I LOVE eating out, but the bill not so much. A few dinners out can quickly turn into an expensive habit. We’ve paid almost half of our grocery costs for the week on a meal out a few times. Unless we are traveling, we rarely eat fast food (except for the occasional Cook Out run). We love food, and I am always looking for new recipes to incorporate into our weekly meal plan. Even though I cook most nights, it’s nice to be able to take a night off after a long day at work sometimes.
Eating out will most likely never be as cheap as making things yourself. However, there are tons of ways to save on your restaurant bill. I’m going to share with you just a few ways to save money when you eat out.
Split your meal, even if it’s with yourself
Since our diets are completely different, splitting meals doesn’t really work for us. The BF wants to eat meat whenever he gets the chance to eat out. So instead, I split my meal with myself. I know this sounds REALLY pathetic, but it’s not as sad as it seems. Restaurant portions are WAY to big anyway. Instead of overeating or wasting my food, I’ll ask for a to-go box as soon as the waitress brings my food. I now have food to eat for lunch the next day! If you can split a meal with someone you should do it. Your wallet and your waistline will thank you.
Soda is marked up at restaurants, and let’s face it, there is nothing special about the Coke at the restaurant and the one sitting in your fridge. If just two people from your party get a soda that can mean paying an extra $5 or more on your total bill. At places like Steak and Shake or Red Robin, they have milkshakes just begging to lure you in! Those milkshakes can cost $5 each. If your budget won’t allow it, RESIST. Here’s a list of 50 Milkshake Recipes you can make from home to help resist the urge.
Loyalty cards and email lists
If you frequently go to ANY restaurant you should be signed up for their email list and loyalty card if they have one. I am signed up for the loyalty card program with Chili’s and I constantly get offers for extra points. Sometimes those points can get you a free appetizer, dessert, or kid’s meal. If I wasn’t signed up for Outback’s email list, I wouldn’t get all of their free bloomin’ onion alerts or 15% off coupons. Some loyalty cards won’t pay off until after you’ve visited a few times, but when I used the Steak and Shake loyalty card app I got a free milkshake the same day.
Look for coupons before you go
BeFrugal and Money Saving Mom are always posting new restaurant deals. These are the first places I look if I can’t find a coupon in my inbox. Check all those ads that come in your mailbox too! We were able to get 20% at O’Charleys from clipping a coupon from the store ads. I’ve never personally used one before, but entertainment books are also available out there with hundreds of 50% off coupons for restaurants in your area. Check the bottom of your receipt as well. Most recently we went out for frozen yogurt and there was a $1 off our next visit on the bottom of the receipt.
Be on the look out for special promotions
Look out for special promotions at restaurants. Olive Garden does the buy one take one deal every year, and IHop celebrates National Pancake Day with a free short stack for every customer. Some restaurants have kids eat free days, or special happy hour promotions for a limited time. Taking advantage of these opportunities could save you big!
Most importantly, don’t forget to tip your waiter or waitress. If you can’t afford to tip then you can’t afford to eat out.