9 Simple Ways to Save Money While Eating Out

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Eating out is literally my kryptonite and the hardest habit to kick.  I just love the convenience of eating out but it can really add up.  Think about it: if you go out to lunch every day for a week at a conservative $7 a meal, you will be spending $35 a week and $140 per month!  Let’s be realistic, though, what restaurant can you go to for $7 a meal?  Typically it is more like $8-10 or more if you order a drink and/or dessert.  Therefore, at $10 per meal, you end up spending $50 per work week and $200 just on work days!  It adds up quickly!

That isn’t even including weekends.

Even though eating out is my guilty pleasure, it doesn’t help my wallet (or my waistline).  Slashing eating out from your budget is one of the easiest ways to save money.  However, it doesn’t hurt to treat yourself every once in a while.

That is why I try to find simple ways to save money while eating out.  Check out these 9 simple ways to save money while eating out.

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Skip the Alcohol

I know you had a long day at work.  I know it is happy hour and there are unbeatable drink specials.  Unless the alcohol is free it is cheaper to wait until you get home to indulge.

Sure a drink may only be $8-10 but think about how fast that small amount can add up.  Order 8 alcohol drinks out during a month and that is $64-80 per month.  If you don’t live in the Midwest, prices of drinks can easily be a lot more!  Skip the alcohol to save money while eating out.

If you really want a drink, then wait until you get home.  You will be saving yourself the money and you won’t have to worry about finding away home in the event that you indulge too much.

Share a Meal

Many restaurants provide enormous portions.  Instead of having leftovers later in the week, split your meal with a friend.  If you order one meal to share and that isn’t enough, then you can always order more food.  I typically like to share an appetizer or salad and an entree to ensure it is filling.

Beware of this option, though, some restaurants charge a fee for split plates.  If the restaurant does charge a fee usually it is mentioned on the menu or the server will mention the fee when you order.

Find a Special on a Daily Deal Site

There are so many daily deal sites out nowadays you can easily find a restaurant with a deal.  Make sure you read the fine print of the deal so you aren’t disappointed when the bill comes.

Bonus Tips:  Even if you can’t find a special on a daily deal site, make sure you ask what the special is for the day.  Often times, specials are not widely advertised.  It is important to always ask!

Order a Kids Meal

Depending on your appetite, a kids meal can be just enough to keep you fill!  Many times a kids meal is coupled with a small drink in addition to a small main course.  Ensure to read the fine print on the menu to make sure there are no limitations to ordering kids meals.

Kids meals are typically 33% discounted (if not more) than the adult portion!  Therefore, helping you save money.

Snack Before You Go

Going to a restaurant hungry is just like going to the grocery store hungry- don’t do it!  It can cause you to order more food because your eyes are hungrier than your belly.  Make sure to have a snack before you go out to eat in order to save money.

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Save the Leftovers for Tomorrow’s Meal

Finish eating and have food left over?  Make sure to order a to go container.

Personally, I am not the biggest fan of leftovers.  In order to make leftovers more manageable, I heat the food up in the oven instead of the microwave.

Visit During Lunch Hour

If you are committed to going to a restaurant (especially one that is pricier), visit during lunch time.  The portion sizes are typically more manageable and more reasonably priced.  In addition, they may have special lunchtime combos.

Make sure your lunch time visit is planned in your budget, though.  Regular lunch-time visits add up!

Try Restaurants where Kids Eat Free

Eating out can break the bank especially when you are making for more than just yourself.  If you want to treat your kids to a meal, check out restaurants where kids eat for free.

Tuesday is typically the cheapest day that kids eat free nationwide; however, there can be deals found daily.  Check out this brief list of restaurants where kids eat free!

  • Bob Evans: Kid’s eat free on Tuesdays after 4 pm with the purchase of an adult meal
  • Chik-Fil-A: Kids eat free Tuesdays 5:30-7:30 pm with the purchase of an adult meal
  • Denny’s: Kids eat free Tuesdays from 4-10pm (at some locations, Saturdays, too)
  • Hooter’s: Kids eat free Sundays from 11a-11p
  • Moe’s Southwestern Grill: Kids eat free Tuesdays all day
  • Pizza Hut: Kids eat free Tuesdays all day
  • Qdoba Mexican Grill: Kids eat free on Sundays and Wednesdays
  • Steak ‘n Shake: Kids eat free on Sundays
  • White Castle: Kids eat free on Sundays from 4-8pm

*Make sure to check with your local restaurant as specials can vary*

Focus on your Goals

When it comes to eating out, it is most important to focus on your goals of financial freedom.  It will help you to stick to your budget.  At a restaurant, it will make the choice between a salad and a steak much easier.  Or even water versus an alcoholic beverage.

It is also why it is important to share your money goals with your friends.  If your friends know the goals that you are looking to achieve, they may opt for a dinner hang out at a casual dining spot instead of a fine dining location.

Looking for other ways to save money?  Check out these other posts:

9 ways to save money when eating out | frugal living | save money on food | save money as a family

 

What tips do you follow to save money when eating out?  Tell me about it in the comments!

 

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25 comments

  1. I definitely support the leftovers route. Most restaurants give huge portions, so I can sometimes justify it by knowing I’ll have a lunch for the next day.

  2. We could work on utilizing kids eat free days. Our one year old’s appetite is bigger than his big sister’s so he requires hia own food now, lol!

  3. The number one is the biggest money saver in my own opinion. Even Spain with its low prices, add anything alcoholic that’s not beer, and the bill skyrockets. I have gotten used to tapas sized food too, so it’s just right. Great tips 🙂

  4. Your posts are always on time With this growing 13-years old son of mine, it’s a must that I save some coins while trying to feed him.

  5. We’ve really minimized our eating out, but when we do we do most of these things including ordering water instead of a soda. I personally don’t like soda and prefer water, so that totally works for me. We also opt for places that are a mixture of order-at-the counter and sit-down, then we don’t have to leave a tip (or at least not that large of one since there isn’t a server waiting on us.)

  6. I am the leftover queen. I always make sure I have enough left for another meal. I’ve also not gone to a restaurant when it was after 3pm because the same meal was now $8 more than it was at lunch for almost the same portion. Saving my coin is important!

  7. Great tips, Every once in a while I have trouble with this category and find myself wanting to overspend. These tips are helpful, thanks.

  8. Great tips on reducing the cost of eating out. My wife goes on Cardcash and buys restaurant gift cards that we frequent for reduced prices. This in turns seems to save us between 25 – 50% on the restaurants that we eat at. That way I don’t feel nearly as bad when I go out 🙂

  9. I don’t eat out as much as I use to, I try to cook more. But I never thought about ordering from the kids menu, they have a better portion size which can help from over eating. Thanks for sharing.

  10. I cook to save money because eating out every day won’t cut it and I can’t afford to do it anyway.

    http://www.distinguisheddiva.com/2016/10/a-seat-at-table.html

  11. My daughter and I went out this weekend and shared a meal and we were both full. During the work week I bring my breakfast so I’m not spending daily. In the fall and winter months I also bring lunch because lazy and cold. Summer is when I eat out the most during the week.

    I try to cut down fast food eating to the weekends.

  12. To say while eating out, I often forego, dessert and specialty drinks. I save a ton by doing that because the heavy prices are often found in the specialty items.

  13. I use all of these tips regularly to eat with just #penniesinmypocket. My friend often call me the queen of free. The daily deal sites are one of my favorite techniques. I have to be careful not to let the expiration dates get away from me so now I schedule them in my calendar.

  14. I will say when I go out to eat I have been skipping alchol a lot! It takes up more of your bill than you know…a $8-14 drink and of course some people want more than 1 can cost majority of the meal! So I skip alchol and get a good shirley temple or a lemonade!

  15. Pre-drink at home, opt for water, choose an appetizer over an entrée, share a meal, skip dessert, order from kids menu. Any or all of those work.
    I’d also consider what is your objective for the meal out. Could you have the same conversation with family/friends at Chipotle vs. at a fancy Steakhouse? Helluva lot cheaper, and faster too. Since time is money, you’re saving both!

  16. Definitely skip the alcohol if you wanna save money, costs a fortune in a restaurant! Or dine at a bring-your-own-wine type of place, if that’s available (a lot of restaurants here in Montreal are like that).

  17. I LOVE your kid friendly list! As a father of 4, that’ll come in handy.

    I eat out almost daily. It’s so expensive and unhealthy. I don’t have any tips, I’m just know I need to cut back and I’m looking for support! Haha. 🙂

  18. I would add that you can get deals during the Happy Hour time frame. Although, this might make it hard to follow your first rule – Skip the Alcohol. However, there are usually deals on appetizers.

  19. I am reading your post attentively and I really enjoy it. Pack of full information and interesting too. Just to add up, instead of a side of vegetables, ask for double vegetables and skip the rice or potato. This is much healthier option.

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