Food is just one of the expenses that can’t be avoided, and without even realizing it, can add up fast. In fact, statistics have revealed the typical American family spends roughly $8,000 annually on food, which includes grocery shopping, take-out and delivery, and dining out. Although completely eliminating restaurant visits is one easy way to lower your food expenses, it can be somewhat unrealistic for many people. Aiming to just cut down on restaurant visits is a good start, especially if you still want to treat yourself now and then, or celebrate something special. But eating out doesn’t have to cost a fortune, either. Saving just a little bit of money with each restaurant visit can really add up throughout the year, and the following are some ways you can do that:
Don’t do dinner
If you just want to go out just for the sake of going out, opt for lunch or brunch instead. Many restaurants will offer daytime specials that won’t be offered in the evening, and you’ll often save more money in the end. In fact, you might even see some of the exact same items on the lunch menu, but for a lower price, especially if there are smaller lunch-sized portions available.
Ask for ice water
Drinks can quickly add a lot of money to your tab, so skip the ones that cost money (especially alcoholic beverages) by asking for filtered tap water. It does the job, doesn’t cost a penny, and is also a healthy choice.
Visit a new restaurant
If you’re undecided about where you want to eat, but you just know you’re not in the mood to stay in or cook, consider testing out a new restaurant that just opened up. Smaller, local places—especially ones that just opened up and are trying to get their name out there—often have appealing offers and specials in order to attract visitors and begin building a customer base.
Sign up for programs that offer rewards
A lot of restaurants offer these types of programs as an incentive to keep customers returning. Although exact benefits will vary by restaurant, common perks include free meals after spending a certain amount, a free appetizer or dessert on your birthday, and so on. Even if you don’t visit the same restaurant very often, many of these rewards programs don’t implement any type of expiration date, and you could eventually accumulate enough points or visits to get free food.
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Nothing above is meant to provide financial, tax, or legal advice. You should meet with appropriate professionals for such services.