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.
Especially if you do it often, this can rack up a big bill. A family of 4 spends an average of £1,581 a year on takeaways and eating out in the UK.
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.
Many restaurants usually make the effort by offering a free bottle of fizz (Zizzi’s, Pizza Express in exchange for your email), free desert etc. for occasions like birthdays and anniversary.
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.
A few that’s worth checkin out are Nando’s, Chillis, TGIFridays, Pizza Hut.
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.
Groupon, LivingSocial, OpenTable are my go-to as they cover a wide range of choices, from smaller individual restaurants to bigger chains.
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:
Dining Cards like Dine, Gourmet Society or Tastecard offer a range of 2 for 1 deals or 50% off food, or 25% of the bill.
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.
This is usually cashback or vouchers. Every little adds up. The best deals at the moment are Barclay Card Rewards or American Express Platinum Cashback every day.
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.
This Post Has 10 Comments
I don’t have a big family but I am so glad I read your article anyway. These are great tips that will save anyone money! Great job; I’m pinning this. ?
These tips will help you save money eating out regardless of the size of the family. It’s just big families cost a lot more eating out =)
Great post, i also spend a lot whenever i go out with my family for dinner or maybe on dinner or launch date, you know everything that will be taken there will be paid for both water, toothpick or even sourveir, that is why that i prefer to eat at home with my family to save more because cooking at home is less costly besides i love home cooked meals, but all you listed is really cool especially the online deal, i will definitely give it a try…Thanks
I agree home meals are a much better option to save money and eating healthy, but when you DO go out to eat, definitely take advantage of these money saving ideas.
Hello there! this is an amazing review you have got here. I am very sure this post will be of help to others who come across it as it has been to me this moment. I think going out on week days as you have said will help us and also I will speak to my husband so we stop making it an habit to eat out.\
Thanks for sharing!
Glad you are able to identify a couple of tips on how to save money eating out in the future. Thanks for stopping by Joy!
We eat out as a treat. Having two little guys, sometimes its more of a hassle taking them to a restaurant. So we usually eat out for a birthday or something special. Now, we get take-out quite often because it is more convenient. These are wonderful tips to help save some money but still being able to treat yourself.
Take out is definitely the way forward, especially for families with smaller children.
Thanks for these great tips! Like you, I am not shy to ask for a doggy bag and find it’s much more widely accepted now. I’m not a big eater, hate waste and love to have something tasty for lunch next day.
The pre-theatre menu is always a good option if you want to keep the cost down – it just means eating a little bit early which suits me fine. (Though it only work for me on a trip to town as I live in a small town in the country with no theatre!)
I was desperate for a fish supper tonight – I was so hungry and too tired to cook, but my fridge is so full of food I just didn’t allow myself to go for it. (Now feeling very smug having quickly rustled up the most amazing Macaroni Cheese!).
Keep up the goog work,
Sounds like you already have many of these frugal habits to save money eating out. Hope you learned a couple of new ones too =) Thanks for stopping by.