Hope everyone is having a wonderful week so far! I teach my cooking class “Cup of Comfort” to the community tonight, so be on the lookout for a re-cap post sometime towards the end of this week!!
So lately I’ve been trying to keep track of my spending to the exact amount. It’s mainly just so I can see where all my money is going and so I never have to ask, “Well where did all my money go?” One thing I found out is that during the week, if I eat out a lot for lunch or dinner with friends, my wallet seems to get a lot thinner versus if I spent the week eating at home. You know how it goes; $3 on soda, $2.99 on a side salad, usually around $12-14 for the main dish, $5 for dessert and of course the $4 for the tip. By the time your out the door, you’ve easily dropped around $20-30 on a meal that you could have made for half the price at home.
But for me, and I am sure many others, you can’t justify giving up the dining-out experience. There’s just something about being in a fun/different atmosphere and not having to worry about the after-dinner dishes that we can justify and pay the price for it.
But who says eating out has to be expensive? Certainly not me. Take a tip, or 2, out of my list of 8 ways to save while eating out!
1. Dine like a tourist
Contact your chamber of commerce to see if they offer coupons to any restaurants in your town. Also check out your local newspaper and other local publications for coupons.
Recently I used the above Perkin’s coupon on my favorite meal—Grilled Chicken Omelet with a baked potato. $5 off of a $20 meal is a great savings!
2. Cash in on your opinion
Check the back of your dining receipt for customer surveys that can earn you a free meal. At Arby’s, you’ll receive a free roast beef sandwich, and at Burger King, you’ll get a free Whopper.
3. Get gift certificates at half price.
At Restaurant.com you can purchase gift certificates for more than 15,000 restaurants at a discount of at least 50%. Most go for just $10, but are worth $25 at the restaurant. And the more you spend, the more you save—a $100 gift card will only cost you $40. So there’s $60 savings on your monthly food budget.
4. Take advantage of lunch time specials.
Typically, lunch time hours 12-3pm are off-peak hours compared to dinner time, so restaurants will have great deals to try to get you in the door at that time. I like to show up at 2:30 pm, order, and then take my time eating, that way you still get the lunch special price during evening hours!
Recently my mom and I did this at Applebee’s. We did the 2 for $22 lunch special where you get an appetizer, two main dishes, and drinks for just $22. I got the 7 oz steak with a baked potato and steamed veggies, the spinach artichoke dip, and my mom got a pasta dish. So much food for a small price!
5. Cash in on birthday freebies.
Yes, birthday’s only come once a year, however saving money just during your birthday month is never a bad idea! Check out your favorite restaurant websites for deals. Ben and Jerry’s and Coldstone offer up free ice cream, Red Robin will send a voucher for a free burger, and Houlihan’s will give you a coupon for a free entree good for two weeks.
If you know me—you know I can never pass up free ice cream!
6. Be wary of “foodie trends” and “fancy words”.
Restaurants tend to mark up dishes with the latest trendy ingredients. For instance, Olive Garden’s new Shrimp & Crab Tortelli Romana sounds super fancy. It has shrimp, crab and smoked mozzarella-filled ravioli, topped with sautéed shrimp in a three cheese and sun-dried tomato sauce. Sounds good right? The price of $17.50? Not so much. A homemade meal similar to this could serve 4 for the price of 1 dish at Olive Garden.
I like doing Olive Garden’s endless soup, salad, and breadstick deal..for just $6.95, it can’t be beat!
7. Get savings in your inbox
Sign up at Groupon.com for daily e-mails about local restaurant gift certificates about local restaurant gift certificates for up to 90% off.
8. “Friend” your favorites
Become a fan of restaurants on Facebook and promotions will show up in your news feed. Last deals I spotted—free ice cream from Carvel and a free entree at Panda Express.
What is your favorite dining out tip to save money?