When You Must Eat Out…Top 10 Tips

There are times when eating out is simply unavoidable:

  • Friends or family members insist.
  • Business clients need to be entertained.
  • Your kitchen is out of order.
  • You want to experience gourmet food.

Frequenting restaurants can be detrimental to both your waistline and your wallet. The meals served are often the equivalent of a day’s calorie intake, and can cost many times more than the ingredients you can buy at the supermarket.

Fear not, my friends. My Top 10 tips will have you enjoying your night out again in no time:

  1. Always order water! Cut out hundreds of calories and at least $3-5 off the bill by sticking with water whenever you go out. You don’t have to feel guilty about ordering refills, you don’t get a sugar high, and your lunch or dinner bill will be surprisingly wallet-friendly.
  2. Eat vegetarian. If you can find a meat-free dish on the menu (it’s harder at some restaurant than it would seem), it’s typically in a lower price range and sometimes healthier than many other things on the menu.
  3. Follow the coupon trail. There are hundreds of coupon sites now in existence, in addition to the coupons I regularly get at home for local restaurants. Many can cut your eating out bill by as much as 50%.
  4. Find a local “joint.” Instead of the national chains, find a local eatery that serves great (often home-style) food at a fraction of the cost. Get to know the owner and you’ll often get freebies just for showing up.
  5. Swap dishes. If it’s variety you crave (and over-order as a result), agree to exchange dishes with an eating partner halfway through the meal to experience a different taste. It works best with a spouse, but close friends are cool about it if they don’t mind sharing plates.
  6. Leverage the leftovers. Ensure that you have leftovers to take home (don’t eat the entire giant plate of food you were served), and don’t let what you bring home sit in the fridge for a week, only to be thrown away. Eat it the following day or two at the latest.
  7. Let them pay. If your boss, your parents, or your friends insist on going out to eat, gently act like they should pick up the tab. You’d be surprised at a. how often this works, and b. how quickly they’ll stop being so persistent about eating out. Aren’t I nice? 😉
  8. Kids eat free. Many places offer deep discounts or even free meal nights for kids, usually on weekdays. If you can commit these to memory, you’ll have an instant menu of restaurant suggestions for each night of the week.
  9. Separate the meal from dessert. They are really overpriced at restaurants and drive up the bill. Have dessert at home instead, or take a walk to the ice-cream shop downtown and enjoy a less-expensive treat.
  10. Choose lunch or half-portions whenever possible. Lunch-sized portions of the same meal will be smaller and more wallet-friendly than their dinner counterparts. Even the same exact meal can cost less during lunch than if you go out for dinner.

As always, if you’re trying to save money or shave off weight, the best policy is to stay home and make meals yourself!

Photo by ronny-cakes