What red blooded American doesn’t like to take the night off and eat out every once awhile? But what red blooded American likes to pay the ridiculously inflated restaurant prices for the same meals that they can eat at home? Here are 5 simple ways that you can save a buck when you go out for a bite.
1. Coupons, Coupons, Coupons!
The age of feeling silly or embarrassed for using these nifty little “same as cash” slips of paper is a thing of the past. With reality shows such as Extreme Couponers, saving a few cents here and there has become a downright art form. The best part? Coupons aren’t just for household cleaning products and cat food; you can get a surplus of coupons from restaurant chains such as Olive Garden, McDonald’s, Long John Silver and Arby’s…just to name a few. To find out if you can score a free shake, Buy One Get One Free or 50% off an appetizer (aka BOGO) or something else along those lines, you can go to your nearest gas station and pick up the Sunday newspaper (or have it delivered) and inside you will find a wealth of money saving coupons from coupon giants such as Redplum and SmartSource. Go to their websites to print out even more coupons, but beware- you may only be able to use them in a “1 per customer, per visit” kind of fashion. I love the deal/coupon database on dealseekingmom.com and use it often.
Eating out at a buffet can be a great way to not only save a few dollars, but also to get the most variety for the price. Where else can you go, and usually pay no more than $10 a person and be able to keep going up and eating whatever and however much you want? Now, I do not condone gluttony, but at some point everyone must have gotten up from a 3 course meal and felt a little peckish an hour or so later at some point in time. And let’s be honest, with most of the marked up prices you are not actually paying for the food, but the atmosphere. A local restaurant I know will have you paying upwards around $23 to sit in its dimly lit dining area to enjoy a seafood platter; get the same meal to go or eat it in the restaurant’s cozy attached diner and you will be shelling out about half as much. Buffets aren’t exactly known for their romantic settings and snooty waiters (although I’m sure all restaurants have at least one) but they are very much known for having a plethora of delicious variety at reasonable prices. Good examples of tasty buffets are Golden Corral, Old Country Buffet and many restaurants serving Asian cuisine have a delicious assortment of buffet style eats.
3. Kids Eat Free Deals
Ask any parent how you can save money eating out on a budget, and I guarantee one of the first suggestions that they will have is to look for a restaurant (usually the aforementioned buffet) that offers Kids Eat Free or at the very least, at a discounted price. There are usually some stipulations to get this deal. Many mini diners eat at discounted prices when accompanied by a paying adult, or to get the free deal must be under a certain age, such as 4.
4. Check out Restaurant.com
What exactly is restaurant.com? This is a wonderful website that plays as a matchmaker between eager diners and their lovely eatery counterparts. It’s so simple to use and can save you a pretty penny. First you type in your zip code in their search bar. You are then presented with several establishments to choose from. Pick the place you want to go, and carefully read the offer to see if you are interested. Follow the instructions to purchase a gift certificate to that restaurant and print it out right at home! For example, after typing in my zip code, a local restaurant popped up that for $10 I could purchase a gift certificate that would save me $25 off the purchase of a $35 entrée.
5. Entrees only at the Restaurant
Ok, how many of us don’t know by now that salads and breadsticks are fillers for before the meal? They may be free (well, I’m sure that their prices are included somewhere in the meal’s marked up prices) but how many of us realize the financial evils of appetizers, or the desserts for that matter? Depending on the establishment, you may be paying the same price as a full entrée for half as much food for the appetizer! And the desserts can be just as pricey. A good suggestion, in order to save a few dollars, might be to try and have your pre dinner snacks (aka appetizers) at home. Make yourself a salad, or enjoy some buttered bread to keep yourself from arriving at your dinner with a voracious appetite. If you were to forego this idea, chances are you will arrive half-starved and not caring about paying an extra $8.99 for those 6 crab stuffed mushrooms or $5.99 for the bruschetta. In the same way, once your meal is over instead of paying extra for a small dollop of ice cream or that to die for tiramisu, why not grab a sweet treat from a local ice cream stand, or a frozen dessert from your local grocer’s freezer and snuggle down with a good book or movie and enjoy your discounted dessert at home?
Now that you are armed with the knowledge, you can go out and enjoy an affordable meal at your favorite restaurant! Leave the cooking, guilt free for another day! Did I miss anything? Let me know below? What are your tips for saving money eating while on the road.