The other night the hubby and I went out to Olive Garden. I was exhausted after a long week so I came home, took a nap, and when I woke up it was 8 pm. We were both hungry and well, I am not the best at quickly putting together a meal. So we decided to go out for dinner.
Once at Olive Garden, we had raviolis, salad, bread sticks and even those amazing chocolate mints! It was just the two of us and it was so needed after a long week. It gave us time to eat a good meal and connect. The best part of all was that the meal only came to $17.00! That was with no coupons, no gimmicks, and nothing special.
We have always loved eating out since we were newly married and living on one income while paying cash for grad school. During those early times, we perfected ways to cheaply eat out. Here are some of the things we did to eat out cheaply. Use these tips for fast food places or any sit-down restaurant.
How to Cheaply Eat Out:
1. Drink Water.
I have learned forever ago that soft drinks and alcohol are expensive and quickly add to the cost of the dinner bill. We decided to drink at home and enjoy the amazing food out, because when we drink anything else besides water our bill becomes almost 30% higher.
2. Check to See if Combinations Really are Cheaper.
We have found out the hard way that sometimes meal combinations are cheaper, but other times they really aren’t. For example: take In and Out. The combinations are the same price as all the listed ingredients, so it’s not cheaper to order the meal. I have learned to look at the menu and decide when it’s cheaper to order individually and when to order a combination.
3. Share a Meal.
Over the years we have found that splitting a meal goes a long way. We tend to not eat the leftovers, so this is a great way to keep costs down, making it more economical to eat out. A few years ago, I took some younger cousins to New Orleans. While we had a wonderful time, I was able to keep the food budget on track because we ordered one meal for the three of us. We never had leftovers, but it was okay because we didn’t need the leftovers.
4. Order Larger Meals.
If a single serving meal is not enough food, we have found that it is often cheaper to order a larger steak or meal. For example: the 6 oz steak is $10.00 and the 10 oz steak is $14.00. This way even when my husband is hungry and doesn’t want to share, I can still pay just a bit more and get a larger meal for both of us.
5. Order Add-Ons for the Other Person.
I love seafood. We have found over the years that paying for additional seafood as an add-on is a lot cheaper than buying a whole other meal. We usually always have leftovers on sides so this way we split the sides but we still get our own course that we wanted.
6. Eat At Restaurants with Free Extras.
Part of the reason our meal at Olive Garden was so cheap is because we split an entree and I ate the salad that came with it and my husband ate the bread sticks. We both got a little extra food and we found them absolutely delicious! It also made the entree go even further and with the little chocolates there was no need for dessert.
7. Sit Down Restaurants Can Sometimes be Cheaper.
Even with tip we have found out the hard way that sit-down restaurants can sometimes be cheaper. All of the extras and large portions can mean that multiple people can eat off the same plate. Plus with the higher price of delivery pizza, it can actually be more expensive than a nice meal out. For example: A medium pizza with bread sticks is almost $20.00 with delivery and tip. More than our nice dinner out.
8. Find “Kids Eat Free” Restaurants.
One of my favorite places to eat with my best friend is Dickie’s on Sundays because the kids eat free with adult purchases. The oldest two kids get their own meals and the youngest child eats off of our plates. Plus they all get ice cream for dessert! She and I will take the kids out when our husbands are gone and we are able to get food for everyone for less than $15. Did I mention that they have a terrific military discount?
9. Politely Ask About Discounts.
I am the worst at remembering to ask if places have a discount. A lot of restaurants these days have military discounts, teacher discounts, police discounts, and more! These discounts can quickly add up so be sure to check to which discounts relate to you are someone in your party.
These tricks have allowed us to stretch our budget allowing us to eat out a lot more. This has been a great blessing since we love eating out and I hate cooking. I hope they can help you too!
What ways have you been able to find to help make eating out cheaper?2