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Eating Out on the Cheap

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In this recession, more and more people (including me) are cooking at home and not eating out. But every once in a while, I like to treat myself and my family to a meal. Here's how I afford it.

family at the restaurant

Momlogic's Julie: I love eating out.

You don't have to shop for groceries, cook, or do the dishes afterwards. Someone serves YOU for a change. It's one of my favorite things to do.

But these days, I can't afford to splurge on $50 or $60 meals. So I've discovered a way to go out but still save money.

For instance, last night, my family and I went out to Numero Uno pizza parlor. We had an appetizer, salad, large pizza, two kids' meals, three sodas, and dessert. I even had leftovers to bring to work today for lunch.

The grand total? $13 plus tip.

Beforehand, I bought a $25 gift certificate for $2 at the website using promo code DINE. (The 80% code expires February 28.) Go to the website, punch in your zip code, and you'll be amazed how many restaurants participate in the program.

Once you pay for the certificates (using a credit card or PayPal), you just print them out from your computer.

Is it embarrassing to use one? Well, the first time I did it, I was a little nervous. But you tip on the pre-discount price, so the waiters aren't being penalized and never seem to be annoyed you are using a "coupon." I have used these certificates at least 15 times, even at fancy restaurants, and it's never been a problem.

Each restaurant has its own set of restrictions. Most have a minimum purchase -- either $35 or $50. Look for the ones that have a $35 minimum or less to get the best bang for your buck.

One night when I went out with girlfriends, they all cracked up when I broke out my $25 coupon. But it bought us a bottle of wine ... and that shut them up quick!

Other ways I save money on eating out:

- Look for happy hours with cheap eats or free buffets. Great for date night.

- Go to places that have a "kids eat free" policy. These savings can add up.

- Buy the Entertainment book, which features hundreds of "2 for 1" coupons. Before going on vacation last year, I even bought the book for the city we were visiting. That saved us tons!

I am not a cheap person, but I definitely look for ways to cut costs in this economy so I can maintain the lifestyle I enjoy.

How do YOU save money on eating out? Share your money-saving tips below!

next: Is Parenting Less Cool Than Being Single?
17 comments so far | Post a comment now
my say February 24, 2009, 5:34 PM

We order water with a lemon, no appetizers , and no dessert. Just the main course and we eat half and take it home. We do not go out much anymore and have seen so many lbs melt off of our bodies. Saving money and calories!

maeby February 24, 2009, 6:24 PM

wow this awesome! thanks!!

Carrie February 24, 2009, 8:46 PM

I too have used numerous times, and never had a problem. It is such a good deal it seems too good to be true, but it is true.

BeyondPinkBlog February 24, 2009, 9:48 PM

Great info!
We order water when out. That saves quite a bit over time. We also choose places that are yummy and still generous with food leaving leftovers for busy nights= not going out for food again on those busy nights.

ashley February 25, 2009, 8:07 AM

We were going out at least once or twice a week and then my husband had his gall bladder taken out about a month ago and it has been hard for him to eat alot of foods. No spicy, I really miss this great Mexican restaurant where we were regulars. So that has saved a ton of money. I always made everyone order water when we went out. And if we went to a buffet, if I wasn’t hungry I wouldn’t get anything, I would just help my son get his plate and get a few bites of something I had to taste. He would barely eat anyway, why pay for two meals when neither one of us was going to eat hardly any of it. Is that wrong?

Judy February 25, 2009, 11:27 AM

Great Article!

Melissa March 3, 2009, 12:47 PM

Going out to lunch instead of dinner can save as well.
Most places give so much food, we order an appetizer and two entrees and four plates and share.
I pack my own tea bag, ask for hot water. Also those little packages of flavoring made for bottled water can be added to a glass of water for the kids.
Please always make sure to tip well.

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