I know, I know …. we’re trying to break our eating out habits. But it’s the weekend. You’re tired of cooking. The dishwasher is broken. You have a gift card to use. Spare me your excuses, or are they reasons? I’ve heard them all. I’ve used them all.
It’s okay to go out to eat if you can afford it. Grandpa and I have no plans to permanently give up going out to eat, and that’s why we have a few strategies that we use to save money when we do go out to eat. I’m going to share a few of them with you today.
1. Drink water!
I know that many of you already do this. For those of you who are still paying $1.79 or more for a glass of Diet Pepsi or iced tea at a restaurant, I’ve got two words of advice. STOP IT!
Do you realize that if you have a family of four and you all get drinks with your restaurant meal, you are spending nearly $8 on soda or tea? That’s practically enough to buy another meal.
Most restaurants will add a slice of lemon to your water, and it makes a pleasant accompanying drink to most any meal.
2. Use coupons
Many chain restaurants run coupon promotions, and it’s silly not to take advantage of them. I clip all restaurant coupons that come in the mail or that come in our weekend paper. I clip them even if I have no intention whatsoever of visiting the restaurant because you just never know.
3. Use expired coupons
If you’ve got a coupon, and it’s expired, it doesn’t hurt to ask your server if you can use it. I have used expired coupons at Red Lobster and at McDonalds.
4. Sign up for emails, text messages, fan clubs, etc.
Dairy Queen will issue six BOGO coupons each year for Blizzards if you sign up online for their fan club. I do admit to deleting these coupons when I get them. It’s just too tempting for us to have this coupon in our carb-craving hands.
We get several free appetizers each year because we are members of the Texas Roadhouse fan club. Several local restaurants offer similar deals through emails and text messages.
5. Share entrees, appetizers, extras
It’s possible to save money by having one person order a large entree and the other order just an appetizer. All of the food can be shared. I’ll go ahead and make a confession here. I don’t really like sharing my food. Yeah, no kidding. I will do it sometimes for special reasons or to save money though.
If you’re taking kids out to eat, be realistic about how much food they will actually eat. Buy one meal for two kids. You can always order more food if they are still hungry. I am constantly amazed when I see people order all of their kids a meal and then throw half of everyone’s food in the trash.
6. Take home the leftovers
Ask for a doggie bag or a take home box if you can’t eat all the food you ordered. If it’s hot out, and you’re not going directly home after eating, take a small cooler with ice along in the trunk of your car.
That’s my list of money saving tips for dining out. What are yours?