Eating out and ordering takeout can be convenient and enjoyable, but it can also take a toll on your wallet if not approached wisely. Fortunately, there are several smart strategies you can employ to savor delicious meals while saving money. By implementing these tips, you’ll be able to indulge in your favorite cuisines without breaking the bank. Let’s explore some savvy strategies for maximizing your dining to save money on eating out and takeout.
1. Set a Budget:
One of the fundamental steps to saving money while eating out is to establish a budget. Determine how much you can afford to spend on dining out each month and stick to it. This way, you can plan your meals accordingly, prioritize your favorite restaurants, and avoid impulsive spending. Check out my post on How to Create a Food Budget.
2. Explore Lunch Specials and Happy Hours:
Many restaurants offer lunch specials and happy hour menus that provide significant discounts on food and drinks. Take advantage of these time-limited offers to enjoy your favorite meals at reduced prices. You can even consider shifting your dining habits to lunchtime or early evening to make the most of these cost-saving opportunities.
3. Look for Coupons and Deals:
Before heading out or ordering online, search for coupons and deals available for the restaurants in your area. Websites, mobile apps, and social media platforms often feature exclusive discounts and promotional offers. Sign up for newsletters or follow your favorite restaurants on social media to stay updated on any ongoing deals.
4. Share Large Portions:
Restaurant portion sizes are often generous, which means you can save money by sharing a meal with a friend or family member. Not only will this help you save on the bill, but it also ensures you don’t overindulge. Additionally, you can explore appetizers and side dishes as an alternative to ordering expensive main courses. When considering where you plan on ordering from, consider the price per use rather than the price of the entire meal. If you are going to spend $15 on a meal but eat it twice, that is cheaper than a meal you spend $11 but will only eat once.
5. Plan Ahead and Meal Prep:
Another excellent way to save money is to plan your meals in advance. By preparing your own meals at home, you have better control over your budget and ingredients. Set aside specific days for eating out or ordering takeout, while the remaining days can be dedicated to homemade meals. This approach allows you to strike a balance between enjoying restaurant food and saving money. Check out my post on meal planning for some simple tips on planning for meals
6. Avoid Ordering Extras:
When ordering takeout or dining out, it’s tempting to add extra sides, drinks, or desserts. However, these extras can quickly increase your bill. Be mindful of your choices and resist the urge to order unnecessary additions. Stick to the basics and focus on enjoying the main dish.
7. Opt for Water or BYOB:
Beverages at restaurants can be pricey, especially alcoholic drinks. To save money, choose water as your go-to drink option. Not only is it free, but it’s also a healthy choice. Alternatively, if you’re dining at a restaurant that permits it, consider bringing your own bottle of wine or other preferred beverages. This way, you can enjoy your favorite drink without the hefty markup.
8. Take Advantage of Rewards and Loyalty Programs:
Check if your favorite restaurants have rewards or loyalty programs. These programs often offer exclusive discounts, freebies, or points that can be redeemed for future meals. Sign up for these programs and take advantage of the benefits they provide to maximize your savings. Check out sites such as restaurants.com or groupon for more couponing options.
9. Supplementing your Meals with Homemade Sides:
When ordering takeout, a great way to save money and enhance your meal is by supplementing it with some sides from home. Instead of ordering additional sides or appetizers from the restaurant, consider utilizing what you already have in your pantry or fridge. Whip up a simple salad, steam some vegetables, or prepare a side dish to accompany your main takeout meal. Not only does this allow you to customize your meal according to your preferences, but it also helps stretch your budget by avoiding the extra costs of ordering additional items. By supplementing your takeout with homemade sides, you can enjoy a more satisfying and budget-friendly dining experience.
10. Eat a Pre-Outing Snack to Control Restaurant Spending:
One effective strategy to save money on eating out and takeout is to have a small snack before heading to the restaurant. By eating a snack prior to your outing, you can curb your hunger and prevent the temptation of ordering excessive amounts of food at the restaurant. When we’re famished, we tend to overestimate our appetite and order more than we can actually consume. However, by taking the edge off your hunger with a light snack, such as a piece of fruit or a handful of nuts, you’ll approach the restaurant with a more rational mindset. This allows you to order the appropriate amount of food, saving both money and reducing food waste. Incorporating this simple practice into your dining routine can help you maintain a balanced budget while still enjoying a satisfying meal at the restaurant.
Eating out and ordering takeout can be enjoyable experiences without draining your bank account. By implementing these savvy strategies, you can indulge in delicious meals while saving money. Remember to set a budget, explore lunch specials and happy hours, look for coupons and deals, share large portions, plan ahead, avoid extras, opt for water or BYOB, and take advantage of rewards and loyalty programs. With these tactics, save money on eating out and takeout guilt-free and still keep your finances on track.