Yes! You just have to have an open mind and a closed wallet. Haha! One of the things my family loves is trying different restaurants and going out to eat. However, we stick to a very strict weekly budget and it takes some creative planning on my part. When we go out to a restaurant, we utilize as many of these tips as possible. Order up!
1. Plan Ahead– Just like with most things in life, a plan helps things go smoothly. We decide early in the week that we are/have to eat out this week. Then I search for coupons in the newspaper, online, or just by asking friends. I decide on a restaurant and then sign up for their email newsletter (in advance and I use my ‘freebie email address’ but I’ll have another post about that later). Then in a day or two, you usually get a coupon for a free appetizer or a percentage off your meal! Gift cards are also a great buy. If you get them at certain times of the year, they offer extras. For example, if you buy $50 in gift cards, you’ll get a free $10 gift card for you. They don’t know that they are all for you! Then use them throughout the year, combined with coupons/deals to save even more without breaking your budget.
2. Drink water– This one sucks sometimes but it’s totally worth it. Sodas can rack up a bill, costing as much at $3 and some places don’t have free refills! Don’t get me started on cocktails! Water is free. If you really can’t stand water, ask for lemons, squeeze them in your water, and then sneakily put a packet or two of sweetener for a makeshift lemonade. Hey, I said I was thrifty! You might get embarrassed by some methods. To each his own.
3. Eat locally & know the specials– Remember tip #1. See? It comes in handy. Local restaurants like local customers because you will come back if you enjoy it. Therefore, eat when they are having a special deal. Kids eat free some nights, certain meals will be cheaper, etc. One local diner in our town has Italian Night every Wednesday and you can get homemade Eggplant Parmigiana, spaghetti, garlic bread, and all you can eat salad bar for $6. It’s enough for two meals plus, I bought a locals card from the area high school that gets us an extra 20% every time we eat there after 4pm. Seriously. It pays to know the specials.
4. Waste not. Want not – We never waste food. If they give us free bread and we don’t eat all of it, I take it home. Someone will eat it, even if it’s our dog. You can even tell them how much you love the sauce/bread/whatever and a lot of times, the server will wrap up an extra one for you. It pays to be nice to your server. Take all your leftovers home! Even a tiny bit of veggies or meat can be added into tomorrow’s dinner.
5. Happy Hour– My landlord used to go out every Tuesday with her husband and sit at the restaurant’s bar. She got amazing specials and got to try delicious food for a fraction of the price. You don’t need to drink to sit at the bar. But if you ever want a cocktail, this is the way to go.
6. Go around closing time– This works best for fast food. Sometimes if you show up around the time they close, they want to get rid of the food that’s left over so you’ll get it at a better deal or even for free. It tastes the same or maybe even better since the deal was so sweet!
I hope you can use some of these tips and found them helpful. I know they come in handy with my family. Who doesn’t like saving a little money?