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16 Ways to Save More At Restaurants

Want to learn how to save at restaurants? Here are 16 ideas for saving money on eating out:

Guest post from Sarah who blogs at Sidetracked Sarah:

Does your family eat out a lot?

We don’t do it very much, because we have a large family and the cost can be outrageous if we’re not careful.

Throughout the years though, we’ve learned ways that we can still eat out as a family and not spend way too much.

Here are 16 different ways we save more at restaurants!

  1. Save any restaurant coupons you get in the mail or newspapers. I like to put them in the glove box of my car or in my purse so that I’ll have them when I want or need them.
  2. Order water to drink. Imagine my family all ordering drinks at $2 per person. We have 9 in the family, we’d be spending nearly $20 of our tab on drinks.  Not only is drinking water better for you, but it saves you dollars!
  3. Share meals. Some restaurants are notorious for providing extra large servings. If you find one that you always end up stuffed with and come home with leftovers, try sharing meals among your family. Instead of buying a kid’s meal for each kid, buy an adult meal for 2-3 kids and enjoy the savings.
  4. Sign up for text messages, birthday clubs, and any email clubs that your favorite restaurants offer. Any restaurants I frequent, I sign up to get their emails and texts because they love to let us know about the deals that they have each week.  And I love to use those deals when it’s a good time for our family.  They typically send us something free on our birthdays and anniversaries, too. (Check out these Birthday Freebies.)
  5. Look for Kids Eat Free Deals. We especially love to find the Kids Eat Free restaurants on vacation, but any time you can find a good restaurant that lets the kids eat for free, you’ll save quite a bit of money. Some only let one kid eat free, while others let two eat free per each paying adult.
  6. Utilize the dollar menu. When traveling, we will often buy everyone in the vehicle a one dollar item (like a sandwich or burger) and buy fresh fruit and/or chips to go with it for us to all share. It’s a great way to stretch out our dollars and keep our tummies happy at the same time.
  7. Adults, order kid’s meals. Not all restaurants will allow adults to order kids meals, but several do. A friend of ours always does this at Cracker Barrel. We do it sometimes at our favorite local Mexican restaurant, but they add a dollar to the price, which is typically still a great deal.
  8. Try ordering off of the lunch menu even at dinner. Some restaurants will let you order off of the lunch menu, with a small up-charge ($1 at our favorite restaurant). Not all will do this, but it’s worth asking about.
  9. Don’t order desserts or appetizers. Nothing increases the price of your meal at a restaurant more than ordering appetizers and desserts. Try going to restaurants that have free bread or chips and salsa if you’re really desiring an appetizer.
  10. Only eat out at lunch time. If you can help it, just go out to eat at lunch, when lunch menus are offered.  You’ll save several dollars per meal by doing this.
  11. Eat at buffets. Buffets tend to give children very discounted prices, but some buffets tend to hike the prices up for everyone. Be sure to watch for the economical buffets and see where you can save money.
  12. Watch for specials. Sometimes restaurants are slower on Mondays and Tuesdays and they may have a special for just those nights. Other times, there may be a happy hour during certain hours of the day. Often, restaurants will rotate their specials out. Watch for exterior signs and be sure to ask your server about any special you may not want to miss.
  13. Plan ahead. Just doing a little bit of research before you head out to eat, is a great way to save some money. Sometimes, I will check out the menu online to see if I can afford the food at a specific restaurant or I’ll search for any deals in the area.
  14. Order ala Carte. At one of my favorite restaurants, my favorite food is a lot cheaper when I order it as a single item, ala carte. When I think of ala carte, I often think of it as being a really small portion, but in most cases, it’s plenty for a meal.
  15. Sign up for Educational Rewards Programs. Many restaurants will offer kids rewards for reading books. We like to sign our kids up for Book It with Pizza Hut and Braum’s Book Buddies every year. Sometimes, libraries will also have reading incentive programs where kids can earn gift certificates for reading more and more books.
  16. Evaluate Why You’re Eating out. Lots of times, you’re eating out because you forgot to plan your food, or you just got too busy. Try spending some time planning and assembling some Crockpot Freezer Meals more often.

As you can see, there are many ways you and your family can save money when going to restaurants.

It takes a little bit of planning ahead, but if you’re trying to pay off bills, go debt free, or just save money, cutting corners is something we’re usually willing to do. It’s nice to know we don’t have to give up everything and can enjoy a meal out from time to time.

Sarah is a busy, work from home, homeschooling mom of 7 who blogs over at Sidetracked Sarah.  She loves helping families spend less time in the kitchen and more time with their families.  She loves using her Slow Cooker and Instant Pot on a daily basis to help her do just that.

photo source

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3 Comments

  • Letoya says:

    These are all great tips!

    Please always be mindful of what your bill would have been pre discounts or if you have 2-3 kids sharing an entree, factor that into how you tip your server. They’re still working just as hard, regardless of how little you manage to spend. Servers in most states make HALF of whatever minimum wage is. So their tips are incredibly important.

  • Beth says:

    We use a lot of these but there were some new-to-me ideas also. Thanks! Another one we use is Raise.com. You buy gift cards at reduced prices. Most of the gift cards are digital and you can load them on your phone. This only works for chain restaurants. Some places you can get 20% off a gift card.
    If you’re eating out because your dinner plans fell through it might be better to get takeout than to eat in. Some states don’t charge taxes for takeout.
    I’ve started keeping a Stouffer’s meal in the freezer. It’s more expensive than my normal cooking from scratch but it’s cheaper than eating out. And usually they’re done in less than 30 minutes.

  • Des says:

    I love the sharing a meal tactic, especially if the place has bread or chips and salsa for free. If you’re out on a date night, or planning to see a movie, run errands, etc. after eating out, having leftovers in the car is not so great. I’ve also eaten out solo on trips and just gotten an la cart item with maybe an inexpensive side salad to satisfy a craving without breaking the wallet! : I also don’t really like fast food that often, but places like wendy’s have salads, baked potatoes, and chili, which make pretty good little meals on the run without feeling like I had fried oil for lunch. 😉

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