How can I spend less on eating out?
I bet most of you all enjoy a meal out. Especially if you are the cook for a big family on a regular basis, eating out means there’s no planning, cooking, serving, not to mention the dreadful cleaning afterwards.
But eating out, comes with a hefty price to pay.
Whereas for US families, the number nearly doubles to $3,500 (£3,177), according to BLS data.
I guess the easiest answer to save money is, to not eat out, but that’s not why you are here. And to be honest, we all deserve to be treated once in a while.
However, if you have a few tips and tricks in hand, you can still enjoy the experience of eating out without breaking the bank.
… and that’s exactly what I will be sharing with you in this post – How to save money eating out, effortlessly, for your big family.
Make It a Treat Not a Convenient Habit
First tip on how to save money eating out, is to make it a treat.
By eating out less often.
If eating out is something you and your family do all the time out of convenience, then it feels less special, while you are flushing money down the drain.
By making it less frequent, not only you can save money, but also when you do, it will feel more special.
Not to mention, eating out is generally less healthy than eating in. To avoid the eating out as a convenience when you have no time to cook and a lack of ingredients to make a home meal, be sure to grab my stupidly simple FREE weekly meal plan to help you save money and eat healthy.
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Eat Out to Help Out
For my beloved UK readers, this one is specially for you!
Take advantage of UK’s “Eat Out to Help Out” scheme post COVID-19. While the scheme lasts (between Aug 3rd -31st, 2020), why not treat you and your family a special meal out, post lockdown while supporting the UK economy.
Be sure to know which restaurants are participating.
Go on Monday or Tuesday
Restaurants are the slowest on Mondays and Tuesdays, that’s why many of them are offering deals to attract more customers.
So instead of taking your family for a meal out on a busy Saturday, why not make a booking for a Monday or Tuesday to enjoy the quietness while saving money?
Take Out Instead of Eat Out
Ask yourself why you enjoy eating out?
If one of your main reasons is to enjoy the food that you can’t cook at home, then Take-Out can be a cheaper alternative.
Not only you save on the service charge (usually 10-20%), you are also saving on the extras like alcohol, drinks etc. by supplementing with your own.
If you don’t want to pay for the delivery, you can always pick it up.
And that’s not all…
While eating out is less work for adults, but if you have small children, you’d probably agree that it can also be VERY stressful… So take-out can be a god-send.
Next time when you’re itchy to go out for a meal, perhaps consider Take-out instead, as it’s cheaper, less stressful…
And should I add one more benefit post Covid-19 – less risky to get coronavirus…
Happy Hour, Happy Wallet
Happy hours are not just for drinks people.
Many restaurants are using “Happy hours” to do drinks and food special during a quieter time of the day or week.
Before you plan your next meal out, check online to see if any of your favourite restaurants are doing happy hour deal. That may sway your decision while saving some money.
Go for Lunch Instead of Dinner
Restaurants make money from dinners as that’s their busiest time.
The same main dishes, can be much cheaper on the lunch menu than they are on the dinner menu.
Which brings me to the next tip on how to save money eating out – go for lunch instead of dinner.
Especially if you are on a day-out in a city with your family, hitting a popular spot during lunch time can be a great option to try some high end restaurants at an affordable price.
Kids Eat Free
Anyone with kids probably know that paying for kids meals at a restaurant can be expensive, especially if they turn up their noses up after 2 bites.
But not if your kids can eat for free…
To attract families with children, many restaurants have kids eat for free (or very cheap) deals.
A few ones worth looking out for in the UK are:
- Gordon Ramsay Restaurants
- La iGuanas (during school holidays)
- The Real Greek (on Sunday)
- Ikea (kids under 12)
Here are some popular ones in the US (all of them for Kids under 12):
- Steak ‘n Shake (Saturday)
- Chili’s (Monday)
- Ikea (Tuesday)
- Logan’s Roadhouse (Wednesday)
- Qdoba Mexican Grill (Wed & Sun)
Get Birthday & Anniversary Discount
If you like to go out for a meal on your special events, don’t forget to take advantage of this special one time a year deal.
You can either get on the email list of your fav. restaurants or I usually speak to the restaurant at the arrival just to let them know you are celebrating yours or someone’s birthday and if they do anything special for birthday.
Pin it later:
Sign Up Email Newsletter
Businesses love you to be on their email list. In exchange, they often offer some exclusive deals to their email subscribers.
Signing up a few of your fav. eating spots, you will be the first one to know some of those exclusive deals.
Another way to save while eating out is to sign up to loyalty programs for particular restaurants. Although not every one does this, a few popular chains do reward your frequent visit through their loyalty programs.
Visit Social Media for Discount
Social media is another place to look for ways to save money while eating out.
Many restaurants are actively seeking for engagement on social media platforms like Facebook, instagram etc.
Many deals are exclusive to their social media channels in exchange with your likes.
I personally prefer checking out restaurants on Facebook and Insta not just for the deals, but often they have way more pictures of the dishes.
Online Deal Sites
Online deal sites can be helpful when it comes to saving money while dinning out.
With offers in excess of 50% off for things like afternoon tea, meals for two, free drinks, desserts, Sunday Lunch, the list goes on. They also make a good gift choice when struggling for ideas, our parents always enjoy a meal out on us!
Dining Cards / Apps:
They are affiliated with over 1000 restaurants giving you a wide selection.
While these “Cards” and Apps are paid services, but if you do eat out a lot, what you save over time can easily justify by the small amount you pay as memberships.
Plus, they regularly offer a 30-day free trial.
Avoid the Extras
For extras, I mean the breadbaskets, appetiser before the main, coffee, teas and dessert afterwards. These can easily double the cost.
Skipping these extras and just ordering the main course can be a good way to save money. Plus, it’s probably healthier to consume a few hundred less calories.
Split the Meal
Restaurants serve up real big portions these days, especially in certain parts of the world (wink wink, my American friends).
So we often split the meal amongst our family when we go out to eat. Say if there are 6 of us, we would order 3-4 main courses to share. In addition to saving money, it’s more fun as everyone gets to try different dishes.
Order Appetisers / Starters
Another tip to save money and avoid OVER eating at the restaurant is to order starters instead of the main dish.
This works particularly well in our family, as I am a small eater. We often order the appetiser for myself when my husband orders a main and we share =)
Take Home the Leftover
Living in the UK, this gets frowned upon sometimes.
But hey, if it means that I don’t waste food, I really don’t give a $h1t.
So if there are enough food left after eating, be sure to ask for a doggy bag. It’ll make a great next day gourmet lunch.
Stick with Tap Water
As simple as it sounds, sticking with tap water can save you money.
Especially in many high end restaurants, once you go with a branded bottled water, it will keep coming. The next thing you know, you’ve racked up £10 just for H2O.
Be Smart About Alcohol
Notice I used the word “Smart” here because I fully recognise there isn’t a one-size-fits-all on Alcohol when it comes to how to save money eating out.
But what I DO want you to know is that Alcohol is what restaurants make a KILLING profit out of.
So strategies from completely skipping the alcohol, to take your own bottle, you need to figure out what works for you without taking the joy away.
For our family, we usually get a bottle of wine to share as this is much cheaper than by the glass, then ask the server to leave the cork, so we can take home if there are any left.
Pay with Cash-back Credit Card
Pay with a credit card.
Well, as long as you pay off your balance when it’s due so you don’t pay interest, and have a card that gives you a kickback for each purchase.
Don’t Double Tip
Finally, the last tip on how to save money eating out is, don’t forget to check your bill… you could be giving money away TWICE.
Many restaurants automatically put the service charges on your bill, which means if you tip on top of the totally amount, you have just paid service charge TWICE.
After I got caught up a few times, I now check it every time before I sign that dotted line.
Final Thoughts on How to Save Money Eating Out, Effortlessly:
We all enjoy eating out for various reasons, but if we are not mindful, this can be a quick way to bleed your hard earned money away, especially if you have a big family.
I hope this comprehensive list of tips and tricks on how to save money eating out can help you the next time you consider taking your family for a meal.
By getting deals before hand, making smart choices, and paying carefully, you can sit back enjoy the experience knowing that you are getting the most out of your hard-earned money.