Dining Out on a Budget


As much as I love to eat home-cooked meals, sometimes, I just want a break from cooking. It’s a nice change to let someone else do the cooking and serving once in a while. The problem, however, is that menu prices are climbing higher and higher, just like everything else.

Our family tries to eat out at least once a week. A few years ago, dining out became somewhat of a tradition for every Friday night. For us, eating out at a restaurant provides a nice way to relax, converse and enjoy a meal together. It is something that I really don’t want to give up unless it is absolutely necessary.

That being said, I have really started looking into ways that we can “have our cake and eat it too.”

Here are a few things I have been contemplating regarding dining habits:

  • Drink water – Instead of soda or tea, try ordering water to drink. Considering restaurant drinks can cost $2 or more each, this can really add up. If you have trouble drinking plain water, try squeezing a little lemon in your glass to add some extra flavor. Most tables also have sugar available, so if you like, put a little sugar in your lemon water and you have lemonade.
  • Share a meal – Look for a large meal that can be split between two people. Even if you are charged a small fee for sharing, this can still save you a few bucks in the long run.
  • Skip the appetizer – Appetizers are so large most times that by the time the appetizer is gone, so is your appetite. If you must have the appetizer, try ordering it as your meal.
  • Kids eat free/half price – Some restaurants have certain nights of the week that they offer kids meals for free or half price with a paying adult. By scheduling your dining to those restaurants on these nights, you can double up on savings, especially if you have two kids.
  • Have dessert at home – Plan on and make a tasty dessert before leaving the house. When you finish your meal you won’t be tempted to order from the dessert menu if you know there is something just as yummy waiting for you at home.

Being curious about how much money might actually be saved by following these few tips, I created a little comparison chart. You can check it out right here.

After looking at the chart, you can see that there are some major advantages to changing a few minor dining habits. Planning ahead and making a few good choices can go a long way toward allowing you to continue enjoying family dining experiences, even on a budget.

What ways have you found to save money at restaurants?

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Posted on April 11th, 2009 in Money Matters | 4 Comments
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  • My husband and I do enjoy eating out–so finding ways to keep the bill down is key. Here are a few of our strategies:

    – Go for lunch instead of dinner. Lunch menus are almost always less expensive.

    – Check the coupon book. Every year for Christmas a friend gives us a city coupon book that has various buy-one-get-one offers at area eateries.

    – Choose wisely from the menu. I’ve discovered that I love, love LOVE the hamburgers at Outback. And at only around $7 with fries, I can order a salad, too and keep my dinner under $10.

    – Find a place that serves pizza by the slice. A local sit-down restaurant serves slices for $2.50 that are bigger than your head! It makes more sense for us to do that than order a whole pie–which causes us to either overeat or waste.

    – Share dessert.

    Amanda @ Mrs.W’s Kitchen’s last blog post..Got Leftover Ham?

  • Audra Laney says:

    We use the website http://www.restaurant.com to get restaurant gift certificates super cheap. They’re constantly giving out savings codes. For example, this week the check out code is “feast” to get a $25 GC for only $3! DO read the fine print, b/c a lot of times it will tell you that you need to spend a minimum amount (usually 40) but you still get $22 back in your pocket!

    Audra Laney’s last blog post..Blue Eyed Boy

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