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Dining out is considered a luxury to some families. A truly frugal family would probably never eat out because restaurant menu prices are significantly higher than just the cost of food. But dining out is supposed to be an experience, not something you do to be super-frugal so if the occasion arises and you want to take the family out for a non-fast food meal, then here are some ways to save on dining out.
How To Save On Dining Out
Kids Eat Free Nights
One of the most common ways to save on dining out is through the kids – from ordering off the significantly cheaper kids’ menu or eating free-of-charge on certain nights of the week, depending on the restaurant – and in some cases, you may only have to pay for the adult meals if you find a restaurant offering good deals. Check around restaurants in your area (Yelp is a great resource for this) to see what family-friendly deals they have going on.
Out to Lunch
If dining out sounds pricey no matter where you go, then consider taking the family out to lunch instead. This is generally easier on weekends or during the summertime when the kids are out of school, but regardless of when you go, most restaurants’ lunch menu prices are lower than their dinner menu. The portions may be somewhat smaller, but you’ll still get a good meal without paying an arm and a leg for the family to eat out together.
Many restaurants have happy hour specials from 3 pm to 6 pm or so, Monday through Thursday (or Friday, in some instances). This originated from discounts on alcoholic beverages in bars and restaurants but has since evolved into a happy hour the whole family can enjoy, thanks to specials, such as “half-priced appetizers.” If you don’t mind eating appetizers, this is the perfect way to spend a night out with the family without spending more than you can afford.
Bring a Coupon
No matter when or where you go out for a meal, you should always try to find a coupon beforehand. Either the restaurant has coupons in local publications, or you can find dining coupons on SumoCoupon. The recession was cruel to the restaurant business, and many places are trying to attract customers in any way possible; offering coupons is a win-win for both the restaurant and its incoming customers, so don’t pay full price for a meal if you can easily avoid it by printing up or clipping a coupon.
Some restaurants have clubs in which you sign up for email deals and get a free or heavily discounted meal offer for your birthday. If you’re an extremely frugal family that only goes out to dinner for special occasions such as this, then finding a birthday discount is a great way to go, plus you could potentially combine this with a coupon or other discount for maximum savings.
Related: Mega List of Birthday Freebies
Water Only, Please
While you’re at the restaurant, ordering just water for the whole family could save you $1-4 per person! Not only is it cheaper, but it’s also better for you. Why drink costly unhealthy soda when you can save money by having a glass of water with ice! It’ll keep you hydrated and refreshed while you’re eating.
Enjoy the Appetizers
Who says you need to order entrees for everyone at the table? One thing you may notice is that many restaurants offer combination appetizers. If you can get combo appetizers consisting of different finger foods, such as mozzarella sticks, onion rings, quesadillas, and sliders, you can fill your family up without spending full price on a meal for each person in the family.
Check for the Best Weekly Specials
Some restaurants offer weekly specials. Restaurants often get crowded as the weekend approaches, but they may experience slower times throughout the week. Many of these restaurants will offer weekly specials to entice people to come out during the week and buy lunch or dinner. Look at the websites of different restaurants in your area and find out about any weekly specials they may offer.
Go to Places Offering Discounts for Veterans and Various Professionals
Did you know many restaurants offer special discounts to veterans, current military members, emergency personnel, nurses, and even teachers? If your profession falls under one of these categories, you could potentially get a deep discount on your meal when dining out with the family. Make sure you have an identification card or some other type of proof to show your waiter or waitress when ordering food.
Buy Gift Cards for Restaurants at Even Lower Prices
Shop around for affordable gift cards to some of your favorite restaurants. You can get your money’s worth when buying gift cards. You might find deals where you will spend $35 for a $50 gift card, helping you save $15 on a meal while dining out with the family. Big box stores, such as Sam’s Club and Costco, commonly sell gift cards at lower prices. You can visit websites where people are trying to sell gift cards to get the best deals possible.
A la Carte
Last but not least, if you or your kids have smaller appetites, then ordering entrée items “a la carte” (without side dishes) is an excellent alternative to ordering the full entrée. If you still manage to have leftovers, get a box and take them home to enjoy the next day. Don’t be ashamed of taking leftovers home! They’ll still taste just as good when you reheat them in the microwave the next day.
You can be extremely frugal and still dine out at different restaurants with the family. If you’d like to have a good time without spending a fortune at a restaurant, try some of these helpful tips. These frugal tips will make such a difference, allowing you to spend quality time with loved ones, make memories, and save money.