Saturday, May 30, 2009

How To Eat Out On A Budget

How To Eat Out On A Budget...
And Still enjoy it!

Order only water to drink with your meal.

Restaurants make big money off soft drinks and alcohol. A Coke from their dispenser costs them mere pennies. On your tab, it can easily be $2. Water is zero calories, zero fat, and it's still usually free.

Buy one get one free.

This offer, usually with a coupon, is the best thing going. In today's economy, restaurants are clamoring for more customers. Watch newspaper ads, insert fliers, and often when you eat at an establishment they will give you a discount coupon for next time. Don't forget the restaurant's corporate website. Often you can download a coupon for a special offer.

Skip the appetizer and dessert.

I haven't ordered an after-dinner desert in a restaurant since... forever. Instead, we sometimes go out for a Saturday afternoon and as a special treat we order only the dessert. That way, we've enjoyed an outing that was reasonable in price and we didn't overeat. Plus, places like Applebee's have desserts to die for.

Order an appetizer or two as your meal

Many restaurants near me offer 1/2 priced appetizers either during happy hour or late nights (after 9pm) This is the perfect time to order a few appetizers for cheap and fill up. Bonus is you usually have enough to be full and some to take home for the same price as an entree.

Watch for restaurants offering lower priced meals.

It's a common occurrence these days. Many popular food chains are cutting prices to bring in customers. It pays to shop around.

Go out for breakfast or lunch (instead of dinner).

Dinner is prime time in the restaurant world. The prices are higher and the portions are larger. The lunch menu will probably have most of what is offered for dinner, but in smaller quantities and at lower prices.

Breakfast is universally cheaper than any other meal. It's just as nice to get away in the morning as it is in the evening. Plus, many places offer breakfast around the clock.

Eat out early in the week.

One of the best places to go are buffets for this. If you go early in the week, they usually charge less per person than if you go on a Friday or Saturday. Mondays are usually dead in the restaurant business, so many will lower their prices to bring in customers early in the week.

Birthday person eats free.

Most national chains and many local eateries offer Birthday Clubs of some sort. The birthday person usually eats free when 2 or more dine on the person's birthday (or during the month of the person's birthday).

Order large and take home.

Many suggest ordering a half order. In my opinion, that's a poor choice as usually a half portion is only discounted about 15% from the cost of a full-sized meal. It's better to order a large meal and eat only half of it. Ask for a doggie bag and take the remaining half of your meal home for tomorrow's lunch. It's a better use of your money.

Order the Blue Plate Special.

Daily specials are usually at a reduced price to entice people to order up. Making a larger batch makes more money for the restaurant and they usually pass on some of the savings to the customers who take advantage of their Blue Plate Special.

Take advantage of catering schools.

Is there a catering school or chef school in your area? Culinary students need to practice on real people to build their skills, so schools usually offer some really good high-class vittles at dirt cheap prices. Both the food and the service is part of their curriculum.

Invest in The Entertainment Book

The Entertainment Book provides entertainment coupons, including restaurants, for specific cities. The book ranges from $20 to $45 per book and coupons run 15 months, from August to the following November. As summer approaches, the book goes down in price. If you prefer to only get coupons you think you will use you can subscribe online for a monthly fee of $3.99 and print coupons from your computer. This is a good option if you are planning a vacation and just want coupons specific to your holiday destination.

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