Eating Out is a Great Way to Save Money
Gwah? Are you serious, Mike? But everyone says that shopping for groceries, “buying in bulk” and cooking at home are the best ways to save!
Well, guess what? If you follow my advice eating out can actually be cheaper.
So put the 6-pound bag of rice back on the shelf and hit up your favorite Olive Garden instead! There are a few catches of course, but if you follow my handy guide to eating out like a pauper you may end up saving more than if you had gone to the market and thrown a couple of steaks on your Foreman grill.
The Rules to Saving While Eating Out
1. Don’t Dine Alone
If you take your girlfriend, brother, mother, in-laws, ex, you stand a very good chance of saving a significant amount of change while dining out.
No, not because you are going to con them into paying for your meal. (Although that is one possibility with this arrangement, especially if it’s your ex and they left you)
It’s actually because you can share a meal. If you order an $24 filet mignon with a side of rice, potato and veggies, I promise you that you won’t be able to finish it on your own anyway. You could probably split that sucker with three people. And do you know what that means? It means $8 per happy person with slimmer waistlines and a lot more savings.
Let’s be real here. These days almost nobody can actually finish some of the portions they throw at you at most restaurants (especially in America, where there is often more cream cheese than bagel.) You’ll not only be richer if you share meals, but you’ll also be thinner.
2. Waiter, can I have some Water?
That’s right. Hold the soda. Soda makes you fat, and adds a couple of bucks to your final bill (with tax and tip.) The water is free, and you get unlimited refills. This holds true with wine as well, but if you are going to drink it isn’t a requisite that you do it while you eat out. In fact, you might just enjoy your meal more without the alcohol.
If you do want something fruity/sweet that is alcoholic you could always share something with a couple of friends. You’ll still get the taste to go with your meal but without the swaggering after-effects. And you’ll be able to drive home.
Less is more.
3. Entrees are Buffets and Appetizers are Entrees
This is an important lesson. As I said earlier, portion sizes in most restaurants are enormous. You don’t need that much food, I promise you! Most appetizers are enough for anybody, and sometimes you can even share these! If you are looking to save a few bucks, consider ordering an appetizer as your main meal. One of the best ways to do this is to get an “appetizer sampler” which is actually more food than some main courses but usually a bit cheaper.
But don’t expect to use this technique at a fancy place. This is only useful if you are eating at Applebees, or something similar. If you order only an appetizer at a fancier restaurant you’ll end up with a huge plate, a tiny bite of caviar in the center and a growling stomach 13 seconds later. You’ll need to order more food. Bad idea. In fact, I would go so far as to say that you shouldn’t order an appetizer at any restaurant that has more than 3 “$” symbols next to the restaurant’s review guide under the “cost” section.
4. Ride the Coup(on)
If you are choosing to eat at a nearby restaurant it is not uncommon to find great deals and discounts at your local supermarket. There are often “coupon” books available to patrons of restaurants that are popular in town, where you can sometimes get 15-25% (or more) off your entire meal! Do a bit of research and load up on these restaurant savings options. I tend to keep over 100 of these little miracles at home. (Actually, I don’t. They expire. I have a couple.)
Sometimes you can make a game of this! See which restaurants in your area are offering discounts. If it’s one that you have never heard of, it can be a new adventure, and you’ll save a significant amount!
Eating Out Like a Pauper Can Be Fun, Too
If you follow some of these tips and hints you will save money, and you’ll still get all the perks that come with eating out. After all, the whole experience of dining away from home is about the company, the food, and the atmosphere. If you save $10 on your meal you’ll still have fun!
Ironically, eating out for less can actually be healthier, as you won’t be tempted to have the enormous elephant-like portion sizes that are pushed on everyone else. So at the end of your meal while you are satiated for $6-$10 you can watch your friends loosen their belts, complain about how full they are, throw down $26.95 and go into their food comas after dinner.
Side note: Just make sure not to skimp on the tip. Servers are underpaid for the difficulty of work they perform and the rudeness they have to put up with.
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