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15 Ways to Eat Out on the Cheap

Want some tips on how to eat out on the cheap? Here are 15 tried and true ideas to help you enjoy restaurant food — on a budget.

How to Eat Out on the Cheap

Love eating out? Don’t love how much it can cost? Here are 15 ideas to save money on eating out:a

1. Go out to lunch instead of dinner.

2. Always use restaurant coupons.

3. Order water instead of beverages that cost.

4. Split an entree with someone else when possible.

5. Sign up for Birthday Freebies and use those when you eat out.

6. Go out for dessert instead of a full meal.

7. Use restaurant gift cards that you bought discounted.

8. Sign up for restaurant apps and email lists to be notified of great coupons and specials — or even freebies!

9. Earn free restaurant gift cards from Shopkick, Fetch, and Swagbucks.

10. Go on Kids’ Eat Free nights.

11. Eat a snack before you leave the house so you’re not as hungry.

12. Don’t order appetizers or desserts.

13. Eat out at Costco or IKEA instead of a restaurant.

14. Apply to be a mystery shopper and you could get paid to eat out! (I have done this many times in the past!)

15. Go to a fast food restaurant with a dollar menu and let everyone choose 1-3 items off the dollar menu!

What are your favorite tips for saving money on eating out? Share them in the comments!

P.S. For more ideas, check out this post on How to Save Money on Eating Out.

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23 Comments

  • Sally Love says:

    Groupon frequently offers $25 vouchers for $15 or $40 for just $25. Really good restaurants too.

  • Julie Geist says:

    Being older we often eat at the KFC Buffet on Tuesdays when they have senior discount for $5.99 for the buffet. They stamp your savers card for every buffet you buy and when you have 7 stamps you get a free buffet. Also, if you do the survey offered on the receipt (I always do) you get a free crispy colonel sandwich (they cost about $3.59) with a small drink. I order the coffee which is 75 cents so I feel that I really make the most of our Tuesdays with the Colonel.

  • Guest says:

    – I have cheap/cheaper go-to meals at some of our local restaurants. For example, there’s a local place where I can get a side salad (and they’re so good) and a side of fries (which are even better) for around five bucks.
    – Eat at places that don’t have table service. Wait staff depend on tips so please don’t stiff them. That said, tips definitely add cost so eating where there isn’t table service saves on cost.
    – Can’t do this everywhere but there’s a local restaurant we enjoy that lets you order certain items (such as nachos) as half orders. Cheaper and healthier, too. 😉
    – This won’t work for everyone but I love veggies and am not a big meat eater. When we eat at steakhouses, I get two sides – a baked potato and whatever green veggie is available (steamed broccoli or asparagus or green beans for example). Ends up being around five or six dollars and I absolutely love them! Always check the sides and see if you’d be satisfied (or more satisfied in my case!) with a couple of sides instead of a full entree.

  • Amy Timmons says:

    Is that picture taken at Spangles?

  • Lise says:

    Crystal,
    I looked up on point number 14 how to become a mystery shopper and the link for Tanya says the server can not be found. Any tips on how I can read that article?
    Thank you,

  • Lise says:

    (The Little Life Improvements link and the List Tanya compiled link) say the server can’t be found. Thank you,

  • Kate says:

    As a long time server, can I add that you should always tip based upon what your total bill should have been, not the discounted price…we earn 2.13/hr and often get left lower tips when people use coupons and discounts.

  • L says:

    I have really enjoyed being a mystery shopper. It is more like doing a survey to earn a coupon for a free meal than having a part-time job. A mystery shopping meal is usually our weekly date. There is a good burger place we go to that is out of our budget and a nice Italian place in town. I like to do lunch jobs so I have plenty of time to complete the report afterwards.

  • Suzanne says:

    Download the app! I always check to see if the place we’re planning to go to has an app. Lots of restaurants have special deals that you wouldn’t get otherwise, or give you rewards points. It’s easier than keeping track of paper coupons, too.

  • Melissa says:

    Find out what ethnic restaurants are available in your area. The food is generally so much better than what you can find at any chain and is cheaper to boot!

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