Eating out on the cheap

Being frugal doesn’t mean you need to sit home and eat beans every night. You can enjoy eating out in a frugalish kind of way. Here’s how…

Frugal dining tips

  • Skip the beverages.  Water is all you need and it’s free.
  • Use coupons.  Don’t be embarrassed to use coupons, just let the wait staff know up front. No surprises. If you eat out often it may make sense to buy the Entertainment Book.
  • Dine on special-deal nights.  Some restaurants have a ‘special day’ (usually mid-week) where kids or seniors eat free. Plan ahead and dine out on the day with the killer deal.
  • Squirrel away extra food.  Last night our waiter brought a huge basket of bread to our table. Not wanting to fill up on bread, I only ate one piece. What happened to the bread? It was whisked away and discarded. Food waste makes me crazy – so next time I’ll bring a container and squirrel away extra food. Now you may be wondering, is everything on the table fair game? Probably. It’s really up to you. Do you want to be known as the person who emptied the sugar container?
  • Only eat half.  When your entrée arrives cut it in half. Now hold the line and just eat one half. Think of how great it will be to eat the other half later. Your $16 restaurant bill is now two $8 meals. If you can eat an entire restaurant portion try this: When you leave your house, grab a handful of baby carrots or another crunchy veggie. Eat the veggies on the way to the restaurant. When you arrive, drink 1 or 2 glasses of water and place your order. When your entrée arrives, slice it in half and you’re good to go.
  • Consider appetizers.  There are many wonderful menu items listed under a heading called Appetizers. Now, you may have learned that these items are to be eaten before your meal. And to this I say phooey-whooey. You really can just order an appetizer and nothing else.     
  • Share with someone.  Split your entree with someone. Most restaurants are cool with this, but some are indignant and charge you a small fee to try and deter you. But, do what you like. If you want to split an entree, split it. I think small appetites shouldn’t be penalized, but no one asked me.
  • Skip dinner.  Dinner is the most expensive meal, so consider dining out for breakfast or lunch instead.

How do you save money when dining out? Please leave a Comment.

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2 thoughts on “Eating out on the cheap

  1. Excellent ideas — I do most of these already (no, I don’t empty the sugar container!). Speaking of appetizers, which are awesome for a meal, check out happy hours, too. There’s a local fine restaurant here who puts out mini version of their appetizers from 4-6pm for $6.

  2. Here is another tip to use: When ordering dinner, ask if they have a lunch menu you can order from. A lot of times they will allow you to order a lunch special, which is smaller portions as well as being cheaper.

    I had read this was an option at Olive Garden which they don’t advertise (for obvious reasons) and tried it at my nearest OG. Unfortunately for me they seemed confused, but hey, its worth a shot. It keeps you from overeating and spending money on food that will either go to waste or get you fat! :)

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