Ideas for Saving Money on Eating Out

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Posted on 07/19/2007

Eating out can be tough on anyone's budget, and in general it's best to shop for yourself and eat at home. You can save half or more by cooking for yourself instead of eating out. However, it's always nice to relax, treat yourself (and your family), and eat a meal at a restaurant. Here are some ways to do that without breaking your budget.

Don't order two dinners. If you go to a restaurant with your partner, order one dinner and an appetizer and split it. Restaurants typically serve way too much, which is costly and unhealthy (if you try to finish it).

Make a second dinner on leftovers. Start by eating the veggies and fries or bread, then eat the actual meat item last. You might be so full from the warmup stuff that you don't eat much meat. Then take the meat home and use it for a second dinner the next night. Two dinners for the price of one!

Go for lunch specials. Lunch specials will be cheaper than dinners, and breakfasts are even cheaper, generally. Always ask about the daily special, as it can often be a good deal.

Get a discount. There are lots of ways to find discount coupons for restaurants online. Try Restaurant.com: enter your zip code and see what restaurants offer coupons or discounted gift certificates.

Just order side items. A salad and an appetizer can often make for a delicious but affordable meal for one.

Special days. Many restaurants will offer special family days, or will allow kids to eat for free, or have special discount days. Call ahead and take advantage of them.

Choose an affordable restaurant. While fast food is invariably bad for you, there are medium-priced restaurants that can offer a decent meal without breaking your budget. While there are many ways to save on eating out, one of the best is to start with a restaurant that doesn't charge an arm or a leg.

New restaurants. Often a restaurant that has just opened for business will want to attract new customers with discounts and specials. These are often advertised in the newspaper or in advertising mailings. Keep an eye out and take advantage.

Drink water. You go to a restaurant for the good food, not the soda or alcohol. You can get those for much cheaper at a grocery store. Drink water, perhaps adding a slice of lemon for taste.

Fast food. The cheapest options, of course, are fast food restaurants, and you can find some fairly healthy options at some of them. Subway, Wendy's salads or new healthier sandwiches, vegetarian options at many restaurants these days. Go to a burrito place and order a vegetarian burrito — cheap, fairly healthy, and delicious.

Skip dessert. If you're eating at a sit-down restaurant, dessert is often a rip-off. Pick up a carton of ice cream on the way home, and save a bunch.

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Comments


Tracie

Posted on 09.30.09 at 1:39 AM

great..I will follow the tips .Personally i feel Abundance is a natural state.Save for large purchases rather than buying them on credit. MONEY HABITS

Julie Caudill

Posted on 01.18.10 at 5:30 PM

At restaurants, order water with two lemons. Then, use splenda (dissolves easily in cold water) and you have fresh lemonade. Lemon in water is also a good liver cleanser.

Warren Mauschenger

Posted on 02.15.10 at 4:14 PM

When dining out, I usually say we need a little more time and just have some water whenever I spot a nearby table getting ready to leave. Then I go over it with a fine tooth comb and collect whats left. Often its a meal in itself for the kids and when it comes time to order we dont need to order as much..

Ellen S.

Posted on 05.15.10 at 10:51 PM

I think most people would agree that saving money is something “easier said than done”. Personally, I believe it’s a mind-set that needs to be developed by creating good money-saving habits.

Here are some things I’ve done to help change my spending habits:

- Cook more at home  Eating out is very expensive especially if you do it a couple times a week
- Try shopping online  You can find better deals than in the store and you save on gas
- Pay the full balance on credit cards each month  Interest charge is like giving away free money
- Don’t forget to pay yourself  Set up an online savings account (they pay higher interest than a normal savings account)
- Set a budget and goals  It’s good to have your goals written down so you see them everyday and don’t lose focus on your ultimate objectives

Again, saving money requires a lot of patience and hard work. However, you’ll thank yourself later on in life. Good luck everyone!! =)

Lovely

Posted on 05.21.10 at 3:36 AM

I think most people would agree that saving money is something “easier said than done”. Personally, I believe it’s a mind-set that needs to be developed by creating good money-saving habits.

Here are some things I’ve done to help change my spending habits:

- Cooking more at home ? Eating out is very expensive especially if you do it a couple times a week
- Shopping online ? You can find better deals than in the store and you save on gas
- Paying the full balance on credit cards each month ? Interest charge is like giving away free money
- Don’t forget to pay yourself ? Set up an online savings account (they pay higher interest than a normal savings account)
- Setting a budget and goals ? It’s good to have your goals written down so you see them everyday and don’t lose focus on your ultimate objectives

Again, saving money requires a lot of patience and hard work. However, you’ll thank yourself later on in life. Good luck everyone!! =)

no namer

Posted on 06.25.10 at 9:46 PM

warren seriousley that is disgusting i am cheap but not disgusting !! Your kids could get sick or worse contract something bad!!!!

Ash

Posted on 07.14.10 at 3:41 PM

Warren's idea is disgusting. I wonder what the restaurant staff think of this.
Ash

joe baker

Posted on 07.18.10 at 5:22 AM

If you're eating other people's table scraps and you're still hungry, then head over to the trash to see what came from other people's tables. Yum yum..

wertip

Posted on 07.25.10 at 9:58 AM

Yeah, seriously, eating table scraps? The most I'd take from another table is the ketchup bottle or some salt packets. Who knows why they didn't eat what is left.

Omaha

Posted on 08.21.10 at 8:17 AM

You know what, I believe Warren is just fooling around. Nobody does that nowadays. It's embarrassing!

Kyle

Posted on 08.28.10 at 7:39 PM

Don't forget to stiff the waiter!

Hannah

Posted on 09.07.10 at 8:46 PM

@ Warrens comment: IDK but maybe his point is most people are wasting enough to feed all the rest of us... its disgusting to think of actually eating someone elses leftovers... but seriously there seems to be too much waste at resturants!! All great tips BTW

susan palmer

Posted on 10.21.10 at 11:21 PM

I hope I can make some money doing this


Matt

Posted on 01.25.11 at 8:49 AM

@Kyle seriously?? Stiff your server? I'm a server and I rely heavily on my tips just in order to pay my bills. Servers make less than minimum wage.

Helena

Posted on 01.28.11 at 7:33 PM

@Matt--minimum wage isn't enough to live on and is a joke. Employers need to stop taking advantage of their employees and take pay cuts themselves. People need to realize this and demand that they be treated more fairly. But about saving money on eating out, its good to just do it on special occasions, that way you appreciate it more & make it a habit to cook at home which is usually healthier anyways.

Louisa

Posted on 02.07.11 at 9:51 AM

Sometimes people don't finish their meals because they're sick. It could be something communicable like a common cold or even tuberculosis or hepatitis. Sometimes they found grissle or a bone in their food and put it back on their plates from their mouths.

Gael

Posted on 07.12.11 at 9:06 PM

Seriously, people, get a sense of humor! Can you not smell the sarcasm eminating from the table scrap suggestion and the "stiff your waiter"?

Stace

Posted on 08.31.11 at 3:12 PM

Table scraps...lol. I've actually had to stop my toddler from doing that a couple times when at Shoneys because he was too impatient to wait for me to prepare his plate from the buffet. I've seen whole plates of food left on tables. Really? Fill the plate before deciding if you like it? Would help if more people just made more trips to the buffet, or simply asked for half the meal to be boxed when ordering the meal.

I hope stiffing the waiter was a jest. The tips paid many college fees while we were earning our bachelor degrees. The restaurant where we were had our earnings solely tips after 6 months. If you weren't making minimum wage on tips within 6 months, you were let go. No sense getting a teen/college kid fired because you don't want to tip. If you don't like tipping, go somewhere less formal.

As far as the article...lots of very good ideas. I quite often order just an appetizer for my lunch. I get to eat in a nice setting that's a break from the chaos of work while keeping the cost low enough to treat myself to a couple lunches a week. I will look into having sides for lunch break (I hadn't considered this idea)...will expand my dining options :)

Elle

Posted on 01.16.13 at 8:57 PM

Keep in mind that when you get a discount at a restaurant to please tip your waiter on the pre discount total. They make less than minimum wage...

Robert

Posted on 06.26.13 at 6:12 AM

Honestly, if you have to rely on tricks to make eating out cheaper, you probably shouldn't be eating out. My girlfriend is a server and people who do this sort of thing make for a really bad night for her. Too many of them, and she has trouble paying bills. You people do realize that what the restaurant pays their server goes almost entirely to taxes, right? My girlfriend works just shy of full time hours and has seen all of 7 bucks from her employer. Your tips pay their salary, so when you do your little bargain things, you basically have her(or him) working for free.

David

Posted on 01.08.14 at 1:08 PM

Ok, I've heard enough about the sob stories of servers and wait staff. My daughter (a server at an upscale Mexican restaurant) constantly complains about being under tipped. She recommends 30-40% tip for good service. That is ludicrous. I tip my servers 15% if they are good, less is they are not. If you want to get paid a "living wage" then you might to consider college and getting a "real" job. There is more out there to do than wait tables. If my server doesn't like me splitting a dinner with my wife then he or she may want to consider another line of work. My tips are not based on paying them the salary that I make... I spent many years in college to get a decent salary.

Shannon

Posted on 01.16.14 at 8:52 AM

I completely agree with David. If someone chooses to work as a waiter or waitress that is their choice and I should not have to not eat out because I do not want to spend a zillion dollars ordering lots of food or tip 30-40%. If someone does not like their pay at their job then I would suggest they find a new job.

Chantal

Posted on 03.14.14 at 1:05 AM

Firstly, I am from South Africa and while most of these ideas are great, this is actually our way of life. We cook our own food everyday and we all take lunches from home. We only eat out for special occasions and we try to eat out at buffets, one price, eat as much as you like.... I just never thought that all this can be considered frugal. For the cost of one restaurant meal, u can cook a meal for 4 pple. The one tip that helps me the most is buying groceries in bulk. When ever there is a sale on non-perishables, I buy a whole lot.... Deodorant, toothpaste, soap, washing powder ect can last for along time. I can go a whole year without buying these items as i have a nice little stockpile.

Kiki

Posted on 04.24.14 at 11:47 AM

My husband and I will only dine at higher-end chef-owned restaurants and we often split appetizers, sides, and meals. We also like BYO's so we're not paying for alcohol. While we don't troll other tables for left overs, our friends often leave food behind that they don't want to take home. Our dogs get mostly human food anyway, our friends know this, and are more than happy to offer their left overs for our dogs. Our dogs are most grateful!

Jaimee

Posted on 08.21.14 at 6:29 PM

In New Zealand everyone gets paid at least minimum wage and there is no such thing as "tips" At my work if someone says "keep the change" we put it in the charity box, not keep it for ourselves

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