Its not hard to say that I LOVE eating out! I adore the buzz of trying new foods, letting someone else go through the blood sweat & tears of creating a new meal for me – Bliss! Evidence suggests that I am an Eat-Out-Aholic (is that even a thing?) I mean, you can just tell from my Insta feed >> 😀
Most of us love eating out from time to time even if only to give ourselves a break from the family cooking duties, but eating out is not exactly conducive to a thrifty life, right?
That’s not necessarily the case. Even if you’re living in Dubai or London, both of which are generally considered to be expensive places to dine out, it is possible to save money and still enjoy a fantastic meal, you just need to know what you’re doing.
Sound good? Here are some smart ways to save serious money whenever you’re eating out:
Learn the tricks of the trade
Restaurants and cafes want you to spend as much money as possible, which is why they employ a wide range of tricks to sneakily encourage you to order more expensively. If you can learn these tricks of the restaurant trade, you can avoid getting sucked in, and therefore save yourself a whole lot of money.
One example of these tricks is policing more expensive items on the top right of the menu because although most people in the West will read from left to right, the eye is naturally drawn to the upper right portion of the menu, which means whatever is printed there is more likely to catch your eye and tempt you in.
Go out for lunch
Every thrifty foodie knows that it is generally cheaper to eat out at lunchtime than dinnertime. Most restaurants will have a more affordable lunch menu because they know most people don’t want to eat quite as heavily to spend as much time in a restaurant at lunchtime as they normally would for dinner.
In fact, many lunch menus often have specials where you can buy dinner and a drink and get a free starter or buy one and get one-half price or something as the owners try to tempt as many people in as possible, and this is true in ost places around the world. So, if there’s a pricey restaurant you’ve always wanted to try but you’ve never been able to justify it, treat yourself to lunch instead of dinner and you can finally find out if the food is all you hoped it would be.
Download loyalty apps
There are numerous loyalty apps, like Repeat, for example, which will reward your loyalty to a particular eatery if you visit regularly. Your discounts will usually be based on how often you frequent any given restaurant, and it is possible to save as much as 25 percent on the cost of a meal if you use the app often.
Buy one large meal for two
Okay, so some restaurants frown on this, but there are plenty of places that will be more than happy for you to buy a particularly large meal and split it between the two of you. If you have a friend to eat out with, this will effectively cut the cost of your meal by 50 percent. If that isn’t possible, you could go for a sharing platter instead – most restaurants offer those and they tend to work out cheaper for the same amount of food than other options, although that isn’t always the case, so be sure to check the menu first.
Order a child’s portion
Many of the restaurants that have a child menu don’t mind adults ordering from it if they would prefer, and it is a great way to save a little money, especially if you don’t have a big appetite. The only potential sticking point is that a lot of child’s menus are filled with chicken nuggets and other slightly less sophisticated food, so it’s worth exploring the menu before you book a table.
Avoid the salty snacks
Have you ever wondered why so many restaurants will offer you complimentary olives, bread with salty butter or kettle chips? It’s not out of the kindness of their hearts, that’s for sure. They do it because the more of those delicious free snacks you eat due to the high salt content, the more thirsty you will be and the more money you will spend on drinks. So, if you don’t want to end up forking out a fortune on cola or fizzy water or whatever, try not to be too tempted by the free snacks because they could actually end up costing you more in the long run.
Mention it’s your birthday
Okay, so this won’t work in every restaurant, but if it’s your birthday, it’s always worth getting a subtle mention of that in because many places will offer you a freebie if they know that you are celebrating a special occasion. This is particularly common in Dubai, but a lot of places will ask to see an I.D. for proof before you get your free drink or dessert or whatever, so only deploy this money-saver when it genuinely is your birthday – it’s the right thing to do.
Eat at slow times of the day
If you don’t want to go out for lunch, you might still be able to get a cheaper deal by dining at an unpopular hour. For example, many restaurants will offer early-bird specials from 5-8 because fewer people want to eat then. If you don’t mind dining early, you could save a substantial amount by doing so.
Yes, it may sound a bit quaint to be clipping coupons in 2021, but various magazines and newspapers still print them and you can get some pretty good deals by using them. There were, of course, also online coupons and voucher codes to be found, so be sure to check for them too.
Join a dining club
There are several dining clubs, like Gourmet Society and Tastecard which can cut the cost of dining out at your favourite places by as much as 50 percent at some places. Not only that, but many of these clubs also offer free trials for as many as two months, which means, by signing up, you could easily save 50 percent of your eating out costs for 8 uninterrupted weeks. If you eat out a lot, once the trial is over, you should probably sign up because, for as little as £3.33 per month, you could keep benefitting from those generous discounts on an ongoing basis.
Get creative with the menu
If you visit a restaurant only to find that the main dishes are all really expensive, something you can do to make things a bit cheaper for yourself is to create your own main by picking and choosing several items from the starters, sides and main sections in order to create your own unique dish that doesn’t break the bank. Yes, this will take a little more work on your part, but if you are really watching the pennies it could be worth it, and actually, you may be able to put together a better creation, that you will enjoy more, than the set meals that are noted on the menu.
When you book online via sites like Lastminute, you can often found much better deals than when you book in person, and definitely than when you book well in advance. This is because restaurants want to fill every possible table at every possible opportunity, so even if it means offering you a 50 percent discount, if it means they will be making some money, more often than not, they are willing to do it.
Become a reviewer
Okay, so this one is a bit of a long shot, but if you have a way with words and you know your food, it might be worth approaching various local and online publications to see if they need a restaurant reviewer. If you get the gig, they’ll pay for your meals, and hopefully, pay you a fee too, and you could end up eating at some of the most prestigious restaurants without having to pay a single penny, which would be living the dream for any serious foodie, as I’m sure you will agree!
Take a doggy bag home
Okay, so this doesn’t save you money on the cost of eating out, but if you are paying for the meal anyway, you may as well ask to have it bagged up so you can take it home and save on the cost of the next day’s breakfast or lunch. This is a really normal thing to do in a lot of places, but many people in the UK are embarrassed to ask for a doggy bag – don’t be because the staff won’t be phrased and you coud save a little cash, which is always nice.
Hey! There are a lot of things you can do to save when eating out, be sure to put some of these tips into practice! How do you eat out as frugally as possible? Let me know in the comments below & don’t forget to share!!