As much as there is an array of cheap meal ideas you can try out when you cook at home, there are some once-in-a-while times you just want to say goodbye to stress and eat at a restaurant.
It’s all okay, and it doesn’t mean you have bad money habits.
However, there are ways you can save money on food even when you are eating out. Read on to find out these ways.
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Why you should save money on food
The most basic reason to save money on food is to save money. Food is a basic need, and if you are the type who fancies eating out or doesn't have the time to cook, eating out might not be evitable, which is why you must learn the tricks to save money, especially when eating out.
These tips are crucial because you want to maintain your dignity and avoid looking too selective or burdensome.
Additionally, saving money on food will help you become more disciplined and have better money savings habits. If you can save money on food (a basic need), I believe you can save money on anything else.
How to save money on food
When you are at a restaurant, there are tips and tricks to use so you can save more money and avoid overspending:
- Use coupons.
You can use coupons, gift cards, and other offers that offer you food at a reduced price.
- Split your food.
If you go to a restaurant with a friend, you can order a single serving and split it. This idea works well because some restaurants, especially family-style restaurants, offer large meals per serving, and splitting it will still leave you with enough food to eat.
- Use water.
While you might want a cold drink or cocktail, opting for chilled water is wiser. Some restaurants even offer you water for free, especially when you have your meal in the restaurant.
- Download restaurant apps.
This helps you to know when there are discount sales, promos, holiday meals, and other discounted offers.
- Skip the appetizer.
You should skip the appetizer and only take the main meal when you go to a restaurant that offers a full course meal. If you want, you can order it as takeout. This way, you do not pay for the delivery fees; you also get to pay only the amount for the main meal instead of the three courses.
- Get it to go.
Ordering your meal as takeout is less expensive than dining in. You can take the food and enjoy it while watching your favorite show or add it to the items in your picnic basket.
- Don’t go on holiday.
Avoid going to restaurants on holidays because food gets more expensive around these periods. You can hardly get a regular meal at the normal price range, and some menus can go as much as double their original prices.
- Get single desserts only.
Order for a single dessert serving with two plates and share your dessert instead of ordering for two.
- Have a budget.
Always have a budget whenever you are going to eat out. You save more money because you know what kind of options you want to go for and which of the options are off your price range.
- Go to a family restaurant.
Family restaurants offer a wide range of options for you to choose from and are relatively cheaper than other restaurants. They also provide free food on the menu like bread, salad, or soup.
- Don’t get carried away with cravings.
We all have cravings, and with all the delicious offers on the menu, you might be tempted to go off budget, which is why the next tip is crucial.
- Hold only cash.
Do not take your credit or debit card to the restaurant. There might be a temptation to give in to your cravings, but if you're only with the amount to eat, you will control your spending. You can save money on food by holding only cash.
- Avoid weekends.
Weekends are always packed, and special menus are much pricer than on weekdays.
The restaurants are always busy with people, and the large crowd increases the price of regular food.
- Use the kids' menu.
The kids' menu usually contains lighter and less expensive meals you can order. Request for the kids' menu when next you go to a restaurant.
- Use a drive-through.
Visit fast food restaurants and use a drive-through. You will hardly see a drive-through with a menu that has anything more than $100.
- Get available discounts.
There are a lot of discounted offers at restaurants, which could be because of a major event or holiday. You can ask or take advantage of loyalty and rewards programs.
- Use gift cards.
If you have gift cards to your favorite stores and loyalty programs, you can use them at these restaurants to reduce costs.
- Pay less with the kids.
Some restaurants offer free food to kids below a certain age. You can research which of your favorite restaurants provides that service.
The age requirement varies with restaurants, and while a five-year-old may get free food at one restaurant doesn't mean you'll get the same treatment in all restaurants around you.
- Go during happy hour.
Happy hour is usually between 4 pm – 6 pm, and when you go around this time, you can get reduced prices for your meal. Sometimes, you can get half the original price.
- Ask for unadvertised specials.
Some restaurants have unadvertised specials which can be cheaper than the regular and advertised special. Ask for an unadvertised special next time you visit a restaurant and compare the prices.
- Take your leftovers to go.
When you cannot finish your meal, ask the waiter to pack it as a to-go. It means you do not need to prepare another meal when you get home.
Now that you know the cheap meal ideas for home cooking and how to save money on food when eating out, I am sure you will be able to manage your feeding expenses and maximize them to the fullest.
Which of these tips do you try out often, and which of them do you feel ashamed to do?
Michael launched Wealth of Geeks to make personal finance fun. He has worked in personal finance for over 20 years, helping families reduce taxes, increase their income, and save for retirement. Michael is passionate about personal finance, side hustles, and all things geeky.