Saving money while dining out

Our free local newspaper recently started offering discount gift cards for restaurants in our county. Restaurants.com offers similar promotions. I was unsure of how it worked, but now I am LOVING the savings!

While we don’t go out to eat nearly as much as we used to, going out is still inevitable. Sometimes I need a break from eating my own cooking, and often we just like to “go out” with friends. The aforementioned discount websites offer gift certificates to restaurants at half-price! It’s amazing! James and I love our local (and very nearby) restaurant Long Doggers. Well, Long Doggers happened to participate in this promo, so we purchased $100 in gift certificates for only $50! Since our average bill at Long Doggers is only $20, we can go out to eat 5 times on that $50 we spent—I think that’s pretty awesome.

There are actually a lot of ways to cut spending when dining out. First of all, get take-out! James and I have realized that we spend about $15-20 extra by dining-in at some restaurants, so picking up our food to go is a way to cut costs. For instance, the Thai restaurant that we love offers take-out and all that we spend when we choose this option is the money for the entrees. We’re not buying drinks at $2.50 each, we’re not tipping a waiter (normally about $8-10) and we’re not tempted to spend $5.25 on an appetizer portion of edamame when I can buy a whole bag for $1.99 and steam it myself at home. The appeal to order one of the delicious desserts is not a problem when you order take-out; that saves both money and calories.

Also, many restaurants offer coupons in newspapers and circulars--don't feel ashamed to use these!

Knowing what your local grocery store offers in the way of “family meals” is a good alternative to going out to eat. For instance, Publix offers a family meal for 4 for $9.99! They have a bag that you can fill with your choice of a rotisserie chicken or an 8 piece carton of fried chicken, 2 deli sides of your liking, and a small pack of rolls. I have even seen promos where they have added in a ½ gallon of sweet tea for free! James and I have enjoyed this combo family meal on several occasions, and both agree that it is a great value for only ten dollars.

It’s hard to avoid spending money on restaurants—but if you think ahead and do it smartly, you won’t break the bank.

Challenge: Research how much you have spent on dining out over the last month by looking over your bank statements or receipts. Is it more that you realized? Are you spending more on going out to eat than you are on groceries? It’s not too late to pick up new dining out habits!

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