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 order something that’s simple to make
Unless it’s one of the cheaper menu items, use the opportunity when you’re dining out to have something that is too complicated to make at home and uses many different ingredients. This way, you’re really getting your money’s worth, as there might not be much value in a restaurant meal that’s super simple (and cheap) to make on your own.
Discounted gift cards
If you have a favorite restaurant or you’re planning in advance, buy a gift card ahead of time and for a fraction of the cost. There are a lot of websites that sell gift cards for a lower amount than what they’re valued at, and you can also sometimes find unwanted (and discounted) gift cards on popular retail websites like eBay and Amazon. Another good website for finding restaurant gift cards at low prices is Restaurant.com. Although only a limited number of restaurants in each city participate with Restaurant.com, if you find a place you like, the savings can be tremendous.
Gift cards aren’t the only way to save on your restaurant visit if you’re planning ahead. Coupons, which aren’t just good for saving money on food at the grocery store, are also offered by many restaurants. From well-known chains to small local places, you can often find coupons for restaurants in your local paper. Of course, don’t forget to also check online for some great money-saving coupons as well. Websites like Groupon.com and LivingSocial.com are good sources for discounted dining; you’ll also want to remember to check the restaurant’s official website, take a look at their social media pages, and sign up for their newsletters so that you can get access to exclusive savings.
Split your meal up
Try to make your meal last by not finishing it all in one sitting. If it’s especially large, consider splitting it in half and getting the rest to go, and save it for your lunch or dinner the next day. Even if someone else in your family ends up eating it, this is essentially like getting your meal for half off if you’re able to get two meals out of what you spent for just one.