Home-cooked meals are fabulous (and cheaper), but sometimes, it’s also nice to take a break from the kitchen and eat ordered food with family or friends. However, it can be a dilemma when you love to dine out but need to save money at the same time. No need to choose between the two. Here’s how you can enjoy dining at restaurants with less guilt.
Look for Coupons
Scoopon, The Fork and Cudo are some of the popular group-buying sites where you can score amazing deals on various services, including restaurant dining. EatClub is another app to visit when you love last-minute deals and feel like dining at restaurants after work. All you have to do is search for offered deals you like and pay for them in advance to get redeemable vouchers.
While dining at restaurants, some offer coupons or freebies in exchange for answering a survey or signing up for their newsletter. The discount deals have varying terms and conditions, though. So, make sure to read them before purchasing. Take note of the allowable dining schedule, voucher expiry and refund policy. You might want to verify the offers through other deal websites, too, like All the Deals.
Dine Out at Specific Times
Several restaurants put menu items at special prices when you dine early or late. Lunchtime is usually the best time as most food establishments are not as busy. Thus, they are more likely to offer discounted lunch menus. If you love night-time dining at restaurants with drinks, then you’ll want to keep an eye on their happy hour specials. Bar food or appetisers are often at discounted prices during this time.
Mondays or Tuesdays usually have specials on offer when restaurant business is typically slow. On the other hand, try to skip restaurant dining on holidays like Valentine’s or Mother’s Day. Restaurants are too crowded during these times, and you are more prone to splurge on their fixed-price set menus.
The First Table app is worth trying, too. Here, you can search and book for nearby restaurants offering 50% food bill discounts for first table slots. Other restaurants also offer early-bird specials or daily specials. Then there are national food days. Whoever thought of combining food discounts with the national burger, cookie or pie day is a genius! Your favourite restaurants’ social media pages are your best resource for these offers.
Enjoy Meals on Discounts
Other restaurants rely on the diner instead of the time when offering special menu prices. For instance, some may ask you to download their app or get their loyalty cards for free or discounted meals on your birthday. Buffets may offer free meal deals for kids.
Senior citizens can also enjoy menu discounts through loyalty clubs. Military personnel are often eligible for similar meal deals as well. If you have school kids at home, school holiday dining is an excellent option to eat out and save extra money.
Choose Budget-Friendly Menus
Not all of us are patient enough to search for coupons, dining deals or special offers online, though. And so, a good money-saving tip when dining at restaurants is to choose affordable but delicious dishes instead.
Main courses, for example, tend to be expensive. In that case, go for an appetiser or two that are just as filling. These are usually more affordable and good for more than one person. A funny tip I learned was to order like a kid, which also means ordering a light meal or going for small portions.
For drinks, tap water is often free. Soda and alcoholic beverages can quickly add up to your restaurant bills, so you might want to skip these. If you prefer wine or cocktails with your meals, look for BYO restaurants in your area. Or better yet, enjoy a glass of wine before heading out or plan to have a nightcap when you get home.
Go for Training Restaurants
One way to enjoy fine dining for less is to look for training restaurants operating all over the country. These restaurants are affiliates of the Australian Technical and Further Education (TAFE) to help its trainee chefs gain experience.
In turn, diners like you can see them in action and enjoy good food at affordable rates. It’s one way to support training institutes in your state and be with up-and-coming chefs before they make it big in the hospitality industry!
Consider Meal Sharing
Sharing is caring, as they say. And with restaurant dining, it’s a saying to live by if you care about your wallet! I especially like doing this tip because it encourages you to enjoy delicious meals with your food-loving circle.
You can order a combination of appetiser, entree and dessert, then divide the total bill among yourselves. It’s a cheaper option than having two separate entrees. The best part is you get to try different things. And in this case, family-type restaurants are ideal places to hang out and dine. They often have menu items in large portions at great prices.
Finally, and probably the most effective tip of all, avoid dining out on a whim. Create a monthly schedule and plot the dates when you’re okay to eat out. It’s best to save your restaurant trips for upcoming birthdays, special occasions or family celebrations.
Also, learn how to budget and set a limit every time you go out. Apply your smart grocery shopping habit if you want: check the restaurant online and list down the things you plan to order. This way, you avoid ordering on impulse. With these techniques in mind, you can save a lot and still reward yourself with good food from time to time.