When to Eat
Weekdays are always less busy than weekends, and prices usually reflect this. Monday through Thursday should be your preferred days, with Tuesday being the least busy.
Many restaurants offer KIDS EAT FREE on weekdays (especially Tuesdays), which offer a good opportunity for the whole family to dine out on a very low budget – frugal eating maximized!
If you have a choice when to eat out, consider the fact that dinner is the most expensive. Lunch or brunch tend to be cheaper (usually you can find lunch deals at even lower price), and breakfast is the least expensive.
In case that you opted for dinner, try to eat early. Early bird specials (usually between 4 PM – 6 PM) can save you 20% or more. When dining early you can also save 50% on drinks in restaurants that has Happy Hour.
Almost all restaurants offer two kinds of specials:
- Set menus – ordering a set menu will always be less expensive than ordering the same dishes from the menu. Most restaurants carry both 2 and 3 course set menus. Often there will be a different set menu for lunch (sometimes it is simply called lunch special), and a different one for dinner.
- If you prefer to order from the menu, consider the special-of-the-day dish. In most cases this dish will be less expensive than other entrיes on the menu.
- Kids and senior menus are one more way to save some money. They provide smaller portions at a lower price.
Why pay full price for dinner if you can pay much less? Site like Restaurant.com sell 50% discount coupons for a wide selection or restaurant. True, they don’t carry coupons for all restaurants, but they do have a good mix of them.
Often, Restaurans.com puts some of its 50% discount coupons on sale, which means that you actually end up paying 10% of the covered price!
Another good source for restaurant coupons is your local city’s Entertainment Book. You can find there plenty of 2 for 1 restaurant coupons or 50% discount coupons. If you’re planning a travel, these coupon books are also an excellent way to save money when traveling to other cities, and will usually more than pay for themselves.
A quick venture into your local phone book or yellow pages may very well pay itself, as more and more restaurants advertise discounts there to tracked new visitors.
Discounts can be also found in your local tourist bureau or free magazines aimed for tourists.
No discussion about frugal eating can be complete without mentioning this rising discount giant.
I’d be surprised if you’re not already familiar with it, but for the newbie’s I’ll just mention that Groupon gives away millions of 50%-90% off restaurant discounts, that it’s able to get because of the large number of users each deal is offered to.
Finding a restaurant discount in Groupon is not straight forward. What I usually do is click on the “NOW! Deals”, enter my Zip code, click on “Eat something” and select a restaurant, coffee shop or any other food business.
If you live in a big city you may want to repeat the process with a few Zip codes, as you get deals only for the near area rather than whole town.
You can also opt to receive offers by email according to your preferences.
If you’re dining out with a friend or with your spouse, consider sharing a dish or two. Usually we order two entrיes, but share an appetizer and a desert. Splitting a desert will do wonders to your diet as well.
Skip the Alcohols
It’s not a secret that restaurants have big margin over the pricing of alcoholic drinks. Skipping alcoholic drinks altogether can save you around 20%.
If what you’re looking for is the restaurant’s food rather than the restaurant’s experience, than this is may be a good frugal eating out substitute.
Many restaurants offer a less expensive take out menu, plus you get to save more on drinks and tip.
Soft drinks is where restaurants make a killing. Order water, or add a twist of lemon if you prefer. Water is still free in most restaurants.
Pass on Coffee and Cake
Dessert is one of the biggest marked-up items on the menu. Pass on cake and coffee, or if you must – have them when you get home at a fraction of the cost.
Choose a Less Expensive Restaurant
The price range between restaurants is huge, and most often there is no correlation between price and quality. A family restaurant is likely to be less expensive than a fancy specialty restaurant.
Newly opened restaurants usually offer discounts or promotional pricing to attract new customers while trying to create returning clientele.