Be Un-American And Save Money When You Dine Out

I absolutely love to eat out. It’s just so nice not to have to clean the kitchen at the end of the day and have someone else make food for you. I grew up in a house where both parents had extremely hectic, high-pressure jobs, so we ate out a lot.

My husband, on the other hand, ate at home every single night growing up. So, over the years, I’ve had to learn to eat in more, and he’s had to learn that it’s okay to go out when you’re tired and don’t want to cook!

Here are some of the techniques we use to save money on those occasions when we decide to treat ourselves to a night out on the town:

1. Scour Groupon

Sure, it can get annoying to get e-mails from Groupon every single day, but sometimes they have amazing deals on restaurants. They even have fun date ideas, like trying out 20 different types of olive oil at a specific restaurant and other interesting food-related retreats. Usually you can get meals for about half off, and so it’s definitely worth it to subscribe to the e-mails.

The best part is if you’re one of those couples who want to go out to eat but never know where to go or can’t make a decision, Groupon will help you to plan your dates!

2. Split an Appetizer and an Entrée

Many of you probably do this already but if you don’t, why not split an entrée and an appetizer? Appetizers are typically less expensive than entrees and so you can save some money by sharing with your other half.

Let’s face it; American portion sizes are pretty outrageous. We’ve become so accustomed to getting huge plates of food, and then we often bring the food home in to-go boxes (which to me, never tastes the same one day later!)

So, in the spirit of being healthier and financially fit, next time try to share.

3. Eat a Big Lunch

In many countries, people don’t eat huge dinners like we do in the States. Actually, in Grenada, locals will eat a sandwich for breakfast, grilled chicken and rice for lunch, and a very small dinner. They stack their eating in the beginning of the day, which is actually great for staying healthy and getting the ol’ metabolism charged up.

So, if you know you want to go out to eat that night, why not eat a big lunch so that when you get to the restaurant, you only need a bowl of soup or a nice big salad instead of pricier chicken and steak?

For me, half the fun of eating out is the company and not having to wash dishes at the end. So, every meal out doesn’t always have to include really expensive entrées. Essentially, when we start viewing going out to eat as a more social activity vs. an food-centered activity, it’s easier to save money.

In addition to the tips above, there are also the old standbys for saving money on eating out. These include ordering water, refraining from drinking alcohol, skipping dessert, and in general, picking things off the menu that aren’t the most outrageous or most expensive. Other considerations include picking items that are in season if you want to have something expensive (like lobster.)

I’m sure there are a few that I’m missing so please share your top tips for saving money on eating out in the comments below!

Like What You See?

Join the other readers who have signed up for our email newsletter! No spam, just periodic updates to help improve your finances!

About Catherine Alford

Catherine Alford is a personal finance freelance writer who received a B.A. from The College of William and Mary and an M.A. from Virginia Tech. She enjoys sharing her adventures on her blog,


  1. Rarely do we go out without having some sort of coupon or deal lined up. Even if it saves us just $5, that adds up to a lot if you multiply it by, say, once a week.

  2. We have a restaurant we frequent that sends out coupons $10 off a $20 meal. We use that, plus we have a loyalty card there that gives points for the amount of $$ spent. A couple of times a year, we stack the coupon with the reward points and get the whole meal free! Of course, we still tip the server what we would normally. Another place gives coupons for a free entrée with the purchase of an entrée plus two drinks. We use that for breakfast and get coffee for the drink. Normally, we just order water which usually saves nearly $5 off the cost of a meal. At Christmas time, many restaurants offer gift cards for sale and when you buy one for $50 you get an extra $10. We buy the gift card for ourselves and get the extra $$ to use as well.

  3. Great post. My wife and I will often just go out for some fancy dessert we never make at home. Raises eyebrows at times, for sure, but you know what they say: life is uncertain, eat dessert first! (This ties in with the “have a big lunch” point you made.)

  4. I love seafood and have found the Japanese/Chinese buffets tend to offer really good value for money. $15 all you can eat sushi, plus sometimes oysters or crab legs is awesome. Sure the decor isn’t fabulous but it serves the purpose of eating out, and simpler buffets can be around $8 so that’s the price of a fast food. And since it is not full service you spend less in tips too.

  5. We sometimes go out for appetizers one place, dessert another place, and split the entree at another! It actually keeps us full and saves us money when we go to places where they are running specials!

Share Your Thoughts