We love to eat out, but when we started living on one income, we knew we had to cut way back on our out to eat spending. Here are some ways that we have cut back. Hopefully, it will inspire you to find ways to save money on going out to eat as well.
1. Use Coupons
Each week there are coupons for local fast food places and restaurants in the mail. I always cut out the ones that I think we may use. Also, when we are going out to eat at a restaurant, I like to look it up online first. There is often a coupon that can be printed. Many restaurants will ask you to sign up for their email and offer $5 off your purchase. Recently, we ate at a location that offered 10% off the bill by simply “checking in” on Facebook.
2. Go Early
Many restaurants offer a breakfast or lunch menu if you eat before a certain time of day. The lunch portions may be smaller than the dinner portions, but I have found that it is still plenty of food. By going out for breakfast or lunch instead of dinner, you can save several dollars from your total. You are also less likely to order appetizers and dessert especially at breakfast!
3. Take Advantage of Specials
Find out if a restaurant you like to eat at has a happy hour. We like to go to Arby’s for an early supper so that we can take advantage of their $1 specials from 2-5 PM. Buffalo Wild Wings offers 1/2 off of their appetizers during their happy hour. A local Mexican joint that we like has $2 tacos on Tuesdays and $5 for an entire meal when you order a burrito. It takes a little planning ahead, but we like to take advantage of these specials.
If you have children, find out if a local restaurant has kids eat free nights.
4. Drink Water
I don’t mind drinking water with my meals, especially when there are lemon wedges available to use in the water. Drinking water saves $1-3 dollars a meal which adds up over time.
5. Share Sides
Most restaurant portions are bigger than one person needs. We noticed that when we went to burger joints there were always leftover fries that we didn’t eat, so we started sharing a fry. If you are eating at a restaurant, then there are usually a certain number of sides that come with your entree. If there is plenty we make sure that we order a side that our toddler will eat instead of ordering him a full meal that he probably won’t eat anyway.
6. Download an App
Many restaurants and fast food joints have apps that you can download to for free. Before ordering check the app for coupons or deals!
7. Limit Times Out
We used to eat out for most meals on the weekends and once or twice during the week. Now, I make every meal during the week, and we limit the times we eat out on the weekends. We have also limited the times we go to more expensive restaurants. And when I say expensive restaurants, I am talking about any place with a waiter! We have saved those more expensive places for special occasions like our anniversary, Mother’s Day, and birthdays.
Have a well stocked pantry and refrigerator for easy meals.
Some nights I don’t have the time or energy to make supper. Instead of going out to eat or ordering take-out, I have easy meals in stock in my pantry and freezer.
For our family those foods include taco shells and taco seasoning, frozen pizzas, corn dogs, frozen hamburger patties, and cheese slices for grilled cheese sandwiches. I know, super healthy, Right!? I get these foods when they are on sale. These meals at home are much cheaper than going out to eat and almost as easy.
This post is part of a mini-series about living on one income.