Five Tips on Saving Money at Restaurants

Eating out at a restaurant can make for a fun evening or date night, but the price tag that comes at the end of the meal can be quite a shock to some diners. There are more than a few ways to have a fun night out without spending an exorbitant amount of money. The following are a few tips that can make dining out easier on your wallet without sacrificing the quality of your meal.

– Drink Water

The staff at The Bargainist put it right when they said: “You go to a restaurant for the good food, not the soda or alcohol.” While having a drink with your meal is an enjoyable aspect to dining out, soda and booze can drastically increase your tab. Two people having sodas with their meal can add an extra 5 or 6 dollars, while alcoholic beverages have the potential to add upwards of 10 or 20 dollars per person to an otherwise affordable meal. Opt out of purchasing sugary or alcoholic drinks by ordering water with lemon instead. If having a drink with your meal is a must have, find out if any local restaurants allow you to Bring Your Own Booze. Many states with strict liquor licensing requirements allow restaurants to encourage patrons to tote their own wine or beer. Bringing your own bottle of wine to a meal can save you from paying the over 100% markup that is commonly added to alcohol in restaurants.

– Share Meals

The majority of restaurants serve patrons more than a reasonable person should eat in one sitting. When dining out with a friend or partner who shares your taste in food, split an entree with each other to save money and avoid the impending food overload. If you are worried that it will not be enough food to satisfy the two of you, share an appetizer or order side salads. Some restaurants will charge a nominal fee to split plates; however the savings are well worth the small charge.

– Go for Lunch

If you have a flexible schedule for dining out, enjoy lunch at a restaurant instead of dinner. Many eateries offer a separate menu for mid day meals that are more affordable but still mirror their dinner menu. Meal portions are often more reasonable and you still get the same quality meal but at a reduced price. Eating out at lunch time can also help you resist the temptation to order pricey alcoholic beverages.

– Eat Freebies and Appetizers

Many restaurants still bring bread baskets or chips and salsa to your table as soon as you are seated. Shannon Christman of SavingAdvice.com suggests that eating these free appetizers is a great way to curb your appetite and stretch your dining dollar father. Many entrees will also be preceded by soup or a salad, so it is important to keep these extras in mind to prevent you from over-ordering. Appetizers can be a costly course to add to a dinner out, but they can also function as a stand alone meal. Many appetizers are large enough to fill up a normal person and can be healthier for you by limiting the amount you feel compelled to eat at the restaurant. When coupled with freebies or a small side salad, ordering an appetizer will fill you up without emptying your wallet.

– Restaurant Week

Check to see if restaurants in your town participate in a restaurant week. According to Heaven Stufflefield of Budgetpulse.com, restaurant week is a great event because, “high end restaurants will serve you for a flat rate. It helps them promote their wonderful restaurant and helps the average diner eat from a more pristine table cloth for an evening.” By dining out during these events, you can have a dining experience that you may otherwise not be able to afford.

You don’t have to sacrifice food quality or atmosphere to afford going to out eat. Follow these budget friendly tips to enable yourself to enjoy a guilt free experience when you chose to give your stove the night off.