10 Ways to Save on Eating Out

Real People: Young Adult Couples Night Out Bar RestaurantEating in is a great and easy money saver, but it’s not always an available option, nor is it always exciting (though I do have some suggestions on how you can spice it up). A nice restaurant meal can be a welcome and affordable indulgence if you know when and where to look.

Set a Budget.

Before you start the hunt for you dining locale, decide how much you’re willing to spend. Setting a budget can help you narrow your search significantly, particularly when you’re in unfamiliar places (on business, vacation, etc). A quick glance at the number of dollar signs on Yelp or in your guidebook can be your first filter. Then double check menus online to make sure they’re in line with your price point and your appetite.


Couponing isn’t just for the grocery store, with services like Groupon and Restaurant.com, you can get discounts on everything from your corner bodega to the finest dining establishments in town. Sometimes, even the coupons themselves go on sale; meaning you can purchase a $25 restaurant voucher for just a few bucks! But be sure to read the fine print.

Coupons generally have a number of restrictions, ranging from dates and times they can be used to food and drink they can be used for to minimum and maximum order values and redemptions. You don’t want to show up anticipating filet mignon and find out that the coupon you have is only applicable to a limited pre fixe menu of pasta with garlic and olive oil or a grilled chicken breast.

Opt for Lunch Specials.

Midweek lunch specials are a great way to enjoy dining out without the night and weekend pricing.

Save the Drinks for Dessert.

Sticking to tap water during your meal can shave a significant amount off your total bill and may also be a better choice if you have to drive home afterwards. Once you’re settled back home or in your hotel, enjoy a nightcap without the restaurant mark up. Even non-alcoholic beverages like coffee and soda can increase a bill by quite a bit once the extra tax and tip are factored in.

Go for Happy Hour.

If you’d really like that pre-dinner cocktail, check out the happy hour specials. They’re not always limited to alcohol either. Often times restaurants will have special “food happy hour” menus or other promotions like half-priced appetizers.

Try An Appetizer as an Entrée.

Sometimes an appetizer is enough for an entire meal. Check out the size of the dishes around you or ask the waiter how big the apps are to gauge whether you might be able to make a meal out of one of the smaller plates.

Save Dessert for Dessert.

Dessert is another treat to hold off on till you get home. Waiting will also give you a bit more time to digest your meal and see if you’re even hungry for those extra calories.

Split It.

It’s no secret that restaurant portions are often two to three times a recommended serving size. Split the meal and you can save on your health and your bill. If you can’t find someone to share with, package the other half for later and make two meals out of one.

Consider Low Cost Cuisine.

Certain types of cuisine are more affordable than others. For instance, Asian noodle and vegetable based cuisines like Chinese and Thai often have excellent deals, whereas heavier, meat based cuisines tend to carry a heftier price tag.

Double Check The Bill.

Not only will you want to make sure that the bill is accurate, but you’ll also want to note whether the specials and discounts you used were applied correctly. Double check to see whether tip is included or if you need to leave your own. Remember to tip on the pre-discounted value of your meal.

How do you save when eating out? Have you used any of these strategies?


10 Ways to Save on Eating Out — 21 Comments

  1. We use online restaurant vouchers app called vouchercloud app which lets us know which local restaurants are offering special deals
    There are loads of online restaurant discounts which you can access via smartphones

  2. I’m not opposed to splitting or having an appetizer for dinner – most of the time I can barely finish my food anyway! It is nice to have lunch for the following day, though. I always order water as drinks really can add up. We also aim to only spend around $25.

    • $25 between two people is nothing. Unless I’m cashing in on happy hour, I’ll also stick to water. Though when I was traveling in Europe, they would not serve us tap water. I think it might be a legal issue in some places.

  3. Did someone say happy hour! D.C. happy hour is like a religion. Great tips! We try really hard to make sure every time we go out to dinner we have some kind of coupon or the restaurant is running a special. Living Social is also a really cool site to find restaurant deals.

    • I love late night specials. I work in theatre, so when I’m working a show I won’t even finish till 11pm, and I’m always hungry 🙂

  4. Great points! I’d say I follow almost all of the great tips that you have listed. The only exceptions would be the Happy hour one, because I am still in work at that time and have not tried it out yet, and the Groupon coupons, because I have experienced scam with Groupon before, and am not willing to trust them for relying on my next meal.
    Otherwise, great job!

    • Have you ever tried restaurant.com? I’ve used them a number of time for getting discounts on dining out which has been great.

  5. My fiance and I split meals almost every time we go out. I’ve actually been called cheap for it, but the way I look at it is this. I’m not picky. Neither is she. I just love to go out with her from time to time. So, we go out, I pick an appetizer, she picks an meal, and we eat like kings. Who ever finishes a meal in a restaurant anyway. After the appetizer, I’m usually already getting close to full! Thanks for the great tips!

    • Good for you guys! I’m vegetarian and the boyfriend is a meat eater so sharing can get tricky for us, unless we’re both craving mac n cheese, which happens more than it should 😉

  6. We’ve done – and continue to do – pretty much all of these! We always take advantage of coupons and deals and happy hour is a big win for us. Definitely makes it affordable to meet up with people.

    • Whenever somebody asks me about meeting up at 8, I’m always like “Can we make it 6, for happy hour ?” 😉

  7. I found a great Thai place that has late happy hours. I never order drinks when I go there but they have great deals on appetizers. I order a couple and am full for the night!

  8. My son likes to order from the adult menu, but he rarely eats it all. So, I typically just order an appetizer, which is met with comments from my wife such as “is that all you’re going to eat?” I just smile……and then by the time it’s all said and done I’ve had my appetizer, half of my son’s entree, and even a little bit of hers that she couldn’t finish either.

  9. Growing up, my dad never used to order when we went out to eat. He knew how much there’d be left over. It drove my mom crazy.

  10. Great tips! When we eat out, we utilize most of these tips. If you add up how much you save over a year when you drink water instead of soda or alcohol, it will amaze you. It amazed us at least.

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