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Top ten ways to save money while eating out

Updated on August 20, 2012

Let’s face it; with the economy in the dump, the average person needs to save money any way possible. While it is common knowledge that we can save 50% or more by cooking and eating at home, there are times when the occasional splurge of eating out is not only welcome, but needed. What follows is a list of my ten favorite ways to save money on dining out. Enjoy!

1. Go out for lunch or breakfast. Typically, lunch is far cheaper than dinner, and breakfast is even cheaper still. Many family restaurants serve breakfast all day, so there is no reason you can’t have your favorite omelet at seven in the evening.

2. Make an appetizer your meal. Many times, an appetizer is more than enough for a meal. As a college student, I worked as a server in a restaurant that had half price appetizers from 3-6pm weekdays. It was common for me to see young families come in and order a table full of appetizers for the whole family. Dinner and drinks for a family of four, under $25….what a deal!

3. Fill up on the starters. Mexican restaurants start you with chips and salsa; Italian restaurants bring out the bread basket. Whatever the starter, it is not hard to fill up on the “free” part of the meal. Often times, just a side item or appetizer are enough after the freebies.

4. Split a meal. The average restaurant meal is way more than many of us can handle. If you are going out to dinner with your spouse, order one dinner and one appetizer and split them. This is also not a bad idea if you have kids and want to split a meal between the kids.

5. Drink water. I don’t know about you, but I go to a restaurant for good food, not soda, beer or wine. Water is typically free, which is far cheaper than soda, which is far cheaper than alcohol.

6. Skip Desert. Desert is a high profit margin item for restaurants, which means it is a rip off for you. Rather than buy desert, stop by the grocery on the way home and pick up a gallon of ice cream. The ice cream will feed the whole family, and will probably be cheaper than a single portion of any desert at the restaurant.

7. Visit local, no frills restaurants. You know the ones I am talking about: The little hole-in-the-wall, Mom-and-Pop owned joints. My experience has been that what they lack in décor is more than made up for in food quality, customer service, and low prices. On a recent trip to Philadelphia, I ate each meal in a different local restaurant, and never once was I disappointed by price or quality.

8. Special Days. Many restaurants will have a “special day” each week to bring in business. Often times, this is in the middle of the week when business is typically slow. Call ahead and take advantage of the savings.

9. Credit Card bonus deals. Many credit cards have cash back deals that give point for purchases. These points can then be redeemed for restaurant gift cards. This is a great way to save on dinning out, but be sure that you don’t rack up debt on the credit card, or you will lose all of you dining savings to interest payments.

10. Fast Food. The cheapest option for eating out is fast food. It is also typically the least healthy. However, there have been recent strides by some fast food chains to make their meals a bit healthier. For example, we all know about Jerrod and the Subway meals, and Wendy’s salads are pretty healthy as well.

I hope you have enjoyed this article. Please feel free to leave comments below. Be sure to stop by my blog at for more great money-saving advice!


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    • Kasman profile image

      Kas 4 years ago from Bartlett, Tennessee

      Love it brother, several things you listed like filling up on freebies, water, and splitting food is what my wife and I do anyway. Saves us big bucks over the long haul. Like your idea about eating breakfast when you go out, going to have to try that. Voting this up As useful. Great hub.

    • RNosaj profile image

      RNosaj 5 years ago from USA

      Good idea about filling up on starters. My wife implements this technique every time we eat Mexican food like its her job! Great article!

    • AJReissig profile image

      Alex J. Reissig 6 years ago from New Richmond, Ohio

      I agree, at least on the portion size. I usually can't eat all of my meal when I go to a non-fast food restaurant.

    • CalSherrifMD profile image

      CalSherrifMD 6 years ago from Pittsburgh Pennsylvania

      actually , when compared to "dine in" eateries such as chillis , fast food is actually healthier in terms of calorie/portion factors ( yes im a fan of eat this not that ) great ideas !

    • profile image

      Reena J 6 years ago

      good hub. Interesting ideas...anyways it is tough for all to take a control in eating but can save money with these ideas..

    • AJReissig profile image

      Alex J. Reissig 6 years ago from New Richmond, Ohio

      Thanks! Nachos are my!

    • maxravi profile image

      Ravi Singh 6 years ago from India

      Nice hub with new idea.Well I never skip starters, I love chicken wings and soup :)