How to Save Money at Your Favourite Restaurants
Most people don’t eat out at the restaurants very often and there are some really legit reasons why - you have full control of the quality of ingredients, it’s almost always cheaper, you don’t have to wait to be seated and serviced, and finally, you have virtually unlimited choices what to eat. So yes, tons of pros for home cooking.
However, there are plenty of times when eating out just makes more sense: on vacation, on a date, and simply after a long day of hiking. Restaurant atmosphere and a long meal about once a month can really help shake the feeling of routine off.
If you have a kid or two, restaurant bill can add up really fast. But fear not, we have compiled a list of strategies that will help you plan your restaurant meals better and make them more affordable. Take a look at ways to maintain your budget while indulging once in a while:
Discounted gift cards
This one is obvious – shop at discount gift card retailers and you can save up to 50% on restaurants, so no need to ever pay face value for your meal.
Try Restaurant.com, Giftcardgranny.com and Cardpool.com for great deals. Costco and Sam’s Club often sell gift card bundles for a lot less than they are worth.
Free appetizers and meal sharing
There are plenty of restaurants that offer free appetizers just to get you in the door. Mexican restaurants often have free unlimited chips and salsa, Red Lobster has unlimited basket of cheddar bay biscuits, many Italian eateries offer free bread with oil.
You can get pretty full on those appetizers, so keep that in mind when ordering while hungry. In other words, don’t order a giant plate of food that you will never finish. Instead get a smaller meal that you will really like or share one larger plate with another family member.
Restaurants make majority of their money on soft drinks and bar cocktails. If you really want to save, skip all drinks at the restaurant, stick with tap water, and then get whatever you like at home, after dinner. Home is the best and the cheapest bar of all.
If you really want to splurge and enhance your meal with a perfect glass of wine, get one, but only with your meal.
Finally, water is you’re your healthiest and the most pure beverage option.
Sunday paper coupons
You can often find plenty of coupons and special offer from your local chain restaurants in your Sunday paper. Olive Garden, Longhorn Steakhouse, and some others offer coupons very often.
Sometimes such coupon search can lead you to discover a new eatery you didn’t even know about. Coupons are very easy to use and serve as cash in the restaurant.
Kids eat free places
Many family restaurants offer “kids eat free” at least once a week. This strategy can save quite a bit of money very fast if you have more than one child. In addition to saving, you know you will be dining at a family-friendly establishment and with a piece of mind that your child will not be only one disturbance and nobody will mind a bit of noise.
Create a budget
You know your family and its needs and likes best, so set aside some money for eating out every month. That amount might cover a couple of fancy meals or more nights out at a less expansive place. The budget will guarantee that you won’t go all out and spend way too much on food. It’s always nice to put a cap on it.
Save expensive places for a date night and choose family friendly and cheaper restaurants for going out with family.
Think early bird specials, which are served early in the morning or before 5 pm for dinner. Some places discount food and beverage items for the last call, right before closing.
Find out those times of a week or day at your favorite restaurants and come in then to take advantage of them.
Appetizers as main meals
Many restaurants serve huge trays of appetizers for a relatively low price. For example, a huge plate of bruschetta with toppings can cost $6.99 and be more than enough to make you full.
Eating an appetizer as your meal will also ensure that you have some portion control and eat slower, which is much better for you than an overflowing bowl of creamy pasta.
Coupon book or discount card
Many charities and non-profit organizations sell coupon books or local discount cards to direct some funds their way. You can buy this book or split one with your neighbors and friends to save a huge amount of money. 2-3 visits to your local participating restaurant can pay for the yearly book right away.
Split the main meal
If you like a big-portion restaurant, consider splitting the entrée with another person in your party. After all, some places bring more food than a person could or should eat. All you need to do is order one meal and ask for an extra plate for splitting.
If you don’t think you will get enough food that way, order a cheaper appetizer for splitting. This will definitely cut your bill and your waist line.
Dessert is another often overpriced item on the menu. Skipping it will not only benefit your wallet, but also your health. If you absolutely have to have something sweet, have a treat at home. Chances are it will be a lot cheaper and maybe even healthier for you.
If you can’t wait until you get home, stop by a place that focuses on just desserts and you will pay less.
Follow restaurants on social media
Chances are you spend time on social media anyway, so why not follow your favorite eateries and get discounts and coupons first hand? You can often get “buy one, get one ½ off”, free appetizers, and even free meals just by being in-the-know via social media.
Mailing lists is another good way to keep up with discount offerings.
If you have a large serving of food and start feeling full, stop nibbling at it and instead ask for a container to take it home and make another meal out of it next day. Your body will thank you for not overloading it with extra calories.
Make eating out special
Events that don’t happen very often become special. Keep this in mind and don’t make eating out a routine, keep it special and save money by not doing at all the time.
Finally, there are some useful money-saving tips and tricks from restaurant employees and insiders that are definitely worth considering:
- Take it “to-go” – by doing this you will save money on beverages, deserts, salads, and will often get extra helping. Just make sure you are skipping delivery.
- Skip bottled water and sweet sodas – you can often pay 50% more for your bottled water than retail. Restaurants also make a huge profit of sodas. Forgo both of those.
- Lunch for dinner – if the restaurant allows, consider ordering from lunch menu for dinner. Your linner will essentially be the same thing, just a lot cheaper.
- Bring your own wine – do this everywhere you can and you will enjoy your meals with a very affordable wine.
- Buy combos – they are often great healthy options on a budget. Soup and salad or soup and ½ sandwich are great for your belly and for your wallet.
- Talk to your waiter – be nice and you might receive an extra serving or a complimentary tasting.
- Ask about status discounts – military personnel, seniors, handicapped, and students all can get great deals. All you have to do is ask.
- Don’t go for specials – they are not cheaper and might just be trial menu options.
- Order large – when it comes to ice cream or other dessert specialty stores, you will get the most value from a large portion.
- Happy hour – discounted drinks and appetizers await!
- Groupon and LivingSocial – enough said.
- Eat a snack – don’t go grocery shopping or to the restaurant completely starving. Have a snack right before and you will order more sensibly.
- Bruch – slow down, relax, enjoy, and make it special with one price for breakfast and lunch.