Years ago I mentioned that restaurants were a budget buster for us. We ate out a lot for the convenience, great food, and because we really weren’t very good cooks. Fast forward seven years and while my cooking skills have really improved, we still like to eat out. However, instead of it being for convenience, it’s more for enjoyment now.
If you dine out, it’s always good to save money. Back when my children were toddlers, I put together the following tips to reign in the spending on our dining out expenses. They still work today and are a good reminder on how to eat out for less.
(Photo Credit: Bala/Flickr)
10 Ways to Eat Out for Less
- Eat for free at a “trial night.” When new restaurants are built, ask when the kitchen will do a practice run. We’ve eaten for free a few times the night before a new restaurant opens. Often there is a limited menu to give the staff a chance to practice, but it’s great food at an unbelievable price.
- Dine on days when kids eat free. There are restaurants that offer kids eat free nights; find them at Kids Eat Free .
- Get cash back. Use a cash rewards credit card  to get money back on your purchase. In addition, some restaurants participate in Upromise , letting you get even more cash back.
- Try family style restaurants. Since you’ll pass all the dishes, order one less meal than the number of people. There will be plenty to go around and you’ll save the cost of one meal.
- Eat early or late. Sometimes restaurants offer discounted meals for dining during off-peak times. In addition to early bird and late night prices, try dining out for breakfast instead of dinner when prices are considerably cheaper.
- Drink water. You’ll save by avoiding pop or alcohol . The restaurant business has a large profit margin on drinks, especially pop. Skip it and your wallet will thank you.
- Stop somewhere else for dessert. If you must eat dessert, stop by a local ice cream shop on the way home. It will be cheaper and you’ll probably avoid having to tip.
- Take the kids! Often the price of a kid’s meal is actually cheaper than a babysitter. Make it a family event.
- Sign up for restaurant customer lists. Restaurants lists  give free meals on your birthday , coupons and frequent dining card. Take advantage of them.
- Ask about a half portion. Some restaurants will gladly make a half size meal for half the price. It will help cut out the extra calories too.
What are your favorite ways to eat out for less?