Money Saving Monday Tip #14 – Save Money When Eating Out
In a recent article I compared our budget to a guideline budget from The World’s Easiest Guide To Finances. One of the areas I identified as a problem for us was eating out too much. My wife and I spent some time over the weekend talking about this, and decided to reduce the amount of times we do eat out and to also try to reduce our cost when we do go. Here’s a few tips I’ve come up with to reduce your eating out costs:
Share a meal
In our quest to lose a little weight and eat healthier, my wife and I have both realized that restaurant portions are often far more than we can or should be eating. One of the things we’ve done in the past and will begin doing much more frequently is sharing a plate. What’s great about doing this is that your meal cost is cut in half, and they don’t have to carry you out of the restaurant with a forklift.
Eat on kids eat free nights
I’ve written about kids eat free nights before, but we’ve have become slack about taking advantage of these. Make a list of restaurants that have kids eat free nights, and keep the list with you. These can save your a tremendous amount of money, especially when you have lots of kids like we do (we have 6).
Avoid alcoholic beverages
One of the “cash cows” for the restaurant business is the bar. Avoid getting alcoholic beverages while dining out. Drinks at restaurants are expensive, not to mention the reduction in calories you’ll receive by avoiding them. If you must get something, ask about their specials.
Not only will drinking water keep you from eating as much, water is more healthier and best of all free. Skip the soda and tea, and you’ll save a few bucks. To enhance the flavor, just ask for a few lemons. Lemons kill the “chemical” taste and add flavor. Combine your water with a few lemons and some sugar or Splenda and you can make your own lemonade, which is my preferred drink anyway.
Go early or during lunch
Many restaurants offer “early bird” specials and reduced prices during lunch. Both of these are not only great ways to save money, but to avoid the crowds as well. Regarding lunch, the menu is generally the same, altough the portions might be a bit smaller.
Say no to dessert
Desserts are another “cash cow” for restaurants. Just say no. Instead, stop off at the grocery store on the way home and get some low-fat ice cream, single pieces of pie, or whatever your preference. Better yet, just skip dessert all together for a healthier meal.
If you’re like us, your mail box is inundated weekly with “junk mail”. If you spend a few minutes sorting through it, you can find some great coupons that offer significant savings to local restaurants. We cut them out and keep them in a folder and use the coupns to determine where we will eat out.
Bring home the leftovers
Given the portion sizes at most restaurants we often have way more food than we can eat. Instead of wasting this food, get a to-go box and bring the leftovers home. They make for a great meal the following day. Heads-up though, some things reheat better than others.
Medical studies show that it takes your stomach 20 minutes to begin generating the hormone that tells your brain it’s full. By eating slower, you lesson the chance of over eating. This will allow you to eat smaller portions, share a meal, and maybe have some leftovers.
Share your tips and thoughts in the comments section.