Who doesn’t love to dine out? The thought of someone else preparing my meal, serving it, clearing the table AND doing the dishes is quite dreamy.
At one time, we ate out every Friday night and again on Saturday and Sunday for lunch. In fact, there were many weekends that I didn’t cook, because we ate out for every meal.
Those days are long gone for us now as we’re working hard to cut corners and save money. But we still want to enjoy a meal out and do so about once a week, usually for lunch. It is possible to eat out without blowing your budget, it just takes a bit of planning and a few thrifty tips.
15 Smart Tips to Save Money When Eating Out
1. Check your favorite restaurants’ websites and apps.
Many restaurants offer online coupons for downloading and/or using their phone apps. We’ve gotten free food and coupons for downloading apps and ordering our food through the app. Restaurants might also offer specials on their websites, but it seems many are moving to apps, especially larger chains. Also “like” your favorite restaurants’ social media pages where they post their specials.
2. Be Loyal
Many restaurants offer a freebie if you sign up for their email newsletter or membership program. All You magazine has a list of 23 Restaurants with such deals.
3. Take advantage of mid-week specials.
A pizza shop in my neighborhood sells large cheese pizzas on Tuesdays for $6.99 vs. $14.99 the rest of the week. There have been many hectic Tuesday nights where this has saved my sanity.
4. Got Kids?
Kids meals normally range from $3.99 – $5.99, but many restaurants offer free kids meals or reduced kids meals with an adult meal purchase during specific hours or days. For example, a favorite local Italian restaurant offers FREE kids meal with adult meal purchase on Saturdays from 2pm – 4pm.
Money Saving Mom has a comprehensive Master List of Kids Eat Free Restaurant Deals.
5. Eat FREE on your birthday.
Some restaurants offer free food for your birthday. Some of these freebies are via an email sign-up.
Here’s a list of 400 restaurants that offer birthday freebies.
6. Go out for breakfast or lunch instead of dinner.
Breakfast and lunch specials can be cheaper than the dinner entrees, yet the portions are still very filling.
7. Order an appetizer and share a main dish.
This is a great way to dine at your favorite higher priced restaurants.
8. Avoid the soda pop.
At $2 – $2.50, a glass of soda is an expensive drink. Avoid not just for monetary reasons, but also for your health. Most restaurants offer free refills and the waitress just keeps pouring. By the time you leave, you might have had 3+ glasses of soda. I am weak when it comes to root beer, so for this reason alone, I stopped ordering sodas at a restaurant. I would leave the restaurant so bloated on soda. I now order just water.
If you must have a soda, buy a 2 liter at the grocery store for $1 and drink it at home.
9. Check out Restaurant.com for bargains.
Enter your zip code to see what area restaurants are offering deep discounts on gift certificates. You might be able to snag a $25 certificate for $10 or even cheaper!
10. Visit Daily Deal websites
Subscribe to daily deal websites, like Groupon, Living Social, for restaurant deals, such as buy 1 get one free or discounted gift certificate promotions.
11. Consider purchasing a Bonus or Entertainment book for your area.
These books run about $30, but are loaded with coupons, most of them are Buy 1 Get 1 FREE. Order them online or look for the books locally. My parents gift us one for Christmas every year. They make a great gift idea for people who are hard to buy for.
12. Do you receive a Coupon Clipper magazine in your mailbox?
They are a great source for local restaurant coupons. We keep ours in the car, so we always have it with us. Also plug in your zip code at the Clipper site, DoubleTakeDeals for 50% off deals in your area.
13. Check your local newspaper for coupons.
Our newspaper runs a dining guide on Thursdays that often includes coupons. Check your local newspapers website or Facebook page to see if they offer the same guide.
14. Purchase gift cards during special promotions.
Many restaurants have gift card specials, such as spend $50 and get a $$ card free, especially during the holiday season.
15. Sweet Tooth Alternatives
I have quite the sweet tooth and I love a good dessert, but they can be pricey. I try to have some treats in the freezer to enjoy at home. But if the meal out is extra special, order one dessert for the table to share or follow the tips above and use a dessert coupon.
One final note: As a former waitress (during college), skimping on your server’s tip is not a way to save money when dining out. Please tip appropriately
How do you enjoy a meal out on a budget? What tips can you add to help save money when eating out? Let us know in the comments.
This post is linked to Frugal Friday.