- Set A Budget: Allocate a certain amount of money when going out. For example, if you limit yourself to spend only $15 - then you won't be tempted to order anything higher than that.
- Just Appetizers: I just did this the other day at one of my favorite French restaurants. I ordered the appetizer version of one of their main entrees. Not only was the appetizer portion enough, but any bigger would be too much food.
Cash Back From Restaurants: Maximize your dining experience by getting cash-back from your favorite local restaurants. You also have a chance to win monthly jackpots. This program from MOGL is currently available in California only, but are expanding nationwide soon.
- Split Your Meal: Save money by splitting an entree with or without an appetizer or salad with another person. The bonus is that you won't be tempted to overeat.
Snap Up Deals: Be on the lookout from daily deal sites such as LivingSocial or Groupon. Redeem restaurant deals that you know you will really take advantage of.
- Eat Your Leftovers: Often times, you or someone in your group have leftovers. It's quite wasteful to throw away perfectly good food that you already paid for. Ask for a doggie bag, make something creative with your leftovers the next day, chances are it will taste better too.
Coupons: Take advantage of restaurant coupons you get in the mail or in Sunday papers. Clip out coupons you know you will actually use.
- Order Takeout: If you are in the mood for your favorite restaurant cuisine, place your order to go. You not only save money on the service tip, but you don't have to order drinks since you already have something at home to drink with your meal.
Restaurant Vouchers: Get discount vouchers to your favorite restaurants at Restaurants.com. Most $25 gift certificates or vouchers cost only $10 or even less when they have special promotions!
- Membership Discounts: If you have a membership with AAA or AARP, you can get great discounts on restaurants such as Mimi's Cafe, El Torito, Denny's and more.
- Order Water: Instead of sodas, coffee, tea, or juice drink water – it’s free and has zero calories. Try adding lemon or a slice of cucumber in the water.
- Yelp It First: Before going to a restaurant I've never been to, I always check it out on Yelp first. I read the reviews and check out their menu for entree selection and prices. Often times, you can get a sense of if this is a restaurant you want to try.
- Skip Dessert: Although this is very tempting, often times your main meal was more than enough. You don't really need that plate of chocolate cake a-la-mode! But, if you have to have dessert, split it amongst the group you are dining with.
- Earn Rewards: Research which credit card offers the best percentage back when you use that card when paying for going out to restaurants. You can earn 5% quarterly on purchases at restaurants from certain credit card companies.
- Potlucks: A slight take on "going out to eat", host a potluck party outdoors with friends. It’s more fun, saves you money, you can be loud and you don’t have to tip.
Even though it's ultimately more frugal and cheaper to eat in vs. going out, sometimes it's a nice treat to get together with friends or just eat something that you normally won't make for yourself or your family at home. You really can have your frugal cake and eat it too! Here are 15 frugal food tips for anyone to use in order to save money when going out to eat at restaurants. Bon appetite!