I will admit, I am one of those people who love to eat out. I know it’s really not the best for my health or my wallet, but there is just something about going to a restaurant that I love! I try to make healthier choices most of the time when we go out but I love having something delicious without the cooking and clean up. But, that does come with a price. Use these clever strategies to help you save money when you eat out.
1. Sign up for loyalty programs
Most restaurants offer loyalty programs and will offer coupons and freebies if you sign up. Pick the restaurants with the best deals and that you visit the most often. We actually ended up getting a separate email address for these deals so that our inbox wasn’t flooded all the time. Usually you can score a free appetizer or dessert just for signing up! Other deals let you earn rewards points when you eat there. Most usually offer a great deal for your birthday, too!
2. Check for coupons
You can often find great coupons for restaurants in the local fliers and online. I know at our house we regularly get coupons for Arby’s, O’Charley’s, Captain D’s, and more in the mail. We also find Olive Garden and Red Lobster in the circulars. Before you head out to a restaurant, always check to see if there is a coupon somewhere.
3. Order water
Being a southern girl, I love sweet tea, but I found that we were spending well over $2 for every drink purchased, which really adds up with the two of us and our four kiddos! If a kid’s drink comes with the meal we let our kids choose something, but otherwise we all get water and save around $10 per meal. That easily allows us to eat out another couple of meals for the month with the same budget. It’s also better for your health!
4. Don’t order appetizers or dessert
Unless you have a coupon for a free item, these really aren’t necessary. You get plenty of food with an entree and, as tempting as they are, we really don’t need dessert either. (Especially when you are talking an extra $5 or more each time!) When you order these things, you are really tempted to overeat – so save yourself some calories and your wallet.
5. Share a meal
Consider sharing a meal with someone to save your waistline and your wallet. This will be especially helpful if you are the type of person who loves dessert too much to pass up. By sharing a meal, you’ll still have room in your tummy and your wallet to splurge.
6. If you have kids, take advantage of kids eat free deals
SO many restaurants offer kids eat free promotions. We take advantage of these all the time! If we are eating out, the first thing we do is find out who has a deal for the kiddos. I put together a list of these promotions you can check out to find the best deals near you! Most of them offer one kid’s meal per adult meal, but some offer two kids meals for each adult meal. This means we can eat places like Firehouse Subs for only $20 for our whole family!!
7. Take advantage of gift card specials
You can buy discounted gift cards at places like Sam’s Club or Gift Card Granny. If you have a Kroger family store that does fuel points nearby, take advantage of that savings!! We buy every gift card we can from our local Kroger stores. They always offer 2x fuel points on gift cards and often run a 4x gift card promotion. So if we buy a $25 gift card when they are doing 4x fuel points, we get 10 cents off per gallon easy! We use this for more than just food, too (Lowe’s, Amazon, Best Buy, etc) and have gotten gas for as low as 1 cent per gallon!
8. Use Groupon (and eBates!)
Search your local Groupon deals to see if any restaurants near you are offering savings. Our local Mexican restaurant ran a promotion through them that gave us a $25 gift card for $10! And, if you log in to ebates first, then go through them to Groupon, you will save even more! As of the time of this post, ebates was offering 6% cash back on Groupon purchases! This works for more than just restaurants, too – ebates will give you cash back for shopping online almost anywhere. Check them out with the link below!
9. Order an appetizer instead of an entree
I have done this so many times simply because I love appetizers. Cheese sticks, chicken fingers – you name it! Appetizers are often smaller portions which will help the waistline and they often cost less, too. Not always, though, so be sure to check it out. I love the Triple Play at Chili’s but it’s easily over $10 when I can order some entrees for less. What can I say, I like variety. 🙂
10. Eat lunch out instead of dinner
Want to eat out somewhere nice but don’t want to pay dinner prices? Go there for lunch! Many restaurants still have a different lunch menu that is the same food with slightly smaller portions for less. I love to go to Red Lobster for lunch. Their dinner prices have put them out of our reach as a family, but the lunch prices are still good, especially if it is just me and the hubs going!
I hope these tips help you save money on your next trip to a restaurant. They save our family so much money over the course of a year. Even small savings really add up!