The majority of restaurants charge their customers at least 4 times more than what they paid for it? That really makes it hard when you are trying to save money at restaurants. For instance, that $20 steak that you thought that was such a good deal is only worth $5. When you go out to eat, you are not only paying for the food and drinks that you order, you are also paying for the cooks, wait staff, ambiance, rent for the building, advertising costs and more. Can you frugal this? The answer is absolute, you can still enjoy a frugal meal and not break the bank… that’s with a little creative thinking.
SKIP THE BEVERAGES/SHARE THE FREE REFILLS
Did you know that restaurants mark up the prices on soda, coffee, and tea even more than alcoholic beverages? One of the best ways to save money at a restaurant is to order tap water and take your own flavor to add in it. Notice I said, “tap” water. Make sure you don’t accidentally order bottled water. The restaurant marks these up even more than soda. I read on Twitter this morning @FreddyIsFrugal refuse to pay full price for soda-pop. He orders one drink and then shares the free refills with his wife (I would call this a win-win).
LOOK FOR DEALS AND SPECIALS
Many restaurants offer specials that are triggered by the specific day of the week and, even more often, the specific time of the day. Having two smaller children, We have a calendar of restaurants where kids eat free! I then can take advantage of those deals. Some restaurants offer early bird specials for diners who come in before 5 PM and some have half off after 10 PM. Try eating at restaurant bars during happy hour. You’ll save on drinks, and find half-priced appetizers at many places, often only in the bar area. Other restaurants offer discounted appetizers or drinks at certain times or will offer a “final call” discount on buffet food during the last fifteen minutes of a buffet lunch.
CHOOSE A RESTAURANT WITH FREE APPETIZERS
Many restaurants offer free appetizers to get people in the door of their establishments. Mostly because customers often fail to take full advantage of it. I will often eat those free appetizers and slowly drink a couple of large glasses of my flavored water and by the time my main meal arrives, I’m pretty full. You might be really hungry when you order, but after eating a bunch of those appetizers over the next thirty minutes, you likely won’t be as hungry. So, don’t order the giant platter of food — instead, stick with a smaller meal that focuses in on just one or two things you really like.
BEWARE OF “UPSELLS”
Do you know how the waiter always asks if you’d like your potato loaded instead of plain? Or if you’d like an appetizer, extra cheese, or top-shelf liquor? Yeah, they’re not trying to be your friend. A good server is actually a good salesperson. Don’t be afraid to ask them if there’s an extra charge, if the answer is yes from them, your answer should be “No thanks”.
EAT AN APPETIZER AS YOUR MAIN DISH
Many restaurants offer absurdly large appetizers at a pretty good price. Order an appetizer as your main course. Usually, you’ll have a fairly small portion for a very good price if you do this and, if you include appetizers in the meals you’re considering, it usually expands your total options.
MAY I HAVE AN EXTRA PLATE PLEASE
Many restaurants serve huge meals with enormous sides – far more than a single person could or should eat. One great strategy to having a “big portion” restaurant is to simply split an entree with a friend or loved one. Simply order a meal you both like, request an extra plate, then divide up the meal among the two of you when it arrives. This allows you to eat a more reasonably-sized meal while cutting the cost of the meal in half. I’ve split meals with my wife many times.
We sometimes buy a few things at the grocery store or at the wholesale stores, we eat all the free samples. But we also eat enough samples to fill up for free. Ask employees in your local grocery stores if they have special sample days.
JOIN MAILING LIST OR CLUBS
If you like a restaurant, and it has a club or mailing list, sign up! You’ll get emails with special offers and maybe a free appetizer once in a while.
AVOID THE RESTAURANT
If you go out for lunch Monday through Friday for a year, you might spend $10 a meal—a pretty good deal at most dining establishments. This adds up to $50 weekly. It’s also easy to spend that amount if you go out to dinner two or three times a week. You’re spending $2,500 per year, near the national average. This cash adds up to almost half of the average American’s annual food budget. The best way to save money is to cook at home and only go out on special occasions.