Our family loves to eat out but we don’t like paying full price if we don’t have to. Over the years we’ve learned these tips and tricks that help us save money at restaurants. Take a gander and see if a few (or hopefully all of them) will work for your family!

outside seating at a restaurant

I may be a thrifty girl but I like to eat out just as much as anyone else. But let’s face it, it’s expensive, which is why I’m sharing our favorite tips and tricks so you’ll be able to save your hard-earned money too!

1. Drink Water

Most restaurants charge $1.50-$2.50 per drink. It’s a great way for them to make money. On the other hand, if you drink water instead it’s a great way for you to save money.

Now you may be thinking that $1.50 a week isn’t very much money, but every little bit adds up over time. Let’s play with the numbers for a minute shall we? If you and a family member eat out once a week and just drink water instead of your normal carbonated beverage or tea, you can save $150-$250 a year. I don’t know about you but there’s a lot I’d rather do with $150-$250 than drink it away!

The next time the waiter asks you what you’d like to drink you might want to reconsider your drink choice.

2. Share A Meal

Have you seen some of the entree portions the restaurants give us these days? You and I both know that many times we have enough food on our plate for two people. Not only will sharing a meal help you save, but it may also help your waistline!

If you don’t think sharing an entree will be enough food for the two of you, add a side salad or soup!

There are a ton of easy dinner recipes on the web, but some days you just want (and need) to have dinner out. Restaurant food is expensive, so why not use these tips and tricks to save money at restaurants.

3. Eat At Restaurants Where You Aren’t Required To Tip

Tipping can get expensive, especially if you’re leaving 20% on a $40 meal. I realize that if you’re eating at a restaurant where you aren’t required to tip that it’s not going to be as fancy as the restaurants where you are required to tip. If you want to save money then you’ll be willing to eat at the less fancy restaurants from time to time.

So let’s do the math again and see how much we could save when we don’t have to tip. We’ll use the 20% tip on a $40 meal scenario above. Instead of dining at the fancier restaurant 2 times a month you could save $200 a year. Pair that with the money you saved by drinking water and sharing your meal and you’re pretty close to paying an extra house payment a year!

4. Eat Out on Tuesday Nights

Did you know that Tuesday night is the slowest night of the week for restaurants? Yep, it’s true.

There are a ton of easy dinner recipes on the web, but some days you just want (and need) to have dinner out. Restaurant food is expensive, so why not use these tips and tricks to save money at restaurants.

You’ll notice that many restaurants offer specials on Tuesdays just to get folks in the door. Changing your date/family nights to Tuesday will not only save you money but it will save you time because you won’t have to wait in line!

5. Look for Coupons/Discounts

Nowadays coupons and discounts are everywhere. We’ve already seen how every little bit of money saved adds up, so train yourself to take advantage of these coupons and discounts. Here are a few of our favorites.

  • Smartphone apps like Retail Me Not (It’s also available by browsing online if you don’t want to download the app.)
  • Coupon books/flyers that come in the mail – Put these in your car so that you’ll have them when you are out.
  • Coupon/deal websites like MoneySavingMom.com or Hip2Save.com
  • Your favorite restaurant’s website – Scout out your favorite restaurant’s site to see what weekly special or discounts  they offer.
  • Discount websites like Restaurant.com and Groupon.com

Look at your discounts/coupons before deciding where you’re going to eat – it just might help you decide what you’re in the mood for! I know it’s changed our pallette before. ;o)

*Note: If you’re using a coupon or discount, you should always tip on the total BEFORE the coupon/discount.

6. Make It a Game

When I say make it a game I’m not going against what your mom has told you all these years, “Don’t play with your food.” But what I am saying is to challenge your family members to see who can get the best meal for the cheapest. My husband and I have done this and it is quite fun (and I usually win)!

I want to stress that saving money when dining out does NOT mean you should be stingy when tipping. Food service is hard work so always remember to take care of the person that has served you.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with splurging and paying full price at your favorite restaurant but you don’t always have to. No doubt there are a ton of ways to save money at restaurants and my hope is that this list has helped you think outside of the box.

What’s your favorite way to save money at restaurants?