Family eating in restaurant toasting with their water glasses

Great Ways to Save at Restaurants

If the high cost of restaurant meals is eating up your cash, here are some great ways to keep your tab lean!


DISCOUNTS. Many restaurants offer a reduced-price menu for seniors and children. If you or someone in your party qualifies be sure to inquire if this doesn’t show up on the regular menu. Typically these discounted menus offer smaller portions at significantly reduced prices.

SKIP THE SODAS. Skip the pricey drinks and dubious “free refills” altogether and you’ll save at least $2 a person. Lisa B. rewards herself whenever she opts for water by stuffing two bucks into her savings account.

SHARE. Splitting a meal these days is socially acceptable and economically savvy. While some restaurants charge a minimal charge for splitting, most are very accommodating. Even if you have to pay a buck or two to split, it’s still better than paying for two meals you cannot eat completely. If you’re embarrassed about sharing, don’t be. If you must explain, say you are a light eater or that you’re doing your duty to the earth by not over-consuming. Many restaurants are so accommodating they’ll split the meal in the kitchen rather than handing you an extra plate.

SPECIALS. Many restaurants have low-priced daily specials that are not on the menu. So before you get your heart set on a regular menu item, be sure to ask about any unadvertised specials.

EARLY BIRDS. Many restaurants, in an effort to build business during their quiet hours, offer half-off or some other enticingly priced meal, but only if you there before the regular dinner crowd, typically from 4:00 to 5:30 pm. Look in your local newspaper and your mail box for advertisements and information.

APPETIZERS. Before you opt for a full meal, check the appetizer menu. You’ll find generous portions minus the add-ons like salad or soup. And the price is right. Just request that your selection be served as an entrée and you’ll fit right in.

COUPONS. Call your high schools to find out who is selling local Entertainment restaurant discount books. Or go to to find one for your area.

PLAY TOURIST. It’s not unusual for restaurants to have special offers directed at tourists that you can take advantage of as well. Stop in the lobby of a local hotel and peruse the local attraction brochures. You’ll find all kinds of offers for local restaurants. Your local tourism board will have this kind of information as well.

LUNCH MENU. Many restaurants have a lunch menu that is slightly different from the one for dinner, the difference being the portion size and price. Ask the waiter if you can order from the Lunch Menu and you will save a lot.

RESTAURANT.COM. You can buy Gift Certificates for selected restaurants in all parts of the country for half of the face value at A $25 Gift Certificates is typically $12.50; one with a $10 face value is just $5. And you can purchase the quantity you desire for the restaurants offered. This is a site worth checking out!

GROUPON AND LIVING SOCIAL.  Both Groupon and Living Social offer great deals for restaurants in your area looking to bring in new customers. Take advantage and you can often find great values for 30%-60% off your meal.

Question: How many times each week on average do you eat out? 

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3 replies
  1. Nancy
    Nancy says:

    I’d be interested in hearing from people who work in the restaurant industry how they feel about these tips. I eat out several times a week and often use coupons or groupons. I gave up unhealthy soda, rarely drink alcohol, and like to just get water, but I feel that the waiters don’t like people who just order water. On a positive note, we are usually quick to order, eat and be on our way, and always leave a decent tip.

    • Me
      Me says:

      Yes, we always leave a larger than the usual tip also. On a $14 bill we will leave $3, which is about 21%.

      But ultimately the restaurant is there to serve you whatever you want to eat from their menu….not to garner the highest tips for the waitstaff.

  2. Me
    Me says:

    I’m not embarrassed at all to share a meal, although my husband is, slightly. He’s getting over it slowly. 🙂 We always order the “fiesta nachos”-type meal at Mexican restaurants and make a point of saying we only want one because we’re light eaters and can’t even eat all of one order between us! (which is totally true) I always order water, also. I quit drinking Cokes regularly years ago.

    We also order one large drink in fast food restaurants….usually get one meal, super-sized, and a separate sandwich….share the fries, share the drink (when I’m in the mood for a Coke for a treat). DD and I can eat for $8 and some change at Taco Bell and be plenty satisfied…two tacos each and a large drink, shared….hey, I just remembered I’m an official senior citizen now and need to start remembering to ask about senior drinks!!

    Restaurant meals are just not a good deal for light eaters.


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