For harried singles and families, dining out has become a lifestyle necessity. Drive-through fast food and counter service eliminate food shopping and preparation time by providing hot and tasty, if sometimes unhealthy, ready-to-eat meals for people on the go.
But for those on a tight budget, eating out can be costly. And if you are dining in, the time factor may cut into other scheduled activities. Due to high-calorie menu choices and the cost of eating prepared foods, many people are trying to reduce their excursions to fast food and family dining restaurants. Here are a few tips that can help:
You may be surprised to find out the number of meals you eat at restaurants each week. Include coffee stops and purchased snacks. Set a goal to reduce your total prepared food or meal count by a certain amount. For example, if you dine out twice a week, try to cut back to once weekly. You will soon notice significant savings in your budget if you eat at home more often.
Stick To Your Entertainment Budget
When you calculate money spent on food when tied to other activities, like bowling and video rentals, food costs can skyrocket. Look for cheaper ways to have fun and bring a packed lunch that can be fun and nutritious instead of settling for fast food, which, let’s face it, is often greasy and gross. You can also attach restaurant spending to the grocery budget. Set a specific monthly amount for eating out, whether you consider it entertainment or an auxiliary expense to leisure activities, and don’t go over the limit. You’ll appreciate newfound control over food and money, two indispensable commodities.
Exchange Dine-In For Takeout
Sit-down dining often leads to the temptation of ordering beverages, appetizers, and dessert, along with tax and tip, running up a sizable tab. Instead, make a run to the supermarket for rotisserie chicken or pizza. Eat at home with homemade salad and ice tea as you savor the hefty cost saved by skipping the restaurant.
Eat Light Occasionally
Rather than eating out, make it a veggie and dip night with a fun dessert or pack a cooler with sandwiches and lemonade for a picnic. Get frozen custard afterward for a special treat. Soup, chili, and casseroles with tasty bread are more great light meals to enjoy.
Most entrees these days are large enough for two, so share a meal by dividing food in half or ordering two different sides while sharing the main item. You can also use this method with the help of coupons that you can find online at sites like Groupon or at some restaurants’ websites. Use a coupon and split the remaining cost with a friend or family member. You can also share a huge appetizer with bread or a side and skip the large entree to cut the cost.
Eating out doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Try tips like these to continue dining out while reducing the cost of prepared food and perhaps some calories, as well.