A Dozen Ways to Eat Out for Less

food-restaurant-eat-snack.jpgMy birthday was this week!  We had an amazing night out at that tapas restaurant I’ve been wanting to try for some time.  The food was to die for, and the #panish guitar and Flamenco dancer entertained the whole family.  The next day, my two besties picked me up and took me to one of my favorite local haunts, a nearby Carribbean island theme joint.  It got to me to thinking – how does one eat out and still stay true to their goal of cutting their food expenses?

Thankfully, there are all sorts of ways to save money when you eat out.  The key is to be thoughtful and, when possible, plan ahead!  Here are some of my favorite ways to cut the  expense of eating out.

  1. Groupon.  Groupon is an amazing site where you can find all sorts of deals – both local and far away.  I receive their emails daily.  Before you ask – Yes, it is a lot of email in your inbox that you have to manage, but by receiving the emails, you will know when they are running specials which can knock an additional 20%-25% off an already great deal.  In addition to restaurant meals, there are specials on everything from hair salons to bowling.  With Groupon, we cut that birthday dinner down by about 15%!  TIP:  Download the app on your phone where your deals will be stored, thereby making it easy to redeem them without having to print out the coupons.
  2. Share a Meal.  As someone who is always watching their #weight, I discovered that most restaurants have no problem portioning your meals in two and allowing you to split them with your dining companion.  Let’s face it, most restaurant portion sizes are huge!  This trick does double-duty – keeping your portion size at a #healthy amount while saving you 50% off your tab!
  3. Kid Deals. When my two were were small, I was amazed by the number of places that offered “Kids Eat Free” deals.  For example, Cody’s Original Roadhouse offers free meals for kids on Mondays and Tuesdays.  A simple Internet search for “Places in (your city) where kids eat free, will yield a treasure trove of restaurants.
  4. Loyalty Programs.  I belong to several loyalty programs such as Chili’s, Red Robin’s, and Smokey Bones.  They are invariable free to join, and will offer you deals to cut your bill.  I don’t think we ever paid for all four burgers at Red Robin’s as there was always a special for a free gourmet burger in my email inbox.
  5. Local Deals.  Check your nearby restaurants to see what they offer.  We have a casual, upscale restaurant nearby that offers #burger night every Mondays.  For $4.99 you get an 8 oz. Angus cheeseburger with a large portion of fries.
  6. Appetizers.  Sometimes, when my husband and I feel like getting out, we find a quiet restaurant, sit at the bar, and just offer a few appetizers either from the main menu or from the bar menu.  We spend a fraction of what we would spend if we were ordering two full entrees and, yet, we still enjoy a great meal and a night out!
  7. Early Bird Specials.  Many restaurants have amazing deals if you are willing to come a bit earlier than the #traditional dinner reservation.  These specials usually offer great value for the same food you would otherwise spend upwards of 20% more for if you ate later.
  8. Forego the Cocktails and Expensive Soft Drinks.  Have you ever looked at your bill and parsed out how much of it was for drinks?  We used to all order our special drinks, including fancy #mocktails or expensive milkshakes for the kids.  If you are someone who can pass on the soda or alcohol when going out to eat, you can easily cut your bill by 1/3.
  9. Buy Gift Cards Below Face Value.  During the holiday season, there are multiple restaurants, everything from casual dining venues to #upscale restaurants, that offer gift cards below face value.  You can also find these deals at some of the club stores, such as Costco and BJ’s.  If you know you will be frequenting a #restaurant, plan to take advantage of these deals.  TIP:  Be sure to keep track of of what you buy and use them!  Many people forget about gift cards and there are reports about how many go unused each year.  Be mindful of what you buy, and don’t buy just for the sake of the deal if you don’t have a set plan for using the card.
  10. Senior Discounts.  My parents (and sooner than I’d like to admit, us, too) qualify for all sorts of senior discounts…Applebees, Ben & Jerry’s, McDonald’s.  Again, a quick Internet search will yield all sorts of results or click here.
  11. Coupons.  That local paper or circular you get each week, doesn’t just offer coupons for groceries.  There are tons of deals for restaurants.  Clip them and keep them on hand for days when you need a treat.
  12. Combine Offers.  Many of the above ideas can be used in concert.  For example, using a Groupon, splitting a meal, and going for the early bird special.  My parents utilize their senior discount at McDonald’s and split some of their meals.  You will be amazed by how much you can save by doing this.

 

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