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Five Ways to Save at Restaurants

Most people enjoy going out to eat. It saves you the trouble of having to prepare your own meal and allows you to try foods you wouldn’t otherwise make. Even so, the costs associated with dining at restaurants and cafes can quickly add up, especially if you aren’t careful with what you're spending your money on. For those looking to save on their dining expenses, below is a list of tips to consider. 


Lunchtime is typically cheaper at restaurants. Many establishments offer lunchtime specials or include soups and salads that aren't typically offered with dinner entrees. If you’re deadset on dining out for dinner, try doing it on a weeknight, as some restaurants offer weeknight specials. Other restaurants offer happy hour deals, sometimes seven days a week. It should be noted that the most expensive days to dine at a restaurant are Saturdays and Sundays. Holidays are also an expensive time. 


A simple way to offset dining expenses is by splitting meals. A lot of times, restaurant entrees come in large enough portions to satisfy two people. For those not wanting to share their meal, split what’s on your plate in half, and save the rest for another meal. If you’re not hungry enough to eat a full entree, consider ordering an appetizer or kid meal (there’s no shame in it!). These menu options are also cheaper than typical entrees. 


The cost of restaurant drinks can quickly add up. Soda, tea, and coffee are more expensive at restaurants, as they’re trying to make a profit. Alcoholic beverages are even more pricey. One of the easiest ways to save when dining out is opting for water, as most restaurants don’t charge for it. Another easy way to save money when at a restaurant is by skipping the appetizer. As stated, you can also skip the entree and select an appetizer for your meal instead. 


A lot of restaurants offer discounts for military members, senior citizens, locals, and more. Many also offer birthday discounts. To find out what discounts may be available to you, ask your restaurant’s server. Some restaurants also offer discounts for children, including free or reduced meals on certain nights of the week. Another way you can save when dining out is by joining a restaurant’s reward program. Doing so can unlock potential savings or perks. A number of restaurants also entertain customer satisfaction surveys, which may offer their own discounts or free menu items. 


One of the most effective ways to save money when dining out is by planning ahead. For example, if you plan on having a night out with friends later in the week, limit your dining expenses until then. While it’s sometimes more convenient to dine out in a pinch, try to cap these convenience buys as much as possible. An easy way to do so is by keeping quick and simple meals in your kitchen. Meal planning, or deciding in advance what meals you’ll eat throughout the week, can also help limit unnecessary convenience buys. 

While dining out at your favorite restaurants can be an enjoyable experience, it's wise to keep an eye on how much you’re spending. After all, most people can’t afford steak and caviar for every meal. With a variety of different cuisines available, dining out has become a mainstay for people all over the world. Bon appetit!

Want to learn about more tips to save money and get birthday freebies, click here.

Hunter Morrison

Hunter Morrison

About Hunter Morrison

Hunter has freelanced for various print and radio publications across Northwest Florida, including The Bay Beacon, Navarre Press, Inweekly, Crestview News Bulletin, and WUWF. He was also the Editor in Chief of the University of West Florida’s student newspaper, The Voyager. In 2023, Hunter moved to Kenai, Alaska to take up a news reporting position with KDLL Public Radio. For fun, Hunter enjoys cross-country skiing, hiking, photography, thrifting, traveling, and looking for the best Thai food around. 

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