How to Save on Eating Out

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  1. Set a Budget.
    By setting a budget before you get to the restaurant, you face the decision of, "Can I afford to order this?" You can focus on those portions of the menu that fit within your budget, so you won't spend more than you really should.
  2. Eat During Off Hours Happy hour isn't just for drinks.
    Many restaurants offer discounted appetizers and lower-priced meals before or after their busiest hours. Call ahead and ask about these specials. Also consider eating lunch out instead of dinner. You often can order the same meal for half or a third of the dinner price.
  3. Make a Meal of Appetizers
    Meals created from many small dishes are called tapas in Spain and dim sum in China. Here we call them appetizers and combining several of these smaller portions can provide enough food for a meal while offering variety. Order a few to share and the total bill will be about half the price.
  4. Share a Plate
    Many restaurants offer large enough portions for you to get two satisfying meals out of one.
  5. Invite a Friend
    Many restaurants offer two-for-one deals or two meals at a discount for ordering off a set menu. These often include an appetizer and dessert as well. Look for coupons with two-fer and savings on a second order.
  6. Take Half Home
    Today's portions are large enough to make one meal into two, so box the leftovers for lunch the next day. You'll cut both your bill and calories in half.
  7. Watch What You Drink
    The biggest restaurant mark-up is an alcoholic beverage, but soda, tea and coffee aren't far behind. Instead, substitute water with a lemon.
  8. Get It To-Go
    Most restaurants offer to-go services, eliminating spending money on drinks or a tip. You can enjoy restaurant food in the comfort of your own home or make it an outing by planning a picnic.
  9. Invest in an Entertainment Book
    Many high school sports teams and clubs raise funds by selling entertainment books and discount cards. They vary in price, but can easily pay for themselves. Plus, you'll contribute to a good cause. Make sure, however, that the book you purchase includes restaurants you're likely to patronize.
  10. Sign Up for Email Lists
    It may be annoying when servers ask you to sign up for a restaurant's email or newsletter list, but it's a great way to get coupons and information about specials.
  11. Kids Eat Free
    If you have younger children, look for restaurants that offer "kids night" discounts but you'll usually be required to purchase at least one adult meal.
  12. Order From the Discount Menu
    Restaurants have a kids menu and maybe even a seniors menu. Ask if you can order off of them, even if the restaurant policy says "12 and under" or "65 and older". Explain to your server you're looking for a smaller portion.
  13. Use Coupons
    Special deals are everywhere these days as restaurants try to lure customers. Restaurant coupons are one of the most popular and easy to use promotional strategies. Tell the server you're using a restaurant coupon before you order and make sure the coupon will apply to your selections.
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