can easily add 25% to your bill. Just drink water when you’re out to eat, it’s healthier for you anyway. You can even ask for some lemon to add if you’d like a little flavor boost.
It can be difficult to break the beverage habit for some people, but consider that you’re paying another $3-$8 per person if you’re ordering drinks. That adds up really fast to a dinner bill.
Share A Meal
Most restaurant meals are pretty large and loaded with calories. One of the quickest ways to cut your dining costs in half is to share your meal.
Ask your server for an extra plate and then just divide it between you and your partner. If the two of you can’t agree on what to order, just get a to-go box and divide your own meal in two before you start eating. Save half of it to eat for lunch or dinner tomorrow.
Don’t Get The Appetizers
Appetizers are so tempting and so fun, but they will ruin your budget FAST!
Appetizers are just one more way for a restaurant to get you to spend more money. They know that you’re coming in hungry and ready to eat, so they tempt you with these delicious little tidbits. All I gotta say is, “Don’t Do It.” Restaurant meals are large enough that you’ll get plenty to eat.
Just be patient and wait for your dinner to be delivered. Bring some crackers for the kids if you’re worried that they’re going to drive you crazy. Some restaurants will even bring you some crackers for the kids if you ask.
With a Free Rakuten Account, you can get cash back for purchases at restaurants and you can even purchase deeply discounted gift cards for Restaurants.com. Go here and you’ll get a $10 bonus just for making your first purchase.
Enjoy Happy Hour
Happy Hour can be a great value if you do it right. Sometimes there is a one-drink minimum, but usually, there are great options for discounted drinks.
You can find smaller-portion, smaller-priced menu items, too. Sometimes these are similar to appetizers, but sometimes it is a full meal. This is a great way to experience those real fancy restaurants that would cost $100 if you paid for a full dinner date.
Check online for your favorite restaurants and see what they offer for Happy Hour. You may end up quite happy with what you find.
Find Restaurant Deals Through Groupon
Groupon partners with lots of great restaurants and you can take advantage of their discounts. It’s a great way to try somewhere new and save money at the same time. Go see what they offer, here.
I know all those desserts look so tempting and delicious and it seems like they will just end the night perfectly, but just say “NO!” Added calories and added dollars are not your friends.
Again, these little additions will ruin your eating-out budget. Have some dessert at home, or grab a carton of ice cream at the store and the whole family can share it for less than the cost of one restaurant dessert.
Leave The Kids At Home
Leave the kids at home and not only will you enjoy the visit with your dinner partner more, but you’ll save money too. If you’re paying for a babysitter you’ll probably still be saving money on the night. You could also try to do a kid care swap with some friends or leave your kids with family to save even more money.
Get discounted gift cards and vouchers through Raise.com. I love using Raise and have saved a ton this way by getting vouchers I can use at restaurants, movies, and other entertainment. If you have restaurants that you like to go to regularly, it’s worth buying your gift cards ahead of time. Get $5 for signing up and making your first purchase.
Skip Going Out Altogether
I’m not talking here about a planned night out with friends or your spouse. We all enjoy having a night off from cooking and it’s nice to have a relaxing meal cooked (and cleaned up) by someone else. I’m talking about those crazy nights you’re feeling too tired to make dinner for your family and you decide to just take everyone out.
This is costly. And, odds are, you’re doing this repeatedly in the week or month. With a little bit of planning, you can prevent this costly expense.
Our family is a big fan of MyFreezEasy, where we make 10 meals in an hour, customized to our own tastes. By keeping these in the freezer I always have something to throw in my Instant Pot. Or, I can pop them in the crockpot in the morning. Go look at MyFreezEasy by going here.
I also always make sure I have a few ingredients on hand so I can make Quick and Easy Dinners on Crazy Days. By keeping just the right things in your pantry you’ll be ready for those nights and you won’t have to feel bad about ruining your budget.
Related Reading: How to Stop Eating Out to Save Money
Some inspiration for quick meals at home:
- Dinner Kit Meals in 15 Minutes – Gobble Review
- 43 Pantry Meals so You Can Stop Eating Out
- Quick and Easy Dinners on Crazy Days – 15 Minute Meals
- Instant Pot Black Bean Soup – 5 ingredients
- Stock Your Pantry for Quick Meals
- Kitchen Equipment You Need for Quick Meals
- 3 Weeks of 15-Minute Meals – The Busy Budgeter