How to Save Money Eating Out
We love to go out and eat. I’m not ashamed to admit that. However, since we don’t have a ton of extra money right now, when we go out, we have to try and be thrifty. Since we’ve been married, we feel like we’ve mastered the art of getting the most bang for our buck, and here are some of those tips.
Whenever we tell people that we share a meal, most people laugh. But seriously, this is the best way save money. I mean, the portion sizes that they give you in restaurants are huge and are definitely made for more than one person. Forrest and I are usually full after we share a meal, and if not full, at least satisfied! Which is better anyways, in my opinion. I know this doesn’t work for everyone — some people love their leftovers, and sometimes, couples have totally different tastes in food. Luckily, Forrest will eat anything, and I’m not very picky either, so it works.
If you do share though, be prepared for some waiters and waitresses to act annoyed. Many times, we’ve had the server act really like nice and attentive up until they realize we are sharing, and then we never see them again! We’ve also had some great servers though as well who go above and beyond. Regardless, we always make sure to tip as if we had bought two meals. I actually don’t feel so inclined to give the rude servers this type of tip, but Forrest always insists because he hopes it teaches them a lesson!
On the flip side, more often than not, our server will have the meal split on two plates without us asking and occasionally we even get more food than we would have had we not shared! It all just depends on the restaurant (some will charge you to split the meal.)
We hardly ever go out without a coupon. And before you think that only fast food places hand out coupons, think again! I often see coupons for Olive Garden, Red Lobster, Mimi’s, Red Robin, and more. These coupons often come in mailers, like Red Plum, or can be found online. Many popular restaurants also have email lists that will periodically send awesome coupons. It seems like every other week we get an email from Applebees with a coupon to buy one meal, get one free.
Be careful though, because there are a lot of scams out there. If something ever asks for your phone number, be very wary. You might accidentally sign up for a paid subscription to a text club. I tend to only trust emails or offers on Facebook pages for online coupons, but occasionally there is a legitimate one.
Here are a few of the email lists we get lots of high-value coupons from. If you are wondering if your favorite restaurant has an email club, just search the restaurant name, with email club at the end of the query
3) Look for specials
Similar to coupons, a lot of restaurants run specials on a regular basis. Just pay attention to commercials on TV, Facebook pages, or even when you go to the restaurant. Some of the specials that I think give you the most bang for your buck are 2 for 20 (or 25) deals, Early Bird Specials, and Kids Eat Free.
I’ve noticed a ton of 2 for 20 deals popping up all over the place. These deals typically give you two main dishes, and either a dessert or appetizer — though some will include both the dessert and appetizer. It ends up costing about the same was getting two meals (or less) and you get a dessert and/or appetizer as well. If you get two meals anyways, you might as well get these.
A lot of restaurants offer kids eat free promotions. I notice Chili’s doing this a lot, and a few weeks ago, Olive Garden did as well. Just keep your eyes and ears open for these times. If you have children, it’s a great way to cut down the cost of eating out. A lot of the time, you get one or two free kid’s meals with the purchase of one adult.
And if you don’t mind going out to eat a little earlier, you might get a better price as well. We love that Texas Roadhouse has more inexpensive meals before 6:00! Just check with different restaurants and they will let you know. A lot of places have lunch specials, or offer lunch size portions. These are usually great deals!
Groupon is an awesome place to find discounts on restaurants. I LOVE using it!
4) Download their App
Many restaurants and fast casual places have their own apps nowadays and offer app-only discounts. For instance, I am always getting deals in my Cafe Rio and Costa Vida apps that I don’t get anywhere else. Hop over to your app store and search for your favorite restaurant – you never know what you’ll find!
5) Skip the Drink
I know a lot of people can’t live without getting a diet coke when they go out to eat, but if you can withstand, you’ll save money. Not only will you save money, but you won’t be drinking empty calories…which will help you enjoy your meal a little bit!
During my senior year of high school, I had to take an Economics class. Surprisingly, it was one of my favorite classes ever. In one of the discussions, the teacher told us about how fountain drinks are the biggest rip-off ever.
I don’t remember the exact statistics, but it costs like 2-5 cents to produce the drink…so paying 2.00 or more is essentially inflating the price by a ton. It’s kind of ridiculous. Water is definitely the healthier and more cost-effective choice!
6) Birthday Specials
One of the best times to go out to eat is during your birthday month! We always look forward to our birthday’s for this very purpose. While many places just offer something like a BOGO coupon or a few dessert or appetizer, quite a few will actually give you a free meal. The places that definitely do are Red Robin and IHOP.
7) Discounted Gift Cards
We LOVE buying discounted gift cards. Costco and Sam’s Club often has some great deals on gift cards – usually up to around 25% off. You do have to buy them in bulk, but if you know you are going to eat at the place, it’s worth doing.
Many restaurants will offer promotions when you buy gift cards as well – such as buy $25, get $10 free (or something similar). I highly recommend following your favorite restaurants by email or on social media so you can hear about these discounts when they happen.
There are also websites where you can buy discounted gift cards – they usually aren’t super discounted, but really, it all adds up! Gift Card Granny is a really popular website for buying discounted gift cards.
8) Pizza Tips
Pizza can be a very convenient and quick meal solution, though the price can add up quickly. Forrest and I really like to get Papa Murphy’s, but boy, some of the pizzas are EXPENSIVE! Papa Murphy’s recently introduce their five dollar favorite pizzas. These pizza’s have a crust that is slightly thinner than the regular crust, but not as thin as the d’lite pizzas. They also only have one topping, and a little bit less cheese. Forrest and I decided that we are just going to buy our own ingredients (pepperonis, green peppers, onions, and cheese) and just add them to the five dollar pizzas. The ingredients will last for way more than one pizza, and we can take a super plain pizza and jazz it up a little bit! I actually have been adding my own cheese anyways, since the kind Papa Murphy’s uses isn’t lactose free, and I don’t even notice a different. You could probably do this with just about any pizza place, but Papa Murphy’s is just easiest because you bake the pizza at home.