10 TIPS FOR EATING OUT ON A BUDGET
1. Plan what you are going to order ahead of time.
Perusing a menu before you arrive, can help you rationally decide what you want and give you an understanding of your budget for the meal. I find that planning out my meal ahead of time helps me not order out of my irrational hunger brain, but rather make logical decisions. Generally I end up happier with my order too!
2. Split your meal.
If you’re out to eat with someone you know might want to split a meal, go for it! It reduces the cost in half, and you always have the freedom to order more if you’re still hungry. I just suggest giving yourself 10 minutes after eating to digest before deciding to order more food. I often find that my stomach is satisfied before my mind catches up.
3. Don’t let your eyes get bigger than your stomach.
It’s so easy to get caught up in your “hunger brain” and order impulsively when you get to a restaurant. I so often see a dish pass that looks good and end up adding it to my order, regretting it later. That’s why I advise planning out what you order ahead of time. It can help control the impulses of your “hunger brain.”
4. Drink cheaply.
Water is free, but if you want to drink something other than water, especially alcoholic drinks, stick to cheaper options. Split a bottle of wine or drink beer, and save your fancy cocktails for very special occasions. Cocktails add up very quickly and can skyrocket your bill. So limit yourself to one to two drinks or just stick to water!
5. Be upfront and honest about your budget.
This one can be a tough act of vulnerability in our culture, but I have found that being upfront with the people I’m eating out with about my budget limitations can be helpful in navigating the ordering/bill paying process. This can be as simple as saying, “I’m on a tight budget right now, so can’t participate in any group orders. I just need to keep to be mindful about what I’m spending.” I guarantee people will be kind and open and receptive to that. Almost everyone has been there at some point, and letting people know upfront is helpful for everyone. Be brave!
6. Be selective.
Choose special occasions or special restaurants to do your eating out at. All too often there is a fridge full of food and a freezer full of leftovers at home when going out to eat. Being selective about where and when you spend your money will help you feel good about the money you do spend, as well as help make the most of your grocery budget.
7. Host a dinner party.
I know this isn’t exactly an “eating out” tip, but it can be a really fun way to have a similar experience and save money. Have all of your guests pay $5-$10 to cover groceries and make an evening of it! Even better, ask everyone to bring a certain kind of dish and have a potluck of sorts. That way you don’t have to do all of the cooking and everyone saves money.
8. Order appetizers as your main course.
Appetizers are generally much cheaper than main courses. So consider ordering one to two appetizers as your main course, and save some money while getting to try more of the menu! I’d bet you’d feel as full this way as you do ordering a main course.
9. Go meatless.
Vegetarian entrees are much cheaper than the carnivorous counterparts. Save your meat entrees for at home, and adventure into the meatless portion of the menu. It will not only benefit your wallet, but it’s also pretty healthy for you!
10. Save desserts for at home.
If you have a sweet tooth like me then the dessert section of a menu can be hard to pass up. By keeping a chocolate bar or candy bar that I love at home, I can convince myself to pass on the extra $5-$10 at the end of my meal without giving up my sweet fix.
I have one more article coming your way (via Mint) to be healthy on a budget. So keep an eye out and be sure to check out the rest of my articles on the Mint blog! Also, don’t forget to head over to Brewing Happiness for healthy recipe inspiration in the meantime!
Haley Hunt Davis is the voice behind Brewing Happiness, a food blog dedicated to celebrating healthier choices. Haley makes “health-ified” versions of everyone’s favorite foods, like pizza and chicken nuggets, as well as suggestions for how to make every dish fit one’s lifestyle. For more from Haley, follow her on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter.