Eat & Drink

How to Dine out for Less

Updated: Jun 25, 2011 16:44
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I like to cook, but I find that it’s occasionally worth it to pay someone else to do it for me. I’m talking about dining out, people, living in style. But those costs can add up, and restaurants trick you into spending more (hey, they’re businesses). Here are some ways to eat your dinner in a fancy restaurant when you’re on a budget:

Snack Beforehand

This is good on several levels. It’ll keep you from breaking down from starvation and ordering an appetizer, whether you’re waiting for a table in a lounge or bar area or you’re sitting at the table and fall for the first fried hors d’oeurvres you spot after opening the menu.

Ask about Smaller Orders

The smaller the plate, the less you (should) pay. Some restaurants offer half, small, or “lunch” orders of entrees at 2/3 or so of the price. Failing that, perhaps a less expensive appetizer, salad, or assortment of sides appeals to you. Don’t stress out over finding the best deal on the menu, though; restaurants overcharge for everything—you’re paying extra for someone else to cook it, make it pretty, and bring it to your (hopefully clean) table.

Don’t Get the Special

The special is usually what restaurants are trying to get rid of before it expires. So not only is it not the freshest, tastiest food available; it’s also got that “special” title so you’ll be charged more for it. Sometimes it’s merely a marked-up version of a dish that’s already on the menu.

Skip the Salt

This is a tough one, but try to avoid a salt-packed meal. You’ll be so thirsty because of it that you’ll order more drinks than you might otherwise. Not a problem if you only drink tap water, but if you prefer pop or booze, refills probably cost extra.

Have a Drink or Dessert

But not both. Heck, not either if you don’t feel like you have to! Wait till you get home to make a batch of cookies or uncork that bottle of wine. Livin’ large on the cheap, y’all!

Box It Up

This tip is often indicated for weight loss, but it works for cash gain, too. Ask to wrap half of your meal to go. Then the $15 you spent on dinner averages out to $7.50 each for dinner and lunch the next day. Choose a restaurant you know you like, too, so you don’t force yourself to eat something you don’t like. Dining out’s not such a budgetary sin now, huh?

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Sarah M. Smart - Red-Light Special

Sarah M. Smart - Red-Light Special

Sarah M. Smart was summoned into being on a distant ice cream planet
through an unholy union of Two-Buck Chuck and unicorns. They sent her to Indianapolis and then the University of Missouri's School of Journalism
to spread peace and big hair. Perpetually in mourning for the comma, she
has worked for a variety of print media, including Indianapolis
Monthly
, Global Journalist, and Vox. Since moving
to San Francisco for the booming dumpster-diving scene, she has been an
online operative for such fine folks as Horoscope.com , Neo-Factory, and
Academy of Art University. After a day of cat-feeding, hat-making,
dog-walking, vegan baking, and daydreaming about marrying rich, all she
wants is a margarita as big as her face.