Eating Out For Less

We used to eat out a lot, especially when we both had full time jobs. Today, our meals out are fewer and far between, but that doesn't mean we splurge when eating out.

Over the years we've developed some tried and true means for cutting dining expenses down to the bone. This makes me feel better about eating out. If we spend a little extra at an especially nice place, I know I've made up for it in other ways.

Greg loves his meals big and generous. I'm more conscientious about portions, unless we're talking chips and salsa. LOL! But we've learned how to work with our natural instincts to save money when dining out.

• Fill up on the freebies. That includes chips and salsa, or bread and butter.

• Eat the appetizer instead of an entree. I do this a lot. The portions are still huge and I almost always take some of it home.

• Drink water instead of soft drinks or mixed drinks. Not only do you really taste your food by drinking water, you skip the huge markup on drinks.

• Split a meal. This is hard for me and Greg to do because we tend to want different things, but breakfast is a different story. We often split breakfast because the portions are always huge, and he knows I won't eat much of it anyway. (I'm not a big fan of breakfast.)

• Sign up for their emails. I keep a separate email account strictly for spammy newsletters and promos. Restaurants and retail stores fall into this category. Surprisingly, they often have good deals, specials, and coupons. When I browse through my emails I check to see if there's anything particularly good coming up. I try to plan meals out around the specials.

• Some restaurants have early bird specials. Check their web sites to see if the ones you like are one of them.

• If you're over 55, always check for a senior menu, or at the very least, ask if there's a senior discount. You'd be surprised how many places offer senior discounts.

• Whether you eat out or eat in, see if you can go with only two meals a day. Most days we work so late in the day, there's no point in having lunch. We wait and have an early dinner.

• One last tip... Some restaurants offer an entree and two sides. I sometimes ask for a double portion of a side salad, and take the main dish home. I'm full and I have another meal for later. Sometimes I have to fight Greg for it, but that's another story. 😉

How often do you think you eat out in a week? Have you ever tried just ordering an appetizer or splitting a meal?


We use coupons and gift cards a lot. Also, around here, when "the season" is over and the snowbirds have all flown home, a lot of restaurants have specials to bring in business. That's great news for all us full-time residents! :)
LD Masterson said…
We always check for senior discounts and military discounts (since Stan's retired military). And I always plan on taking enough home in a dogie bag for lunch the next day. At places I know serve really big portions, I ask for the carry out box with the meal and put half in there as soon as it's served.

But the greatest money saver I've found...let someone else pay. Seriously, since neither of us need anything, when holidays come around I drop hints of favorite restaurants for gift cards. Those gilts always get used and I make a point of telling the gifter when we've had a nice meal out on them.
Maria Zannini said…
Madeline: It hadn't occurred to me how restaurants are affected once the tourists have left. I think if I lived in a touristy place, I'd be glad to be rid of snowbirds, though I'm sure the businesses aren't.
Maria Zannini said…
Linda: What a great gift idea, especially for seniors. Thank you!

You are absolutely right. When shopping for someone who already has everything they need, a restaurant gift card is the perfect gift. Everybody's got to eat!
Stacy McKitrick said…
Hubby and I share meals most of the time (and yes, we eat out a lot). Use coupons if we have them. And pay with gift cards (get those gas points from Kroger as well as travel points with the credit card). The meals come with two sides, so he picks one and I pick the other. I need to start ordering water, though. Not only for the cost, but I've noticed the caffeine is starting to affect me at night. Not good when I want to sleep! I'll have to look and see if we can share breakfast on those mornings we go out. I'm not a huge breakfast fan, either, so maybe getting one of those huge meals and sharing would be cheaper than ordering separately.
Betty said…
All great tips, Maria! Because of hubby's work schedule, we can never get to a restaurant during early bird specials, but that's one of the things we'll look for when he retires in the next year or so. We started just ordering appetizers mainly because we both have been dieting and lost lots of weight and now we find the portion sizes for appetizers better to incorporate in our continued weight loss and weight maintenance plans. We usually get one appetizer each and a side salad with dressing on the side and share the appetizers and are usually quite full by the end of the meal.

Maria Zannini said…
Stacy: I hadn't thought about the caffeine. Maybe that's why I sleep better at night now.
Maria Zannini said…
Betty: The first time we hit the Early Bird specials, Greg turned to me and said: Now we really are old timers. LOL!
Mike Keyton said…
When we go places we often stay at a Premier Inn with their all you can eat full English breakfast- i'm totally shameless but it means we can do without food all day - like slumbering reptiles
Maria Zannini said…
Mike: Absolutely. We like to hit hotels with a built in breakfast. It's the one time I like to fill up because chances are if we're traveling, we won't have time to eat until late that night. Good thinking!