Although staying in to eat is a lot cheaper than going out, foodies can't help but indulge in their favorite restaurants once in a while. Food is one of the biggest joys in life, and nothing is better than sharing a good meal and conversation with the ones you love. In fact, the restaurant industry in America makes about $1.7 billion on a typical day, according to the Restaurant Association. That's a lot of money we're spending meals out! On your next food outing, be sure to keep these tips in mind to shrink your bill:
Go to Restaurant.com and enter in a coupon code for restaurant.com that'll get you a $25 voucher for only $3 (the current promo code is FLAG). You can find the coupon code by searching online at sites like RetailMeNot.com. Buy a local Entertainment book worth $15 that will give you lots of buy one get one free coupons for restaurants.
Do your research on sites like Mint and Credit Card Guide and figure out which credit cards give you the best rewards for your diner bucks. Oftentimes, if you're a loyal member of a mileage program, you can even earn some miles by eating at the restaurants the airline partner up with. For example, Southwest has a Rapid Rewards Dining program that credits three points for every dollar spent with their restaurant partners.
Skip the Drinks
Sodas, alcohol, and other non-tap water drinks tend to be overpriced at restaurants. Get water with your meal, and if you're really itching for a particular drink, wait until dinner's over and head to a convenient store to buy it.
Order the Kiddie Meal
The meals for kids are generally cheaper and most of the times are the perfect size for adults! This option is also great for portion control and your wallet.
Skip the long wait and the service tip by taking out a meal from the restaurant and enjoying it at home. This way, you won't be tempted to spend money on drinks and dessert.
Do Your Research
Yelp the restaurant to death before eating at the establishment. A big waste of money is not eating your food. Check out if the restaurant is worth your bucks and see what dishes are highly recommended by fans. Sometimes the opinions of the masses are more accurate than your friendly waiter.
Bring Back the Leftovers
Bring back a doggy bag and make the most of your leftovers. Sometimes you can even make an entirely new meal out of them. For example, when I had leftover steak one time, I chopped it up and stir-fried it with veggies for a brand-new dish.
Split a Meal
Since portions are usually way oversized, split an entree with your eating partner and perhaps an appetizer to share.
Ask the waiter how big the appetizers are at the restaurant or look at what the people near you are eating. Sometimes the appetizers in itself are big enough for a meal!
Go for Lunch
Oftentimes, the lunch menu is a lot cheaper than dinner. Check out your restaurant in the daytime and be sure to pick their lunch specials.
Wait for Deals
Don't Go Hungry
Don't skip a meal before you go to the restaurant just to have that extra space in your stomach for food. When you're hungry, you're more prone to ordering more than you can eat.