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November 06, 2008


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Some buffets offer more/better items for dinner, at a higher price of course. If you want to beat the system head to the buffet around 3:30 (or about 30 minutes prior to dinner starting) pay the lunch price and hang out for a little and nibble here and there and wait for the dinner items to start coming out.

FYI nothing impresses a girl more on a first date than this move.

It's funny because when I read that you say buffets are a good money saving tip for eating out, I was really surprised. Most buffets I've been to are never a good deal because I don't eat enough to justify the cost vs. ordering from a menu, and (the most important reason for me)they are never a good "deal" for your waist line. (that being said though, $6.99 is darn cheap!) Being somewhat (okay, totally) a health and fitness fanatic, most food displayed at buffets are not healthy in any sense. Most protein sources are fried, drenched in heavy, sugary sauces, breaded or otherwise ruined for me. The same goes with any decent carb sources (save for a salad bar). I also firmly believe that eating enough (overeating essentially) during one sitting to justify 2 meals' worth of food is what most Americans do all the time and that's why we have an unbelievable obesity problem.

Okay, now that my sort of rant is over :) (just my humble opinion, not personal), my best idea to save money while eating out is to share meals with others. For instance, I might order my own salad but split an entree with a friend. This is not only good for your wallet, but your waist line as well. Most restaurant portions are (once again) way too much food for one person - but that's how us Americans like to eat. I also skip alcoholic drinks and dessert - again, both good for previously mentioned reasons. It's important enough to me personally to put good food into my body and, if it came down to a choice, I would rather pay a little more with my wallet than with my health. :)

Get to know and love your waiters, bartenders & managers. We don't go out so much any more (relatively new home owners, eek) but when we lived in NYC, we knew restaurant staff all over town at our regular haunts and were regularly comped anything from extra orders of soup at the corner thai place to appetizers at the bar at white-glove-service Jean Georges. Doesn't work in chains, but you're better off avoiding them anyway.

I've used the gift certificates. They are always running a promotion so you can usually get a $25 certificate for $2-5 each. But the restaurants that take them are limited and they usually have rules like minimum purchase or mandatory tip rate. Still for me its been an easy way to cut $20 off the cost of a dinner.

Also, Costco has been selling some gift cards for specific restaurants. They sell 2 x $50 cards for $80 so its a 20% savings. Right now they've got cards for Baja Fresh at their website.

Join any birthday club or email newsletter that your favorite restaurants might have. You can get some freebies or discounts that way.


I use to get $25 gift certificates for $5(usually it cost $10, but there are lot of dicount code available on the net).You have to spend $40 to use the $25 gift certificate.

Eating out is one of the first things I try to cut out of the budget. Being a family of seven (and one on the way) the bill adds up quickly. However, we do go out more than our fair share.

To shave a few dollars off our bill we:
- Bring milk where possible. They don't ask questions for those drinking out of a "sippy cup" or bottle. Places love to charge $100 or more for a kid's milk (8oz).
- We also order water.
- Coupons!!! From the paper, mailings, friends/neighbors, extended family, entertainment books, internet, anywhere possible. Some you can actually save up to $10!
- Ordering one adult meal can usually feed my oldest three (7, 5, and 4) while the youngest eat off of my plate (2 and 1). The kids meals are usually between $3.99 and $6.99 X 3 that could equal $21. Ordering one $9 adult dinner and splitting saves big. I bet I could get 4 to eat the meal since there is usually some left over.
- I will usually order something small ($6) since I know I will be cleaning up what the children didn't finish. This way I save a few dollars on my meal, and have room without over eating for what the children didn't eat.
- But best of all is a good home cooked dinner, which is where I need to go now!

I am Japanese and whenever I eat out with my family or other Japanese friends, we're always puzzled why everyone gets their own entree/main dish instead of sharing. Often times an entree per person is too much food, and it goes to waste anyway. We always share our food, and depending on the restaurant we would order different appetizers and only a couple entrees (depends on the number of people though). That way we can try more things and save money.
Also, beverages like soda and juice at restaurants are ALWAYS so much money...if you must, pick dessert and drink water - you'll be getting less sugar that way too :)

$1.25 for a drink at a restaurant? Things are mighty cheap there in MI. Here in the Twin Cities, most drinks soak you between $2-$3 these days. I used to splurge and get one now and again, but since they've creeped up to this range, it's always water for me.

Agree with the poster about no kids meals (and I only have 2), usually the adult entree is more than enough for me and/or wife and very easy to share with my 5 and 1 year old.

If you are the type to take your leftovers home, eat the things that don't keep well (like the french fries) at the restaurant, and take home a portion of meat, etc. Otherwise, the leftovers end up uneaten, and $$$ is wasted.

Just remember that when you are using a coupon, you should tip based on the pre-discounted amount. Servers are taxed based on their total sales, which is calculated from before the coupon. I can't tell you how many tables I lost money on because they had a coupon that took of 50% of the bill, then tipped me based on that.

For my part, if I'm going out to dinner, I'm going out to enjoy it and relax. I will happily spend that extra $2 for grilled onions on my steak or something. Though usually when we go out, it's for pho or ramen, so the entire bill is about $20.

I don't know where you live or where you choose to go out to eat, but those figures are MUCH cheaper than in my neck of the woods. It's hard to even find a $1.25 drink at a fast food place, never mind a proper sit-down restaurant. Even a place like Denny's or Boston Pizza charges $3 or so for a pop.

The $6.99 buffet also sounds very cheap. You have to remember that the food quality at buffets is typically not as good as a regular restaurant and the amount of money that you spend on a buffet can get you much better quality food elsewhere... well, maybe not your $6.99 buffet. That's pretty cheap.

My wife and I just went to dinner tonight at Texas Roadhouse, a casual dining place, and we both got stuffed for $17.26 before tip. We each had a side salad (2.29/ea) and we shared a chicken fried sirloin (9.99) that came with 2 sides, and we each had water.

When we eat this way, we double the price of the entree, and tip on that amount... It takes just as much time and attention to attend to us, even though we only ordered one entree!

Texas Roadhouse has something else we like in our restaurants... They give you something free! They have barrels of peanuts to eat while you wait to be seated and at your table, then when they seat you they give you fresh baked rolls and cinnamon butter.

The "get something free" principle is one of the reasons we eat at a lot of Mexican restaurants for free chips and salsa!

I agree with Liz, I prefer the quality of freshly prepared food. Too often food is left on the buffet for tooo long and is not great.
I also agree with Aya, especially when I go out with my girlfriends we will often get a starter to share and then depending on the size of the portions either share a main meal or another starter.
Bottled water, a soda or glass of wine each are pretty much the same price so we seldom go for the bottled water, we seldom spend more than $10 for the evening for 2 of us.

We like to do the lunch thing, instead of going for dinner. When I order water, I do it with lemon. That way it has a bit of a taste, but I don't get the soda (with the calories).

We're not big fans of the buffet -- except at an Indian place here in town, that keeps the food fresh and where nothing is fried.

Just a note...I don't think 1/2 gallon ice cream exists anymore.

Todd --

It does, but only in limited areas/brands.

In addition to drinking water instead of soda, splitting main entres (U.S. portions are huge), coupon clipping, doggy-bagging leftovers and eating appetizers as entres (sometimes just as huge), if I'm eating out with friends, I always pay with a cashback card and collect cash from everyone. As long as the cash I adds up correctly, I'm happy to be earning (at least) 1% of everyone else's meal. I also get to control the amount of tip left (no one else really cares about that part). Since I use the Chase Freedom card, it helps me reach that get-another-$50-free-when-you-reach-$200 mark quicker. Much quicker.

In college, I used to pocket free napkins, ketchup packets and breakfast jam/jelly from diners and doggy-bag my friends' meals (unless it was just gross or unsanitary to do so).

We use the Entertainment Book for a lot of sit down restaurants and also use this to discover new spots.

We use for some of our favorite restaurants as well. Check for codes (usually towards the end of the month) that take a $25 gift certficate from $10 down to $2 or $3.

The 'junk mail' often contains coupons for pizza places and fast food restaurants that are extremely valuable. We love to eat at Arby's but their regular prices are very expensive. Once per month they send coupons which cuts our bill 40-50%.

In addition, many radio and TV stations have weekly deals with local restaurants. In exchange for the advertising, restaurants provide a certain number of gift certificates for 50% off (usually pay $25 for a $50 gift certificate). These are often restaurants that don't normally offer discounts. A lot of them sell out pretty fast so you have to get in tune with the schedules, but in the Detroit area, I've got 7 or 8 pages bookmarked that I check.

I also use

Well for me if you guys are really trying to save money I suggest not to eat out like you need to. THe last time I ate out was two days before my best friend went to serve in the army. There was three of us and we ordered two appetizers one main dish and two dessert. Water only. Think about It based on facts and researchs which I forgot the sourse an average American will spend over 2k eating out a year.... If you learn how to control your cravings that money could go straight to you savings... That's it I'm out

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