Eating out can be a nice departure from cooking at home, but if you’re feeding a family it can also be super-expensive.
So, how do you eat out on a budget? Hrm … that’s a little trickier. Here’s some tips to make it the most successful (and affordable) restaurant trip.
1. Try Lunch Instead of Dinner. If you can get the family out for lunch instead of dinner, go for it. You’ll find portions and prices to be smaller.
2. Don’t Make it a Money Trap. So, for example, if you know that a dinner portion will be too big to finish, order the appetizer version. Or, if it’s a 1/2 or full-plate version, order the 1/2. Realistically, how often do you really eat the leftovers? Also, skip dessert. Instead, opt for an ice cream cone on the way home.
3. Practice Strategic Ordering. Many moons ago, I watched a Dateline special that was all about food menus. Believe it or not, there is a very strategic method to the way menus are laid out. The most expensive dishes are always placed in the top right corner of the menu. Be sure to fully peruse the menu before you place your order.
4. Use Deal-of-the-Day Websites. It’s amazing the deals you can get when you subscribe to local flash-sale sites like Living Social and Groupon. The hubs and I have significantly cut the cost of date night just by paying attention to the deals offered and buying when we can. If I can grab a $50 gift certificate to one of our favorite haunts for just $25, I’m all over it.
5. Foursquare Rocks! Foursquare is a social media app that uses your location to “check you in” to locations all over town. You manually have to check yourself in, and many restaurants will offer specials to folks who use Foursquare. For example, several local restaurants, as well as a few chains in our area, offer free appetizers when you show the waitress that you’ve checked in.
6. Partake in Spirits Wisely. One of the fastest ways to increase your restaurant tab is to order a drink. When you’re out, opt for water, lemonade, or another fountain drink that allows for free refills. You could buy a full bottle of wine for almost the same cost as a single glass at the restaurant.
photo credit: runs with scissors