Eating out is expensive, whether grabbing a sandwich on your lunch break or eating at a restaurant for dinner. If you are on a tight budget, this is an expense you can cut back on or even cut out entirely for a few months. But if you love eating out, you do not have to cut out completely to save money on food or groceries. In this article, we will discuss how to save money eating out.
A typical meal in a restaurant is three times more expensive than the same meal that you make at home. The reason dining out is so expensive is that you are paying for the food and beverages you order at a restaurant and paying for the cooks, waiting for staff, ambiance, rent for the restaurant or food shop, advertising costs, and more.
Most Americans eat out several times a week, especially at restaurants, and each person spends a different amount of money on dining out. The number of Americans eating out is increasing thanks to the convenience of dining out.
The downside is that the convenience does not save you any money. However, there are ways to save money dining out at restaurants. So if you love dining out and want to save money on eating out, this article will show you how to find cheap eats near me and some great tips to help you save money no matter which restaurant you eat at.
What are the cheapest restaurants near me to eat at?
Here are some of the top affordable restaurants to eat at if you want to save money dining out:
- Olive Garden
- Texas Roadhouse
- El Torero
- Red Robin
- Village Inn
- Privately-owned restaurants
In addition to the above list of the top affordable restaurants to eat at, pretty much any Mom & Pop cafe, Village Inn, and any restaurant located in a ‘strip mall’ are also among the most affordable restaurants to eat at.
Where can I get a $1 menu?
There are some great places where you can score $1 food, such as:
- 13 Best Hacks for Healthy Grocery Budgeting – Save tons of money!
- 101 Mind-Blowing Creative Ways to Save Money!
- How to Save Money on Groceries and Eat Amazing!
Where can I get the most food for $5?
If you want to get the most filling meals for $5, here are some of the most affordable fast-food chains where you can eat healthy fast food meals that cost around $5:
- Little Caesars – Pepperoni Cheese Bread (10 pcs) for $4.99
- Little Caesars – Stuffed Crazy Bread (10 pcs) for $5
- Taco Bell – XXL Chicken Grilled Stuft Burrito for $4.99
- Smashburger – Smashburger Kids Meal for $4.99
- Dairy Queen – Chili Cheese Dog Combo for $4.69
- Wendy’s – Sour Cream & Chives Baked Potato + Small Chili for $4.88
- Arby’s – From 2-5 pm, you can get any slider for $1 each
- McDonald’s – (2) Cheeseburgers, Fries (or side salad), & Drink for $4.89
- Burger King – Bacon Double Cheeseburger, Value Fries, and Drink for $4.97
- Subway – 6″ Meatball Marinara Sub for $3.99 (the footlong is only $5.29)
- Chick-fil-A – (6 pcs) Chicken Nuggets Kids Meal for $4.05
18 simple ways to save money eating out
While cooking at home always (mostly) saves you more money than eating out at your favorite restaurants, let us agree that we are not always at home. If you love to go out to eat at your favorite places, you are not alone. People eat out for various reasons: convenience, to celebrate a special occasion, try new food, socialize, if they are short of time to cook at home, and more.
Whatever your reason for wanting to eat out alone or with kids, your partner or friends, here are 18 simple tips on how to save money eating out:
#1 Make a budget
Making a budget does not mean stopping eating at your favorite restaurants. It means spending within your means. If you are eating out too often, you can cut back on the amount you pay each month on eating or dining out. But, to make it work, you need to create a budget and stick to it. A budget will help you to set a realistic amount for eating out. Once you spend the budgeted amount for eating out, do not spend money eating out before the next month begins.
To create a budget, calculate your total average monthly outgoings based on the last three months’ expenses, then calculate your monthly income. Next, deduct your outgoings from your monthly income. If you see you are spending less than what you earn every month, congratulations! But if your monthly outgoings exceed your monthly payment, you will need to look at some of your expenses that you can cut back on or perhaps cut out completely to live within your means.
If you are spending a lot of money on eating out, you can eat out a few times a week or a month to save some money. Just make sure that you create a line item for eating out at your favorite restaurants in your expenses column and assign a specific amount to it. If you stick to your budget, you will not overspend on eating out.
Use the Busy Mom Budget Planner to make a budget! Get it below:
#2 Do not buy bottled water
The price of bottled water ranges between $2 to $3 a bottle. If you eat out several times a week, buying bottled water can add up to a significant amount a month. So do not buy bottled water. Next time you go out, ask for tapped water. It is free. Also, skip the coffee, tea, and soda.
Do that just for a month, and you have more than $120 per week/month in savings in your pocket.
#3 Eat out on a Monday or Tuesday
Usually, restaurants are slow in the first few days of the week. Often, restaurants will offer a discount on stuff to entice customers to eat in. If you eat out on a Monday or Tuesday, you can eat a meal you already love at a better price.
#4 Skip the beverages
One of the best ways to save money at a restaurant is to order tap water. Do not order bottled water. Typically, restaurants mark up coffee, tea, and soda prices. Did you know that restaurants mark up bottled water costs even more than soda? The savings potential here is enormous.
#5 Do not tip
Of course, you need to be prepared to tip your wait staff if you are going out to eat at a restaurant! But, if you are looking for how to save money eating out, you can opt for a restaurant that you call ahead and order your food to go. With that being said, please be sure to give a few bucks to the
#6 Eat out during the happy hour
One of the creative ways to save money when eating out is to eat out at restaurants during happy hour. Many restaurants offer happy hour discounts on appetizers, drinks, menu items, and perhaps even complimentary appetizers.
If you are planning to eat out with your kids, partner, or friends, you could take advantage of the happy hour specials to save money on eating out.
#7 Be an early bird
Restaurants often offer inexpensive entrees if you eat out at one of these restaurants before the dinner rush. So if you hit up your favorite restaurant before it gets busy, you can take advantage of early-bird-specials to spend less money on eating out.
#8 Save half of your meal
Restaurants often serve large portions when you sit down in the restaurant to eat there. One creative way to save money on eating out is to make two meals out of one by asking the waitress to box up half of your meal before the food arrives.
Saving half your meal is a great way to get meals for the price of one! You can set aside the to-go box meal to enjoy later (e.g., you can take it for lunch the next day.
#9 Share a meal
If you have kids, sharing your food with them is easy to cut costs when eating out at a restaurant that serves large portions. You could order a full-sized entree and still save money if you share it with another person.
#10 Eat brunch
If you eat a healthy late breakfast between 10 am, and 11 am, you can skip lunch and plan for an early dinner. Also, if you will be eating out for breakfast and lunch, you can combine the two into one meal to save money.
#11 Seek out the best deals
One of the best ways to save money on eating out is to seek out the best deals before you go to any restaurant, as many restaurants offer special discounts on certain days. Some restaurants will offer 1/2 priced meals on certain days or other specials on specific entrees throughout the week. Many restaurants will allow kids to eat free, so find out which restaurants in your area will enable them to eat free.
#12 Sign up for rewards
Sign up for rewards or loyalty programs at your favorite restaurant to save money when eating out. Most chain restaurants and fast-food restaurants offer rewards programs to attract new customers. You can also sign up for your favorite restaurant’s loyalty program to save money on eating out.
It is free to sign up for restaurant rewards programs and loyalty programs. If you like to eat out, join rewards programs to save some money on eating out.
#13 Use coupons and money-saving apps
You have heard this one many times. And it is a great way to save money when eating out. You can use print and online coupons to help you save money when eating out at restaurants. There is also the possibility to check newspapers for cut-out coupons.
You can also use reputable money-saving apps like Ibotta and Groupon for deals on the best items to eat at your favorite restaurants. Join Restanurant.com deals to save money when eating out at your favorite places.
#14 Pay with a rewards credit card
You can save money on dining out and score other rewards if you pay your restaurant bills with a rewards card. However, make sure to pay off your card in full each month.
Depending on where you eat and the rewards card you have, you can get airline miles, cashback, and other perks. You can choose a rewards card that offers generous cashback rewards on multiple spending categories, including eating out at your favorite restaurants.
#15 Do not go out to eat when you are starving
You have heard that you should never go grocery shopping when hungry. And it would help if you never went out to eat when you are starving, too. Before you go out to eat at your favorite restaurant, pack your snack to snack on before the food arrives in the restaurant.
#16 Eat off the kid’s menu
If you are looking for a light meal, order from the kids; menu in a restaurant if it does not have age restrictions listed on the menu. Often restaurants serve large-sized portions, so there is no shame if you order off the kids’ menu if you are looking for something light to go. I had a gastric sleeve done so I frequently eat off the kid’s menu. No shame here!
#17 Take advantage of kids to eat free offer
If you have kids, another way to save money on eating out is to walk in the restaurants where kids eat for free. While most restaurants offer a discount for items on a kids’ menu, many restaurants will even provide your kids; meals under a certain age for free.
It is worth checking out the restaurants in your area where you can get a discount for your kids’ meals, or your kids eat free.
#18 Beware of upsells
Most of us know how the waiter always asks if you would like an appetizer, extra cheese, etc. when we eat out at restaurants. Although it may seem that the waiter is just being friendly, remember that they are trying to upsell.
So when the waiter or waitress suggests something that comes with an extra fee, say “No, thank you.”
More ways on how to save money when eating out?
With these money-saving tips on how to save money eating out, you can easily save a significant amount of money every month eating out. Some of the options on this list do not hold much on their own, but if you do a few of them, you can save a lot of money each month when eating out in your favorite places. It is crucial to put away what you have saved.
Do you have more ways on how to save money when eating out? Let us know in the comments!