8 secrets to dining out on a dime

Dining out has become one of America’s favorite past times. In fact, Americans spend more than $555 billion dollars a year on food away from home. For those who love to dine out but are on a shoestring budget, I offer you eight secrets on how to dine out on a dime.

  1. Turn going out to eat into a treat, not a necessity. That way, going out to eat will feel like a reward for all those times you saved money by cooking at home.
  2. Share an entrée. With portion sizes having increased considerably over the last decade, the amount of food set in front of us is growing almost as fast as the price. Sharing a meal allows you to cut costs and keeps you from eating too many calories.
  3. Water flows free. Drink water because it is a free and healthy alternative to sugary sodas and pricey alcoholic drinks. To add some flavor to your water, ask your server to throw in some lemon, lime, or a sprig of mint; all of which are readily available restaurant garnishes.
  4. Use coupons to save coins. Clipping coupons isn’t just a grocery store saving strategy; coupons can help you save at restaurants, too. Coupons in newspapers, on restaurant Web sites, and in Entertainment Books offer great deals for dining out.
  5. Kids eat free. Many restaurants let little ones eat for free. Sites like MyKidsEatFree.com offer listings of kiddo-friendly dining establishments and times when children eat free.
  6. Snack before you go. This advice may seem counterintuitive (why eat before you go out to eat?), but it is great advice if you are worried about money and don’t want to sacrifice going out with friends. By having a snack before you go out, you can get by with ordering a smaller, less expensive appetizer or salad. You’ll save money, feel satisfied, and not miss out on quality time with your pals.
  7. Eat during non-peak hours. Seven o’clock is prime time for crowds and prices. Many restaurant lunch menus offer the same selection at a portion of the price so try dining out before the dinner hour.

And last, but not least… #8 Skip dessert. The cherry on top of your dining experience can be the money you save by skipping the sweets. Self-proclaimed chocoholic that can’t live without a fix? Skip the appetizer. Dining out can be fun and fulfilling even when you are missing a course or two.

For more secrets to dining on a dime, check out our free Cheap Eats eBook.

Kim McGrigg is the former Manager of Community and Media Relations for MMI.