Where do we save the most money every month? Without a question, FOOD!
When beginning our financial makeover, we drastically cut back on eating out. Before, our average week consisted of eating out 2-4 meals. We now, eat out 2-3 meals per month. Not only are we eating healthier but we are saving over $300 per month! How much could you save if you took your lunches to work or cooked more dinners at home?
Not only have we cut back on eating out. But when we do eat out we use coupons and gift cards. Where do I find these coupons? Websites such as Groupon, Living Social, and Voucher Cloud, these are all available both in the United States and United Kingdom.
All of the sites listed above have their own app. This helps in finding a coupon on the go (if you have a smart phone). Often restaurant coupons come in the mail as flyers or in the “junk mail”. If it’s a possibility you may eat at the restaurant before the coupon expires, clip it and stash it.
If you have favorite places to eat, join their page on Facebook or other social media sources and sign up for their email newsletters. They often advertise specials or available coupons through these sources. My personal favorite is Dairy Queen’s BOGO (buy one get one) Blizzard coupon, which comes in their email newsletter, nearly every month. Have every family member join “Birthday Clubs” for your favorite restaurants. You typically get a free dessert or a BOGO offer during your birthday month.
In the past I have had envelopes in my purse and car with restaurant coupons. To be prepared for those inevitable, “I’ve been shopping all day and am starving” situations. This way, you are always prepared and have a few restaurant options where you do not have to pay full price.
The Entertainment Book that is available in most larger cities is full of restaurant coupons. As well as entertainment and traveling discounts. You can typically pay around $15 for this book when it is discounted. Or pay around $30 and support a local money raising event. Personally, I don’t like to pay for my coupons because then I don’t ever feel like I “wasted money” by not using it. But you can easily “earn” your money back with this option by only using 3-5 coupons out of the 100s that are in this book.
Options without Coupons
Not a fan of coupons? *gasp* Just kidding! There are plenty of ways to save money at restaurants without using coupons. Often lunch menus are significantly less expensive than dinner menus and more times than not, the menus are extremely similar.
Appetizers are almost always cheaper than entrees and often are plenty to fill up on. Better yet, have your meal during happy hour, where most restaurants offer discounted appetizers. Some as low as 50% off! Many restaurants do require you to order a beverage, but it does not need to be alcoholic. Save $6+ on your appetizer and pay for that $2 soda.
Our favorite way to save money without a coupon is to order one appetizer and one entrée and share both. This way we get to try both an appetizer and entrée but we only have to pay for one entrée, which typically means our bill is $8-15 less than if we had ordered two entrees. We haven’t come across a restaurant that frowns upon this, but we rarely never eat at $50+/plate restaurants.
We also rarely order alcohol. Why pay $5-10 for a glass of wine or beer, when you can go across the street and buy a whole bottle/6 pack for the same price? We typically order water. Tip: make sure you are getting tap water and not $5 distilled water. Water may be “boring” but our rational: it is healthier, saves $5-20, and eliminates 100s of empty calories. If you are in a foreign country and worried about the quality of tap water, typically a soda, tea, or lemonade will be less expensive than the bottled water.
There are several restaurants that offer a military discount. Typically its 10%, but every little bit helps. In the United States, I know most Applebee’s, Denny’s, Famous Dave’s BBQ, and Golden Corral offer a military discount. We are relatively new in the United Kingdom, but I know Nando’s (delicious food) offers a 10% discount. It never hurts to ask, all they can tell you is “no”.
Do you have picky eaters who often don’t eat their restaurant meal? Try not ordering them a meal. Share your meal instead. America’s portion sizes are ridiculously huge anyway. Also, try bringing your own snacks from home for your child to eat instead of ordering something they won’t eat. If your child is 5 years old or younger I doubt any restaurant will question it. Do you have children, who are not picky eaters? Have them share an adult meal. An adult meal is typically cheaper than 2-3 meals off the children’s menu.
Simply put, we save the most money by not going out to eat. Especially now that we are in the UK and the conversion rate is poor for us. We’ve been known to pay £6-7 for a sandwich. With the conversion rate, that is nearly $25 to eat sandwiches we could have made at home for $1. It doesn’t seem worth it to us! We have eaten at several really good restaurants in the United Kingdom. But when just randomly picking a restaurant, I would say 50% of the time we don’t care for the food. This makes it easier for us to say “no” to eating at a restaurant and a secondary benefit is that our waistlines are thanking us. LOL.
If WE can go from eating out at restaurants from 2-4 time/week, and cut it down to our current once for the entire month in a matter of 2 years. ANYONE, can cut down their restaurant budget fund! Baby steps are the key. Start with just cutting out one or two meals a month. That $40-$100 can be used for something better!
How do you save money at restaurants? What military restaurant discounts do you use?
Stay tuned in to read the rest of my 6 part Food Series, “How we Save $100s if not $1000s every Month”.