"The average American household spends most of its money — 62% of an average $56,000 in annual expenditures — on just three things: housing, transportation, and food," says Business Insider. If you want to cut costs and save money, food is the place to start.
Reducing restaurant visits and increasing your home-cooked meals is a surefire way to cut food costs. And when you do opt to eat out, here are 10 realistic, ethical and pretty awesome ways to keep your tab lean!
Many restaurants offer a reduced-price menu for seniors and children, typically with smaller portions. If you or someone in your party qualifies, be sure to inquire whether the special pricing shows up on the regular menu.
SKIP THE SODAS
Skip the pricey drinks and dubious "free refills" altogether and you'll save at least $2 a person.
SPLIT TO SAVE
Splitting a meal these days is socially acceptable and economically savvy. While some restaurants charge a minimum for splitting, most are very accommodating. Even if you have to pay a buck or two to split, it's still better than paying for two meals you cannot eat completely.
If you're embarrassed about sharing, don't be. If you must explain, say you are a light eater or that you're doing your duty to the Earth by not overconsuming.
Many restaurants are so accommodating they'll split the meal in the kitchen rather than handing you an extra plate.
Many restaurants have low-priced daily specials that are not on the menu. So before you get your heart set on a regular menu item, be sure to ask about any unadvertised specials.
Many restaurants, in an effort to increase business during their quiet hours, offer meals half-off or at some other enticing, but only if you go there before the regular dinner crowd, typically from 4:00 to 5:30 p.m. Look in your local newspaper and your mailbox for advertisements and information.
Almost every restaurant it seems now has some kind of online club you can join to get coupons and discounts in your email inbox. Join them!
Many restaurants have a lunch menu that is slightly different from the dinner one, the difference being the portion size and price. Ask the waiter whether you can order from the lunch menu. Usually, you'll be cordially accommodated, and you will save quite a bit.
Before you opt for a full meal, check the appetizer menu. You'll find generous portions minus the add-ons like salad or soup. And the price is right. Just request that your selection be served as an entree, and you'll fit right in.
Almost every restaurant offers some type of discounts as part of its marketing plan. Those coupons and discount codes are out there — it's just a matter of finding them.
Call your local high schools to find out who is selling local entertainment restaurant discount books. Or go to entertainment.com to find one for your area.
Lots of restaurants offer discounted gift certificates at Restaurant.com as part of their marketing programs. Search the site to find restaurants in your area, and then click to buy a $25 gift certificate for as little as $10.
Group-buying sites like Groupon and LivingSocial let you in on huge discounts! Once you sign up (it's free), you'll get emails with offers for all kinds of things including restaurant meals.
Before buying, always make sure you understand the terms and conditions of the offer, plus the time frame in which the coupon must be redeemed. Read the fine print first.
Coordinate eating out with your birthday. Lots of restaurants now offer special discounts, and even freebies, when you come in on your birthday. Find discounts and coupons for more than 150 establishments at www.heyitsfree.net.
Mary invites questions, comments and tips at EverydayCheapskate.com, "Ask Mary a Question." This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of Debt-Proof Living, a personal finance member website and the author of the book Debt-Proof Living, Revell 2014. To find out more about Mary visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
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