As a busy parent, I eat out a lot. I come up with a lot of excuses. I’m too tired to cook. I don’t have anything in the pantry. I don’t feel like (fill in the blank).
According to my Mint.com account, eating out at restaurants (dinner and weekends) is the 8th most expensive category in my budget. Eating at fast food restaurants (lunch during the week) is the 12th most expensive category in my budget. Among Mint users, American’s spend $2,343 each year ($195/month) at restaurants and $964 ($80/month) at fast food places. According to the USDA Nutrition Link Website, families eat out 4-5 times each week.
In our house, my wife and I usually eat out with co-workers on Fridays. During the week, we tend to eat out at least once in the evening. On the weekend, we typically eat out for lunch one day and for dinner at least once. That is 4-5 times. It’s good to know you are average.
Most people tell you not to eat out in order to save money. While that is good advice, sometimes it is just not practical. You are tired, your kids are cranky, and you have nothing at home that you feel like eating. Sound familiar? Here are some easy ways to save money eating out.
How to Save Money Eating Out
- Skip the 2 for $20 Deals – Restaurants are raking in the money with their 2 for $20/$25/$40 deals because they get you to spend more money than you would have normally spent according to MSN. Would you have really ordered the appetizer without the deal? The answer is usually No!
- Skip Dessert! – In our family we only have dessert on weekends…most of the time. At a restaurant though, you can quickly add $10-$12 on the check with dessert. If you really want dessert, stop by the grocery store and grab some ice-cream on the way home. In my How to Save Money – 7 Ways I Saved $73 article this saved my wife and I $4 one date night.
- Get Take Out Instead of Dining In – With dining in, you are going to typically order drinks and leave a tip. Your dining in check (with a family of 4) will be around $54. This includes 4 entrees at just under $10 each ($34), 4 drinks ($10), and a 20% tip. However, if you take your food to go, you can cut your check down to about $35 by not buying drinks and not needing a tip. That is a $19 savings.
- Take Along A Mio and Order Water – This tip was provided by one of our readers, Susan. Susan has twin girls and when she goes out to eat, she takes along a Mio Water Enhancer and orders water for her girls. I tried one of these the other night, and it was very good. Better yet, they come with no sugar and only cost a little over $5 for a 4 pack at Amazon. The icing on top of the cake is that my 5 year old daughter loves them.
I understand that eating out is a necessity for busy parents. No problem. Use the tips above to save big when you do need to eat out.
Got a tip that I missed? Share it with us in the comments.
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