Eating out can be expensive. In fact, it’s more expensive to eat out now than ever before. If you’re one of the millions of people looking to save some money, while still enjoying the convenience of eating out, look no further. We’ve got some tips and tricks for dining on a dime, along with restaurant specials that will satisfy your taste buds and your credit card.
Eating out on a dime
Whether you’re a family of five or a student on a budget, everybody likes to save a little extra cash. Nobody wants to sacrifice the things they love. Next time you plan on eating out, use the guide below to help you stay well within your food budget while still enjoying some tasty eats.
Drink before you dine
Indulging in a drink or two before dinner may be enjoyable, but it comes with a steep price. A 9 oz glass of wine could cost close to a bottle of similar quality purchased from your local liquor store. With the addition of alcohol, a $30 meal could easily double or triple after only a couple of drinks.
Save yourself from spending the unnecessary cash and have a drink at home before heading out to eat. You’ll be able to drink what you enjoy while saving some money in the process.
Just water for me please
On second thought, skip drinks altogether and stick with a glass of water. Drinks consistently top the list as being one of the most marked up things to order when eating out. Exactly how much more are you paying for that restaurant drink? A lot more than you need to:
- Wine: You’ll be paying on average 400% more for a glass of wine from a restaurant. Just another reason to drink before you dine.
- Mixed drinks: If you’re not totally convinced yet, then how about the fact that you may be paying 1,150% more for a gin and tonic it than if you were to make that same drink at home.
- Pop: Think you’re saving money by choosing pop over alcohol? Think again. Restaurants mark up their pop 1,150%. While pop costs about 5 to 20 cents a serving, it can go for up to $3.00 a glass.
- Bottled water: By far, the largest menu markup is bottled water which is often sold for 2,000% more than it costs the restaurant to acquire it. There’s no reason to pay for something you can certainly get for free.
Skip flavoured drinks and have a glass of water with lemon. It’ll be better for both your wallet and your health.
Happy hour is from 4-6
Of course, if you do want to have a drink with dinner, we understand. It’s a fun way to celebrate an occasion or bond with coworkers. That’s why we’re always on the lookout for a good happy hour.
Happy hours give restaurants the opportunity to bring in customers during a slower time of the day, while giving customers a great deal. $10 cocktails get cut in half, and you can get a pint of beer for under $5.
Happy hours are a win-win for everyone.
Not interested in drinking tonight? Not to worry. Happy hours can come with food specials too. State & Main offers a happy hour everyday from 3 pm – 6 pm and 9 pm – close and has a variety of food and drink specials to boot:
- $4 eats: Snack on a basket of truffle parmesan chips or order a fish taco for just $4. It’s a perfect way to curb your hunger while indulging in a couple of drinks.
- Dinner under $12: If you’re looking for something more substantial, State & Main offers a burger, fries, and dip for just $12. At almost $5 less than regular price, it’s a great deal for an affordable dinner.
Consider eating your dinner on the earlier side and head out for a great happy hour. It’s the perfect way to dine out and save money.
Turn Tuesdays in to date night
Save yourself some money by switching date night from Friday to Tuesday. Some places have different food specials depending on what day of the week it is – and we’re not just talking about Wing Wednesday.
East Side Mario’s offers several midweek specials, all of which are worth heading out after work for:
- $2 Tuesdays: Don’t feel like cooking? Grab the kids and head on over to East Side Mario’s this Tuesday for $2 kid’s meals. Choose from a variety of kid friendly food like pizza, pasta, and chicken fingers for a meal everyone is sure to enjoy.
- All-you-can-eat pasta: If you’ve got a love of pasta and a major appetite, then this is the deal for you. For just $12.99 you can have all the pasta, garlic bread, and soup or salad as you can eat. You can even choose a different combination of pasta and sauce each time, so you never get bored.
Midweek deals like these can help keep your stomach full without emptying your wallet. Sometimes eating out makes more sense than eating in.
No shame in a good coupon
Coupons are the original money saver. To this day, it’s still one of the easiest ways to save money without spending a dime. Keep an eye out in the weekend ads or newspaper for coupons to some of your favorite stores.
If clipping newspaper ads isn’t your thing, you can still benefit from the joy of coupons:
- Download an app: There’s a number of apps out there designed to do nothing but save you money. You can get access to exclusive coupons to some of your favorite fast casual dining establishments, no spending required.
- Try going online: Sometimes, restaurants will offer coupons exclusively on their website. Go online before you go out and see if there are any special offers online.
- Buy a book: Annual coupon books are a great way to save a ton of money. You’ll have to pay a bit of money up front, but for 100’s of local coupons valid all year long, it’s totally worth it.
Get creative with your money saving techniques and download some coupons before buying your meal. It’ll lessen the burden of eating out substantially.
Get a great deal on a gift card
What if you could get a $50 gift card to your favorite restaurant for only $40? Sounds like a no brainer, right? Moola does just that, giving you the opportunity to purchase gift cards to some of your favorite restaurants at a lower price. That’s right, you can get more for less.
With gift cards to places like Original Joe’s, Milestones, and The Loose Moose, we guarantee that there’s something that everyone can enjoy. Saving money while eating out? It’s the best of both worlds.
It pays to be loyal
Loyalty programs are a fantastic way to benefit from frequent spending. They can vary from punch cards to newsletters to email lists and are usually completely free. They’ll often offer special rewards for frequenting the restaurant and signing up for their email list.
Paddy Flaherty’s has a loyalty program that’s worth signing up for:
- Free appetizer: Get a free appetizer just for filling out their form online. No strings attached.
- Free dessert on your birthday: Appetizers aren’t all you’ll get,. You get a free dessert on your birthday. Singing “happy birthday” in front of the entire restaurant may or may not be included.
- Exclusive offers and deals: Being a part of their loyalty program gives you exclusive access to deals and offers that can save you even more money.
Consider connecting with your favorite restaurants so you can benefit big time from spending money while you’re eating out.
Restaurants on a budget
Ready to save yourself some money? Check out some more of our favorite budget friendly restaurants below for special offers and unique deals.
This lively Irish pub offers specials Sunday-Wednesday to satisfy all of your comfort food needs:
- Sunday: Braised Beef Wrap for $14.95
- Monday: Shepherd’s Pie for $12.99
- Tuesday: Fish tacos for $3.99
- Wednesday: Fish & Chips for $11.75
Be sure to sign up for their loyalty program as well for access to even more delicious deals.
Known for their Family and Party paks, this Canadian staple helps you feed a family of four without breaking the bank. One deluxe family pak gives you an entire Rotisserie Chicken, 4 individual sides, 4 dinner rolls, 12 oz dipping sauce, spring rolls, perogies, and 10 mini cinnamon sugar donuts all at an affordable price. We promise you won’t go home hungry.
The Pickle Barrel
The Pickle Barrel offers fresh, seasonal, and local eats at a very reasonable price. Join them Monday to Friday from 3-6 pm for a two-course meal for just $11.99. With entrée offerings like fettucine pomodoro, classic angus meatloaf, and BBQ chicken breast, there’s a dinner option to satisfy any one of your cravings.
East Side Mario’s
East Side Mario’s offers more than just cheap kid’s meals and never-ending bowls of pasta. This Italian joint also offers exclusive online deals for those who may just want to eat in tonight. Here are just a few of our favorites:
- Italian Dinner for Two: Stay in for date night and order this dinner for two featuring 2 personalized pastas, 2 soups or salads, 2 garlic loaves, and 2 Pepsi products all for $30.
- Family Pasta Deal: If you’re feeding a family, then this is the deal for you. 2 family sized pastas, 1 family sized salad, and 2 garlic loaves for under $40.
Check out their website for even more dining deals to satisfy the whole family. We promise you’ll find something you like.
This fast-casual restaurant is perfect for when you’re looking for something quick and easy. Harvey’s offers everyday affordable prices and a collection of online coupons to save you even more money. Try their 2 can dine for 12.29 deal featuring 2 burgers, 2 sides, and 2 drinks at one incredible price.
With brand new vegetarian friendly options available, there’s sure to be something for everyone here.
You’ll never go hungry again
Enjoy eating out without the financial stress. Take advantage of special deals and coupons that make restaurants more accessible and more affordable any day of the week.
To save even more money, download Moola and start buying gift cards to your favorite restaurants at a great price. Food tastes better when you’re saving money.