Let’s face it: eating out costs more than cooking at home. To save money, Ty and I only eat at restaurants a few times each month. We give ourselves a $100 monthly restaurant allowance (in addition to our $70 weekly grocery budget) and will typically spend about $25 for the two of us when we’re out. To stay within this budget, we definitely have a strategy. Here are the ways we keep our wallets and our bellies happy when eating out!
9 Ways to Save Money When Eating Out
- Check the Website. I always like to go online and check the restaurant’s menu before arriving. Often times daily specials are listed on there, plus I have an idea of what I want to order so I don’t have to hold up the rest of my table while doing math in my head. It also makes me less tempted to buy something more expensive if I’ve already made my decision beforehand! (Tip: If a restaurant doesn’t list their prices, try menupages.com if you’re in a major metropolitan city.)
- Share. I’m lucky to have a husband who’s willing to share his food with me. It’s rare for us to go out and not split an entree. If we feel we might need more food, we will each get our own side. Instead of $15 for each of us, we’ve likely only spent $20 total. But word of caution: some restaurants charge an extra dollar or two to share.
- Create Your Own. Another way to save money on food is to create your own meal off different parts of the menu. Sometimes a side salad and an appetizer can be cheaper than ordering a full entree.
No Drinks. I learned this from my mother. As a kid we were only ever allowed to get water at restaurants. My mom wasn’t willing to spend the extra $2 for soda for each of us, even if it was unlimited refills. Luckily today water is my drink of choice plus it’s FREE! Those drinks can really add up, especially if you’re indulging in alcohol.
- BYOB. If you just have to have that drink with your dinner, try to find a place that allows you to Bring Your Own Beverage. I know this isn’t allowed everywhere, but here in Chicago, many restaurants allow this option. Instead of paying $8 for one glass of wine, you can bring your own entire bottle of wine for the same price. I’ve heard rumor that some places charge a “corkage fee”, but I’ve never experienced this.
- Go Out at Lunch. Almost all restaurants have lunch specials. If there’s a holiday coming up on a weekday, I like to plan lunches with friends or my husband. That way I get to enjoy my favorite food at a cheaper price!
- Check Groupon. There are many websites out there that offer discounts at restaurants. Groupon is one of my favorites! Their deals are often ones where you pay $20 for $40 worth of food (or something similar).
- Use Coupons. You know those flyers you get in the mail? Don’t throw them out! Check for restaurant discounts and save them for future use. Also be sure to check the back of your grocery store receipts. I’ve found lots of deals for restaurants there.
- Enjoy Your Company. If you feel you need to order an appetizer because you just can’t wait for your entree to come, sit back and enjoy the people you’re with. I promise that 20 minutes will pass in no time and you’ll be happy you saved that $10.
What are your strategies for saving money at restaurants?
Want to eat out without compromising your health goals? Read my 10 Tips for Eating Healthy at Restaurants.