Paycheck Chronicles

5 Ways to Save on Restaurant Meals


Whether you're eating out because you're on the road, or as a treat for your family and yourself, restaurant meals can be expensive.  Here are five easy ways to keep the bill manageable:

1.  Discounts:  Ask if the restaurant offers a military discount. Ask about kid's menus, early bird specials, or other promotions.

2.  Order from the appetizer menu:  Especially at dinner, where your meal may include a salad, side dishes or other items that you don't need, consider ordering an appetizer or soup and salad instead of a full meal.

3.  Look for coupons:  Local tourist magazines, discount books (the Entertainment book is one example) or online coupons can offer great deals on restaurant meals.

4.  Don't order drinks or dessert:  Some children's meals come with drinks, in which case I let my kids splurge on hot chocolate or lemonade.  Otherwise, we usually offer them the choice of milk or water.  I don't mind paying for the nutrition of milk, but I don't often allow my kids to order soda or juice in  restaurants.  I'm amazed at how expensive drinks can be - one local restaurant charges $2.79 for a soda.  For my family of six, that would be more than $15 in soda alone.  And for dessert, we can enjoy a box of ice cream sandwiches from the grocery store for much less than the cost of restaurant desserts.  (Again, if they are included in the kid's meals, then that is a treat for them.)

5.  Go out to lunch instead of dinner:  Lunch prices are almost always less expensive than dinner prices, even if the item is exactly the same.  Some lunch portions are smaller, but they are usually still plenty of food.  You can save a lot if you make lunch your special time to go out.

Armed with these five tips, you should be able to stretch your dining dollar.

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