It’s difficult to save money when you eat out several times a week.
One of the best budget hacks is simply cooking at home, but that’s not always doable.
Life happens! You might get sick the same day you’re planning an elaborate dinner. Maybe you have an incredible weekend away with old friends and return home to a fridge full of condiments … and not much else. Or maybe you just love visiting your favorite restaurants.
Eating out now and then can be an act of self-care. Ordering your favorite meal, enjoying conversations with loved ones and letting others worry with the dishes add up to an awesome night.
If you’re not ready to completely abandon your weekly dinner night out, take our advice on how to save money eating out.
[Related: Zero Waste Grocery Shopping Hacks]
Our Top Four Ways to Eat Out on a Budget
We know that cooking at home is the wisest thing we can do for our wallets.
When that’s impossible, try our four tips for saving money while eating out.
1. Go to Happy Hours
You’d be surprised at how many of your favorite restaurants offer affordable happy hours.
Happy hour deals may vary widely, but many are shockingly good. Some restaurants offer menu favorites for half their original price! Others curate a menu smaller than their customary one.
You can enjoy eating out on a budget merely by changing your dinner time. Most restaurants have happy hours to bring in customers during the slowest times of day, so you may end up eating a lot earlier — or later — than usual. If this doesn’t sound like a huge sacrifice, you could cut your spending in half.
So, start searching online for your preferred establishments and find those hidden deals you never knew existed.
2. Order Specials
You can get outside your comfort zone by trying a restaurant’s specials. Most restaurants provide breakfast, lunch or dinner specials. They might even offer all three!
Restaurants primarily offer specials to get rid of certain items before they expire. This not only prevents excess food waste but also allows restaurants to get the biggest bang for their buck.
It doesn’t mean they’re serving you spoiled food, and it isn’t the only reason restaurants offer specials. A restaurant may be trying to spice up its menu and engage returning customers by using seasonal ingredients.
Your choices will be limited when ordering only specials, but you might find your new regular dish!
3. Practice Portion Control
American restaurant portions are notoriously large.
At most restaurants, a dinner for one could feed two to three people. It might not always feel that way, but then again, it’s easy to fill up on our favorite foods.
Instead of diving right into your dinner, try asking your server for a to-go box before the food arrives. When the food gets to the table, take half your entree and all your sides and then store them in the to-go box.
Saving those leftovers for the next day’s lunch or dinner will allow you to really stretch your order — and your budget. Besides, you’ll avoid overeating and feel much better at the end of your meal.
4. Buy Gift Cards at Great Values
If you’re a member of a warehouse store like Costco or Sam’s Club, you may have seen displays selling gift cards at below face value.
You can redeem many of these gift cards at popular chain restaurants or even local joints. The cards may provide sizable discounts, but they require some up-front investment — you may have to spend $80 for a $100 gift card.
This can be a great way to save money while eating out, and you probably should buy gift cards to only your favorite restaurants. You definitely don’t want to end up with a $75 gift card to a restaurant you dislike.
[Related: Best Things to Buy at Costco]
Save Money by Eating Delicious Meals With Good Home Chef
We get it — we love eating out, too!
For all those days when eating out just doesn’t fit your budget, we’ve got you covered. In addition to ways to save money eating out, our website is chock-full of all the resources you need to create restaurant-quality meals from your home kitchen.
We’ve gathered the ingredients, tools, recipes and techniques you need to enrich your cooking experience. Check out our website, and save money by eating delicious meals from home. You can also scope our Instagram page for inspiration.
Featured pic via Pixabay