What are your best tips around saving on dining out? What are the best discount programs, happy hour deals? I spend over $5000 last year to dine out and want to cut back.
By JohnC from Portland, OR
Hey John, Portland is my home town and I'm currently in exile in Colorado and my dear brother is also named John. That aside, the best way to save money on eating out, is eat at home. Sorry.
But, many restaurants are offering deals right now if you eat with someone,like 2-fers or try eating out for lunch instead of dinner. This will often get you the same food, possibly in a smaller portion but for less money [most of us could do with smaller portions]. Making lunch your heaviest meal also tends to help control weight, and you can have a salad, some french bread and a small glass of wine or juice at home later in the evening.
Coupon books aren't really worth much in my opinion.
Having a few favorite restaurants where you really learn the ins and outs of the menu's is a help. Ask what days are the best specials from more than one waiter/waitress and you will get all the details of the place eventually, and figure out which way to combine what you like for the lowest bottom line.
All restaurant chains prompt their employees to up sell. I hated it when I worked in a restaurant. Say no as much as possible, drink water as your main beverage and save the coffee, juice, wine, etc for home, unless they sell your real favorite. Specify which category and size you want. I hadn't eaten a restaurant for a long time and stopped in recently, and forgot that little rule and ended up with the largest glass of milk they had, even though I'd only asked for a glass of milk. I've learned the hard way that I often am full before finishing the full size of anything, when the smaller size would have sufficed.
Try to have some of your favorite things at home waiting for you so you aren't tempted to buy them at the restaurant. Eat small and treat yourself to late night snack at home.
I agree about coupon books. For the price there is a lot in them that a person won't use. The last two years the management company that has the apartment complex I live in has done a discount card for about 18 asstd. businesses. Two years ago there wasn't anything listed that I used. Last year there was one business listed that I would use. It will be interesting to see what is on the card this year, if management does it again.
Eat at home. I'd rather fix a peanut butter sandwich than pay the high price to eat out, or fix a Slim Fast milk shake. We drink those to help with weight problems. Good luck.
I agree with not ordering beverages when eating out in restaurants. I am fine with a glass of water. I also skip appetizers if I'm ordering a main course. I am often so full from the appetizer I can't eat the entree. Is it your routine to end the meal with coffee? You might just be ordering out of habit. Do without it and see if you can eliminate it or have some when you get home.
We don't like to eat too late at night so we look for early bird specials.
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I was amazed to read the average American household spends more than $2,200 dining out, according to New Strategist Publications. So, we do need to be good consumers and pay attention to what we are ordering at our favorite restaurants. Be sure to ask the price of the specials, my husband and I have found it is not unusual for them to be more expensive than every other item on the menu. Simply ask how much they are as the waiter lists them.
Another profit making item is bottled water offered at many eateries, even your fast food stops offer bottled water. Bottled water is a huge profit for restaurants. If you order wine with dinner, order a glass of the house wine, it is much more $ friendly, or do like my husband and I do, have small glass of wine and a piece of cheese before you leave for the restaurant.
When we get to the restaurant we are not as hungry so we order a dinner that comes with a salad to split and order one extra salad. If you do order a bottle of wine, be certain the bottle you order is the bottle you receive. Sometimes less expensive varieties are substituted for pricier versions. Some restaurants will cavalierly substitute a less expensive year, but still charge you the higher.
By Bobbie from Rockwall, TX
Many restaurants serve large portions. Don't be afraid to take half of your meal home. Many servers say they are noticing that diners are bringing their own plastic containers to take home the food. Much better than Styrofoam. (01/12/2009)
I always order a glass of ice water at restaurants. A beverage with the meal can add $1.50 or more. (01/12/2009)
Many chain restaurants have an email club on their main website. Upon joining you receive a coupon for a free appetizer or dessert, and sometimes money off coupons.They will also send you a free offer for appetizer or dessert on your birthday. I always check a restaurants website for offers before dining out. (01/12/2009)
If there's a kids entree, ask for it. Also a number of restaurants are offering 1/2 portions. If you cannot share an entree, order an appetizer as your entree. Many of the appetizers are smaller portions of the main entree. When ordering a bottle of wine, be sure you see the label as the server peels off the top seal and uncorks it. Reputable restaurants do this as a matter of integrity. (01/13/2009)