Here’s the first entry in our new How to Save Big series. With this series, we show you how to curate big savings in all aspects of budget without changing up your lifestyle. We start with showing you how to save when it comes to eating out.
Would you believe that the average American spends over 4.5% of their annual stated income on prepared food, such as restaurants and takeout? Translated that to an annual salary of $55,000 – this constitutes almost $2500 spent on eating out! Though dinner prices seem like they are what they are, there are actually several ways you can save. Here are a few tips.
1. Join Mailing Lists, Use Apps
Sign up for email alerts and newsletters from your favorite 5-7 eateries. While this might clog your inbox, it’s worth the money saved from discounts and promotions.
There are also several apps that can help you save when dining out. Opentable will reward you with points every time you use the app, which you can then redeem for gift cards at participating restaurant. Forks shows you the latest discounts and promotions at restaurants in your area. If you’re looking to go especially fancy, check out Savored. Savored can help you find discounts for up to 30% on high end restaurants and will automatically factor in your discount to your final tab.
2. Order a lunch dish for dinner
Dinner plates are more expensive than lunch dishes, yet lunch portions are only slightly smaller in size. If a specific restaurant doesn’t allow you to order a lunch dish for dinner, opt for eating out during lunch time rather than at dinner. You can even order a lunch dish for takeout and eat that for dinner!
3. Avoid the specials
Specials are usually significantly overpriced and offer little more in value or taste. Stick to the main portions of the menu – you won’t be sacrificing much at all in terms of taste and you’ll be saving a few dollars.
4. Ask about portion sizes
You don’t want to order more than you can eat and end up wasting food and money. Nor do you want to order less than you can eat and leave feeling unsatisfied. Ask your waiter if he/she can show you the plate of someone else who is eating the same dish you’re considering or just give you an idea of how filling the dish will be.
5. Buy discounted gift cards for restaurants
Check out Restaurants.com, the premier website for buying discounted restaurant gift cards, where you can purchase gift cards worth $25 for $10. You’ll save $15 just for making the effort!
6. Share An appetizer, skip dessert
More often that not, an entree is enough to fill you up so having an appetizer to yourself might lead both wasted money and wasted food. Next time you’re out with a friend or coworker, opt to split an appetizer. Keep in mind that dessert isn’t a necessity either, especially if you’re being health conscious.
Wines at restaurants can be overpriced, often times going for over $40 a bottle. Opt to go to a Bring Your Own Beverage eatery; it’ll save you a significant chunk on your bill while leaving you satisfied.
8. Restaurant Week
Each summer, in whichever city you reside, there’s a 2-3 week period called Restaurant Week. During this period, dishes at a select number of restaurants are steeply discounted. High-end restaurants participate, even those with one or more Michelin stars, offering 4-course meals at a half to a third of their normal prices.
You can find when restaurant week takes place in your city here.
9. Chipotle hacks
A cheap eats staple, we thought Chipotle deserved it’s own category. If you’re not too hungry and/or are strapped for cash, a burrito with only beans and cheese will run you only $2.18 – an ideal offering for many college students. You can also ask for as many soft tortillas or hard taco shells on the side as you want. If you’re going green and opt for a veggie bowl, you can get guacamole for free – otherwise, it usually runs around $2.50 depending on the location.