For the first time in recorded history, Americans are spending more money annually on eating out than on groceries. Even though eating at home is generally healthier and more cost-effective, going to a restaurant is quicker and easier, making it more appealing to busy, working people. Going out to eat is also a social experience, a way to catch up with friends over lunch or dinner. However, eating out with friends can be a problem if you’re on a budget. Fortunately, there are ways to eat cheap when you go out to dinner.
Look For Discounts On Apps And Websites
There are a number of apps and websites created for scoring you deals on restaurants. Whether they’re coupons, cashback or gift cards, you’ll definitely want to check these out for ways to save.
Restaurant.com sells restaurant gift certificates at reduced rates. You can have $25 at a restaurant for only $10 or $10 for $4. Many restaurants have minimums or special conditions to meet, so keep your eye out for those when purchasing.
Groupon is the ultimate coupon app for everything – restaurants included! Check the app frequently for deals from your local restaurants and aim to eat out at places that offer discounts.
Gift Card Granny
Gift Card Granny is another discounted gift card website, offering anything from Best Buy to Starbucks. You can find some great deals on gift cards for chain restaurants.
Other Ways To Eat Cheap
Eat An Appetizer As A Main Dish
Instead of ordering an entree from the menu as your main course, go for a hearty appetizer instead. They’re usually similar in size to an entree, they just don’t include any side dishes.
Split An Entree
If you’re out with a group of friends, ask someone to split an entree with you. Restaurant portions are usually huge, so there’s enough for you to share. Split it 50-50 and you save half the cost on your bill!
If you don’t opt for sharing an entree with a friend, then eat your dish slowly. As mentioned, restaurant portions are usually too big for one person. If you eat slowly, you’ll realize you’re full before you gobble everything on your plate. That way, you can take home the leftovers.
If that technique doesn’t work for you, try asking for a to-go box right when the food arrives and put half or at least one-third of it in the box before you even start eating.
Drink Tap Water
Drinks like soda, coffee and bottled water are marked up at restaurants. Yes, you might get free refills, but do you really need that much soda anyway? Ask for tap water instead to knock a few bucks off the bill.
Eat Out For Lunch Instead Of Dinner
Lunch portions aren’t all that much smaller than dinner portions, but they’re significantly cheaper. Some restaurants might let you order off the lunch menu at dinner time, but many won’t. If that’s the case, plan to eat out for lunch or even brunch instead of dinner.
Eat A Small Snack Before Going Out
Don’t let yourself sit down at a restaurant if you’re ravenous. You’ll easily be tempted to order more. Have a small snack, like a piece of fruit or a handful of nuts, before you go. Your stomach won’t feel empty so you can make reasonable, more budget-friendly decisions when ordering.
It’s easy to eat cheap at restaurants. By searching for deals ahead of time on websites and apps, as well as a few table techniques, you can save money when eating out with friends.