Saving Money at Restaurants

Tips for saving money while eating out at restaurants.

Drink Water As Your Beverage

I choose to drink water as my beverage. Everyone is supposed to drink several glasses of water a day. So I'm getting in my quota and I save a few bucks with each meal by doing so.


By Terri from NV

Eat Half

Order the meal, telling the waitress or waiter to doggy bag 1/2 of it before you even receive it. That way you'll have a meal for another time. If you plan to eat the whole meal, don't order soup and or salad unless they are included in the price. You can always order a meal and get two plates. (my daughter and I do this often) If you have a child that can eat an adult portion, order the children's meal for yourself.


Newspaper Coupons

I use coupons for local restaurants that advertise in our local newspaper. Sometimes it is buy 1, get 1 free, or $3.00 -$5.00 off two meals. And these are really good restaurants. Because it can become a very expensive hobby for two!

By Jackie

Use Coupons But Still Tip

Look for coupons in newspapers and mailers but be sure to tip. I always tip as we know the servers all work so hard.


By Annie Rios Hill

Happy Hour Deals at Pubs

The nicest meal I had last week was when I went to a local pub for an "All You Can Eat" taco buffet. I bought a glass of soda and only paid $2 for the meal and the soda (and of course, a tip). So do patronize bars during the happy hour times. Lots of good meals for less than $5.

By Mary

Ask About Discounts

It doesn't hurt to ask for senior, AARP, AAA or other discounts you qualify for. Many aren't listed but could save up to 10% off your bill.

By Hwalz

Early Bird Specials

We like to eat out a lot on the weekends. It can get so costly though. We try to get to restaurants by 4:00 PM and we get the "EarlyBird" Specials. They are the same meals that they offer at dinner prices but you are paying lunch prices. And quite often, They come with a soup or salad and coffee and desert! We also don't get tied up in that big dinner crowd, And nearly never have a waiting time!


By Jackie

Coupons And Specials

We use the Entertainment coupon books for 2 for 1 deals for even our special meals. We also look for specials in the paper. There is a local bistro that has 1/2 price deals at happy hour on the food, too. Early bird specials. Really only go to the places where the food is better/different from home!

By pam munro

Share Food And Other Tips

To save dollars when dining out, opt for water with lemon rather than a soft drink. In one year, at $1.59 per dinner, cola/ice tea for two ordered once a week (with 6% tax) comes to just over $170.00. Surprised? it DOES add up!

Many places offer the same meals for lunch as dinner at a lesser price. Consider opting for lunch out and light supper at home

Consider sharing salad, appetizer and one entree between two people. Skip or share dessert.


Use coupons often found in newspapers for 2 for one meals.

Please do NOT scrimp in gratuity though. Servers work hard and here are paid HALF minimum wage.

By Doggy from TX

Budget for Restaurants Carefully

Here are my restaurant tips. I love to eat out but it sure cuts into the budget.

Don't go to fast food. Save your restaurant budget for food you will really enjoy. It costs our family about $20.00 to go to McDonald's. We can eat at one of our favorite local restaurants for $40-50. The food is always changing, always delicious and we can relax and have a great meal together. We eat out less often but enjoy it more.

Go to restaurants that have lots of extras. Chips and salsa at Mexican restaurants, bread at Italian restaurants. Buffet restaurants for salads and Indian food can be a great savings too.


Also make sure the specials are a good deal. For example: At the Olive Garden, they have a soup/salad/breadsticks deal. For about the same price at lunch, you can get spaghetti and salad or soup, breadsticks automatically come to every table anyway, even if you just order a drink. I've eaten my fill of the breadsticks and the salad and taken the spaghetti home, which you can't really do with the soup or salad.

Serving sizes are getting huge, most restaurants will split a main entree between two plates. I often split kids menu items between my two boys at breakfast restaurants. I've even had a restaurant give me and my husband the same salad and sides when we had a prime rib split between us. Also, Chinese and Thai restaurants often have large, easy to share entrees.


If you like to have wine with dinner, for a celebration or such, consider getting a bottle instead of individual glasses. You can often save money this way and it limits you when the waiter asks if you want another glass.

Bon Appetit!

By Jess (TF Editor)

Take Home Half For Tomorrow

I go to restaurants I like and drink only water with a slice/wedge of lemon.

Since portions are large, divide them and tell the waiter to package them to go before you eat. That way an excellent meal is two meals = half price. No desserts, unless that is why you came.

Do not order a salad. Order the entree that includes it. A la cart veggies are easily split. If two of you agree on an entree, split it and pay the split fee, which covers all the extras, anyway.

Pasta or dishes that do not come with the house salad or extras are a false savings. If you order appetizers only, be sure to add up the cost. One appetizer is usually the same as a true portion entree.

Some restaurants will let you order from the Seniors or Kids Menu for $1-2 more. (That's how I get a hot dog and fries at Islands.)

Always ask the weight of meat, size of chicken or duck. Four-five oz. is one meat portion. That tells you if there's enough to take home in advance.

The Oracle

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By bambi2003 (Guest Post)
April 27, 20070 found this helpful

All very good tips, the tip I have is find the restrarant that offers a kids eat free day, I have 5 kids and that's very important in wether we eat out or not. I have a few of our favorite deals to share. Cici's Pizza on Tuesday is kids eat free and it's only $3.99 for a pizza buffet we get 1 drink for my husband and I to share and a couple kid drinks for the kids to share and then get water and we keep the price around $12 before tip. Next at O'Charlies kids eat free everyday, the food is a little pricey but if we're careful we can keep the bill under $20 then there is the pizza at Sams Club a large supreme pizza is under $8 and it's like the best pizza for the price it has everything on it like red peppers, mushrooms, 3 different meats it's loaded with toppings and the kids love it after a long day of errands and shopping to get pizza, besides mom, do you want to go home and cook after a long day of shopping and errands? And last but definitely not least, this is my favorite if you are so lucky to live near an Ikea there Swedish meatball dinner is wonderful, and it's only like $3 and they have $.99 childrens meals, one time we all ate and were full, all 7 of us for $9.97 and that was with drinks! And breakfast is only $.99 everyday and they give you a lot of food. Not to mention the $1 hotdogs and frozen yogurt downstairs, I love Ikea and anyone who's ever been knows what I'm talking about. I really hope this helps someone, especially the families with a few kids that think they can't afford to go out, it's really nice to give our children that experience.

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By Marlen (Guest Post)
April 27, 20070 found this helpful

I own a restaurant and am interested in all the comments. It always bothers me when people order a lot of food and then it goes to waste, even though the money is in my till for it. One thing I do not like or approve of is when people take "extras" home, such as a purse full of napkins, asking for extra condiments and taking them home, some people take the catsup bottles, and we've lost all our plates for kid's meals cuz someone apparently thought they were cute. Grabbing all the "freebies" you can get your hands on might seem like a good idea but it drives my prices up, so who wins? Also I offer free refills on drinks. Some people come for a free refill, take a swallow or two and then leave it. I pay my wait staff minimum wage or more and they also appreciate tips. They don't always get them, though. And they DO like it when you don't leave a huge mess. Some people will empty the napkin dispensor, pour salt or pepper into the catsup, etc. That is SO rude. Great servers appreciate great patrons and vice versa. Thanks for listening!!

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April 28, 20070 found this helpful

I do not eat a lot so I often order an hors d'oeuvre as my main course, or split my meal with a friend. Servings are so huge these days! miriamne

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May 1, 20070 found this helpful

The only thing I want to add is this...fill your own doggie not send any food back to the kitchen or have your doggie bag prefilled. Everyone needs to watch some of those reality shows on TV about what goes on in restraurants out of the view of only takes ONE.
And I agree, customers can be total pigs and terrible about taking things. It is a two way situation unfortunately.

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By Servergrl (Guest Post)
May 4, 20070 found this helpful

Saving money on food is great, as long as you tip according to the work the server does. I am a server and get paid 2.13 an hour. If there are 7 people to serve and the bill is only 20.00 and you tip the average 15%, that's only $3 and then we must tip out bussers (normally 2.5% of our sales). So for serving 6 people, we are getting less than .50 cents a person for a lot of work. Saving money on food is great, but try to remember those who are working to make money and tip accordingly (and if you sit for a long period of time, that is money out of server's pockets too because they can't turn their table to have another group come in )

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By Liz (Guest Post)
June 16, 20070 found this helpful

Always ask about Daily Specials! Chances are the ingredients were an 'oops' by the inventory stockers and will be offered as main dishes at a lower cost than regularly featured menu items!

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October 6, 20070 found this helpful

I love the advise I've read about saving money when dining out. I do have to say, that when my family of 4 goes out for dinner, we only order appetizers IF they are for the whole family. If it doesn't fit ONE family members taste, then we don't order it. I feel that it isn't needed if it isn't for the whole family. Why buy an appetizer if it isn't enjoyed by the entire family? Doesn't seem cost effective to me. Especially since dining out is Family Time!! We have time to talk, share our ideas, have fun. When you dont have to worry about dishes or clean up, its amazing how much more time you have to enjoy your family!

BE CAREFUL of 'extras'. Recently I ordered 'extra' hollandaise sauce on Eggs Benedict at Ihop. On our bill we were charged 2.99 for a small bowl of 'extra' hollandaise. I actually meant, "please cover the the eggs entirely", as sometimes they deliver almost naked eggs... but instead I got a small side order/bowl of hollandaise. And, boy did the bill reflect it.

Also be careful when the server asks you if you would like 'your potato(s) loaded', 'cheese on that', 'mushrooms and onions', 'butter & sour cream', salad, soup..... often times it SOUNDS like items are included in your meal. But SURPRISE, they are not. The small things add up FAST.

Military discounts are also a great savings for those families serving in the Military. Many restaurants offer this discount and if they don't, will often apply the senior discount as a Military discount!

My final bit of personal advise is this; when tipping, TIP THE SERVER ON THE AMOUNT THE MEAL WOULD COST BEFORE COUPONS, DISCOUNTS ETC. The server deserves a tip according to what was actually served. Good for us that we find discounts, but the server shouldn't 'suffer' for our savings.


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April 7, 20120 found this helpful

In CA servers are paid minimum wage, and tips are not deducted from their pay. They do have to pay taxes on their tips, but the restaurant doesn't deduct that from their pay-its between them and the IRS/Franchise tax board. That said, I tip based on service and before-coupon price of their meal, but in low end restaurants, i.e. coffee shops, the servers receive min wage and tips, so they make a decent wage/pay for a min wage type job.

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