Tips for Saving While Eating Out
When you commit to living a more frugal lifestyle, meals at restaurants are among the first to go. For the cost of a meal at a restaurant, you could easily make four or five meals at home for the same price. Yet eating at home day in and day out can get old fast. You need variety — and sometimes you just need a night off from the kitchen.
You can treat yourself to meals out and still stick to your frugal living plan. Here are a few tips for how you can save money while eating out so you can maintain your budget and still enjoy a good meal that you didn’t have to cook for yourself:
Fill Up before the Main Course
When you’re hungry, you’re likely to order everything on the menu. You can avoid over-ordering and save yourself a lot of money by filling up before the main course. Either grab a snack from home to eat on the way, or order water and snack on free breadsticks before your meal arrives. You’ll be able to order a smaller meal and save a lot of money.
Share a Dish
Most restaurant meals are two or three times a normal serving size. Not only will you end up paying more than you need to, but you’ll end with two or three times the amount of calories, fat and sugar that you need. You can save your pocketbook and your diet by sharing a dish instead of ordering one for yourself. Just ask for an extra plate and divide your entree at the table.
Choose an Appetizer
Many restaurants offer appetizer versions of their entrees. Even the stand-alone appetizers are big enough to eat as a meal. Save yourself some money by ordering an appetizer for your meal instead of an entree that can cost twice the price. If you’re really famished, order a side salad with your appetizer. You’ll likely still come out ahead on the bill!
Eat Off the Kids’ Menu
Like the appetizers, the kids’ menu is often a reflection of the main menu on a smaller scale. You can order dishes that are smaller versions of main entrees for a fraction of the cost. Just beware as some restaurants prohibit adults from ordering kids’ entrees. If this is the case, ask if you can order a half dish instead of a full.
Go On Special Nights
Many restaurants offer special promotions, such as a two-for-one deal or a Kids Eat Free night. More restaurants are also offering pre-set meals that include two entrees and an appetizer for a set price — usually far less than you would have paid regularly. Take advantage of these promotions and plan your outings accordingly. You’ll end up saving as much as 50 percent off your bill.
Skip the Extras
As large as restaurant meals are, you don’t need to order anything else besides the main entree in order to feel full and satisfied. Don’t order an appetizer or dessert. If you want something sweet, wait until you get home to enjoy some ice cream or another treat. Of course, you should never order alcohol at a restaurant as you’ll pay three or four times what the drink would cost you to make at home. You can easily spend more on alcoholic drinks than on your whole food order.
Eating out can be expensive, and if you’re trying to live a more frugal lifestyle, you should limit eating out or cut it out entirely. However, if you just need a night off or a little variety in your routine, you can use these tips to save money while eating out so you don’t break your budget.
What else do you do to save money while eating out? Share your tips in the comments!
About the Author:
Bridget Sandorford is a freelance food and culinary writer, where recently she’s been researching Indian cookery school. In her spare time, she enjoys biking, painting and working on her first cookbook.