Dining with a nice complementary wine is great, but dining without whining is awesome! While dining out can be a gut buster and a budget buster, especially with a family, there are some simple ways to eat healthier and trimming costs.
Consider These Time-Tested Proven Suggestions
Do Lunch, Not Dinner
Dinner prices are typically 20-50% higher than lunch and many restaurants offer the same entrees for both meals. Another benefit is that most restaurants offer lunch specials that can be hard to beat on both quantity and price. Depending on what you order, you can also bring part of your meal home and have dinner that night or for lunch the next day.
Seems like an obvious suggestion yet many folks forget to use them while others are too embarrassed to pull them out. But we say, be savvy! Use coupons! Many restaurants have coupons in the paper and/or on their websites. Some offer free appetizers, two-for-one entrees, free desserts, or even free drinks. Definitely sign up for your favorite restaurant’s e-mail newsletters to find out what promotions they’re running and get the coupons.
Consider purchasing a local Entertainment Book for $15-$20, you will receive lots of “Buy One Get One Free” coupons for restaurants.
Most credit cards offer some form of a dining rewards benefit. Review the constant changing card benefits at cardtrak.com.
If you’re a loyal member of a mileage program, you can earn some miles by eating at the restaurants the airline partners up with. Also, consider sites like dine-rewards.com
Act Like a Tourist Even If You’re a Local
The often forgotten gem: your local visitors’ bureau. Stop in and pick up publications that are usually packed with special discounts and coupons for tourists. Locals tend to forget they too can take advantage of these deals. Don’t overlook them!
Dine Locally Get What’s in Season (and that even includes meat!)
Most of your privately and locally owned eateries buy their meat and produce from local suppliers which allows them to offer better prices on in-season food. When you order something that has had to be imported, you should expect to pay more. Another perk to buying local, you know the food hasn’t been sitting in shipping trucks for any extended period of time.
Find our how big the appetizers are at the restaurant or take a gander at what the people around you are eating. Sometimes an appetizer or two are plenty big enough for an entire meal!
Dine Early or Later
Many restaurants often provide discounts to people who are willing to eat during off-peak hours. While it may seem odd to eat dinner in the late afternoon, you may save up to 50% off the check. And don’t forget the specials offered during happy hour. Find out what time that starts because many of them offer drinks and food at extremely low prices, even at really swanky places with fabulous views. It’s called “happy” for a reason!
Visit a New Restaurant
New restaurant owners are usually eager to provide special deals at decent prices so they can develop a base of steady customers. They’re also eager to get to know the locals, their bread and butter. Get in early, try the specials and be treated like royalty. With a little extra research, flexibility and creativity, eating out at restaurants can go from an expensive habit to a more economical one.
Don’t Forget Mom & Pop Dining Spots
American Express reports its research shows an average two-thirds of every dollar spent at small businesses in the U.S. stays in the local community. Also, every dollar spent at small businesses creates an additional 50 cents in local business activity as a result of employee spending and businesses purchasing local goods and services.