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How to Eat Out Cheaply

12 Tips to Shrink Your Bill When Eating Out

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 $1.8 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:

Use Coupons: Go to and enter in a coupon code for that'll get you a $25 voucher for only $10. You can find the coupon code by searching online at sites like Buy a local Entertainment book worth $15 that will give you lots of buy one get one free coupons for restaurants.

Earn Rewards: 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.

Read on for more tips to save when dining out.

Get Takeout: 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.

Order Appetizers: 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: Look out for daily deals from sites such as Groupon and LivingSocial, and be sure to snap up that coupon for a good deal at the restaurant.

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.

Image Source: Thinkstock
Join The Conversation
Jennifer-from-CK Jennifer-from-CK 5 years
Great tips!  I love getting kids meals- much cheaper, a good portion, and usually you get a drink and/or dessert! 
danakscully64 danakscully64 5 years
Kids menus say "12 and under" for a reason. I've worked at numerous restaurants and every one didn't make money from their kids meals. They're discounted as a courtesy for parents. Don't try to order from it, just get an adult meal and take your leftovers home.
KeLynns KeLynns 6 years
+1 EvieJ
EvieJ EvieJ 6 years
@April: So you're saying that if we cannot afford to pay full price, that we should sit at home? I happen to have a Master's in Hospitality Management and worked in restaurants and hotels from the age of 16 until I was 29, so I think I trump you on education and experience and I can tell you this: restaurants need patrons. It doesn't matter if they pay full price or a discounted price. It doesn't matter if they order cocktails or water. They need people in the restaurant. The table that comes in with a coupon and gets great food and SERVICE will come back and pay full price. The lady who's not hungry today and orders an appetizer can come back next week and order the most expensive thing on the menu, along with a glass or three of wine. And btw, just because someone is using a coupon or otherwise trying to save money, doesn't mean they would tip any less. I always (I used to say always, if I ever get a server named April Hanisak I'll change this policy) tip at least 15% - and that's of what the normal price of what the ticket is (pre-coupon). If the service is excellent, I go up to 50% because I know how hard it is to work in the service industry. I would HATE to have you as my server. Snideness is not a trait I want in someone SERVING me my food. You are not the moral authority. You are there to do a job. End of.
tarabara1229 tarabara1229 6 years
Also related to the leftovers tip, if you order an entree, ask for half of it in a doggy bag from the get-go. That way you get two portion-controlled meals for the price of one. It really helps especially if you're the type who needs to clean their plate (like me!).
EvieJ EvieJ 6 years
Some places have age restrictions on kids' meals. I think the best advice is to either split a main (which are usually huge) or to get an appetizer (which are usually meal-sized anyway!).
Emily-Co Emily-Co 6 years
Thank you for pointing that out. Wow, they change codes pretty quickly!
a1stbornunicorn a1stbornunicorn 6 years
Actually, the current code for is FLAG for 80% off.
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