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Cheap Eats Near Me And Ways To Save Money Eating Out

Cheap Eats Near Me And Ways To Save Money Eating Out

Do you know anyone who loves eating out? Are you one of those people? I myself used to eat out about two to three times a week before the pandemic, mostly for convenience because when we’re out and running errands, it usually lasts the whole day and of course, hunger will set in and then comes the usual “let’s go to ____ for lunch”, and sometimes (not every time) we also end up ordering something to go for a family member we left at home or just for ourselves.

Daniel James
Finance
Last updated: Oct 09, 2021 | Oct 07, 2021

Table of Contents

Do you know anyone who loves eating out? Are you one of those people? I myself used to eat out about two to three times a week before the pandemic, mostly for convenience because when we’re out and running errands, it usually lasts the whole day and of course, hunger will set in and then comes the usual “let’s go to ____ for lunch”, and sometimes (not every time) we also end up ordering something to go for a family member we left at home or just for ourselves. See the trap? But when the pandemic started last year, many of us found ourselves stuck at home, prepping and cooking our own meals. But that doesn’t mean we can’t have food delivered from our favorite restaurant or cafe, right? But that also means you spend money on food from outside instead of just making it on your own from what you already have in your pantry. 

people eating out smiling and laughing

Here we’ll discuss the ways you can find cheap eats near me and tips on how you can save money eating out or ordering food delivery online. 

Is Eating Out A Waste Of Money?

Individuals in the United States between the ages of 25 and 54 spend an average of $2833.00 a year on eating out, according to an Indiana Business Review report (this is according to 2004 data). While the figure is not shocking, it made me consider my personal finances and food choices on a daily basis.

Given the current state of the economy, many personal finance blogs and magazines are offering advice on money-saving items, deals, coupons, investing methods, and so on, but I have yet to read one on the necessity of NOT eating out frequently. Consistently dining out carries a number of risks, including:

  • It's a massive waste of money to eat out (most food and beverage items have a huge markup).
  • Eating out is unhealthy (you don't have direct control over the ingredients or the amount of fat, salt, and other ingredients used in the cooking process; note that I'm not suggesting that fat and salt are unhealthy, but rather that the person eating the food should have complete control over all ingredients).
  • Eating out frequently lowers the quality of the ingredients used/consumed (unless, of course, you're dining at a three-star Michelin restaurant every night; the fact is, most Americans who dine out aren't dining at Daniel).
  • Eating out is a waste of time (consider the steps involved: deciding where to go, figuring out how to get there, waiting for your food, tipping/paying, returning home/apartment, and so on).
  • Eating out is a waste of time (going to a restaurant other than for a special event breeds the type of behavior that is all about immediate satisfaction).
  • Eating out can deprive you of quality time with your family and/or spouse (consider the collaboration required to prepare a delicious meal – this is the type of behavior that brings families and couples closer together).
  • If you eat out, you won't be able to incorporate leftovers into your weekly meal planning process (that also means don't buy lunch at work!).

In reaction to eating out frequently, many people say things like, "I don't know how to cook" or "cooking is difficult." However, making quality meals is NOT difficult, and after a period, you may become quite efficient at putting together nutritious and delicious meals (including food for lunch at work the next day). In addition to the subjective experience of being served on, trying new cuisines and flavors, and taking a break from cooking at home, some people argue that eating out is about more than just the food and the event itself.

Is It Cheaper To Buy Groceries Or Eat Out?

It's almost impossible to avoid it: eating out is almost always more expensive than cooking dinner at home.

While the cost of dining out varies greatly depending on the venue, most restaurants impose a 300 percent markup on the items they serve. You spend less for the meal and more for the service, convenience, and ambiance when you eat out.

The cost of commodities is marked-up to cover the costs of actually running a restaurant (think front-of-house workers, chefs and cooks, dishwashers, kitchen equipment, linens, and so on). You're paying for the time at the table, someone to make your food, and someone else to clean up after you.

A sit-down restaurant meal requires you to factor in taxes and gratuities. Also, do you have any alcoholic beverages with your meal? The price will rise even more as a result of this. A bottle of red wine may cost $10 in the supermarket, but the same bottle will cost $30-$40 in a restaurant.

The cost of wine by the glass is even higher. Dinner at home allows you to enjoy a delicious meal and a glass of wine for a fraction of the price of eating out.

According to one study, ordering take-out from a restaurant is five times more expensive than cooking at home. Think again if you thought a meal kit with materials and recipe instructions ready to cook was a decent way to save money when cooking at home. Eating out is usually more costly; a meal kit is approximately three times as pricey.

How Long Will It Take To Cook At Home?

two women lgbtq cooking in kitchen

There's no getting past the fact that cooking takes time. Some recipes can take several hours to complete. However, going out to dine or picking up takeout takes time. Sometimes nothing beats having a ready-to-eat hot meal delivered directly to your door.

Fortunately, there are a plethora of practical, quick-to-prepare meals available. If you're attempting to cook more at home, don't go overboard right away. If you normally eat out five nights a week, choose one or two nights to try to make supper at home.

Cooking, like any other talent, takes practice to master. The more you practice, the better you will get. Create a culinary arsenal that is both simple to create and inexpensive. For individuals with a busy schedule, crockpot meals and sheet pan dinners can come in handy. Make sure you have a few necessities in your pantry so you can throw together a meal in a hurry. You can seek up recipes online if you're a newbie cook. For home cooks, there appears to be an unlimited supply of resources. Choose a handful of your favorite websites and blogs, and try a couple of new recipes every month.

You'll get more comfortable in the kitchen over time, and what used to take you 30 minutes will only take you minutes. While certain procedures (like creating the starter dough for sourdough bread) take time, the payoff is a great, home-cooked supper at the end of the road.

5 Cheap Eats Near You To Eat Out On A Budget

If you want to save money but don't want to give up eating out, I have a few suggestions for you. We didn't want to fully eliminate eating out from our budget because we like it and find it handy. However, we needed to discover some cost-cutting measures in order to make it more reasonable.

Restaurants are very competitive, and we knew there were bargains to be gained. We did some research and discovered some of the finest ways to eat out on a budget.

Mcdonalds

Mcdonalds burger fries nuggets sauce

McDonald's isn't fancy dining, but it's a good alternative if you're in a hurry. Once you get past the Big Macs and supersized fries, there are plenty of nutritious options.

For a fraction of the price of other fast food businesses, the McDonald's dollar menu offers several tasty options. To save even more money, get the McDonald's app, which features a changing menu of specials on popular items. A $1 sandwich is always available, which can come in handy if you're on the road and in a hurry.

Chick-Fil-A

Chik Fil A chicken fries and drink

Chick-Fil-A is one of the most popular fast-food restaurants. We really enjoy how open they are about the calorie numbers for everything on their menu. This allows you to create a meal that meets your hunger while remaining inside your calorie budget. To save money and earn freebies, download the Chick-Fil-A app. As a thank you for registering for an account, you should receive a freebie. Join their rewards program so that every meal gets you points. The points can be used to get free food.

Chick-fil-A franchisees prefer to reward their loyal consumers as well, which is why they provide special promotions. Every one to two months, your local Chick-Fil-A may send you a note for a free treat. Everything from free french fries to a burger or chicken nuggets. Remember to include your birthdate during the signup procedure for their loyalty program to receive an additional freebie.

Chipotle 

chipotle tacos salads and burrito

While Chipotle isn't the cheapest restaurant in town, there are a few strategies that can help you get more food for less money.

You can easily get two full meals out of each Chipotle visit using these tactics, halving your expense.

First, order a burrito bowl, which you can normally get with barbacoa, but you can get it with any protein you want. Make sure to ask for a tortilla on the side, which should be provided free of charge.

Request extra rice and beans as you wait in line (free). Also, always request fajita vegetables, which are inexpensive and add taste.

Add extra lettuce, pico de gallo, various salsas, cheese, and sour cream to your burrito bowl. Your bowl will be so full that the cashier will have a hard time putting the lid on it. These meals are always ordered to go. You can separate the contents into two separate dinners when you arrive home. Half of it goes into a burrito, and the other half goes into a burrito bowl. For the price of one burrito bowl, you get two great meals. This might also be done in a restaurant. Simply eat half of what's in front of you and take the other half home.

Chuy’s

chuys make your own fajitas

Chuy's happy hour special, which runs Monday through Friday, is the key to eating out for less at Chuy's.

The hours vary by location, but the one I saw is open from 4 to 7 p.m., making it an ideal stop after work on a Friday afternoon. Chuy's has a nice nacho vehicle where you can make your own nachos, in addition to some sweet drink promotions. This includes chips, meat, cheese sauce, and other goodies.

You may eat the free nacho car on its own or pair it with something from the appetizer menu for a really substantial evening out at a fraction of the price of a full meal.

Olive Garden

olive garden pasta salad and breadsticks

Olive Garden is a terrific location to fill up on carbs for less if you like Italian food. The all-you-can-eat salad and breadsticks that accompany each meal are one of the things that set Olive Garden apart.

Order the endless salad and soup combo for a lighter but satisfying meal. For each refill, you can even sample a different soup. You can also take advantage of Olive Garden's usual buy-one-take-one offer.

You order one pasta dish from a special menu and then choose one dish from another menu to take home with you.

The portions are so enormous that you can share one with your spouse or family and still feel full. Remember to include the salad and breadsticks to round out the meal.

Tips To Save Money While Dining Out

Having shared a couple of our favorite places with you, I'd like to share some of the strategies we use to save money at restaurants. Going out to a delicious dinner at your favorite restaurant is one of life's minor joys, and we are not advocating that you give up dining out entirely.

When you go out for a night on the town, though, there are a few strategies to keep your expenditures in check. Here are some suggestions for lowering your restaurant bill.

Look For Discounts And Coupons

sample of discount coupon voucher set for a restaurant

The restaurant industry has a lot of competition. Many restaurants give coupons and discounts on a regular basis in order to attract new clients.

Look through local mailers and periodicals for coupons to local restaurants. Residents in the neighboring communities may also receive coupons from several establishments.

As long as you keep an eye out for coupons, you'll soon see them all over the place. Spend some time looking through your bargain magazines and coupon packs instead of throwing them away. You might find a restaurant you've never heard of that seems interesting.

Take Advantage Of Happy Hour Specials

If you're looking for an inexpensive meal, take advantage of happy hour. Many restaurants offer happy hour promotions, which can drastically reduce the cost of dining out.

To find out if a special happy hour menu is available at your favorite restaurant, check the website of your favorite restaurant. You can also find out the hours and specials by doing a fast online search.

Become A Member Of The Loyalty Program

Customers that are loyal are rewarded with additional benefits and discounts. Join the email lists of your favorite restaurants and follow them on social media. When the restaurant offers special discounts or updates its menu, you'll be the first to know. Some restaurants offer complimentary food and other advantages to frequent guests, such as birthday discounts. If the emails are making you want to eat out more, click "unsubscribe."

Not Placing A Drink Order

The next time you want to save money at a restaurant, skip the drink. This may come as no surprise, but restaurants mark up the prices of drinks significantly. Craft beer is often priced at two to three times the price of a bottle in restaurants.

Alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages can both be expensive. Non-alcoholic beverages are sold for pennies at restaurants, and a fountain drink can be poured for less than ten cents per serving. Those very same fountain drinks cost roughly $2 each.

Order Only Appetizers

quesadilla appetizers with 3 types of dips

Ordering only appetizers at restaurants is another way to save money when dining out. Appetizers are frequently the ideal size for filling you up without leaving you feeling stuffed. Ordering a soup and salad combo is another option.

All in all, these options are less expensive than purchasing a full course of food in most cases. Often, a few appetizer alternatives are available that are a lighter version of a complete dinner. You can, for example, order sliders (an appetizer) instead of a whole burger and fries combo. Alternatively, instead of the more pricey taco platter, opt for the quesadillas appetizer.

Make Wise Menu Selections

Keep in mind that when dining at a sit-down restaurant, you'll be asked to tip your server in addition to paying your bill. Look for more economical dishes (try ones with in-season fruits and vegetables) or choose a lower serving size if it's offered to help balance the expense.

Water is normally free, but soft drinks and alcoholic beverages can quickly add up. Call ahead to inquire about corkage fees if you want a glass of wine with your meal. The cost of bringing your own bottle may still be less expensive than buying one at the venue.

Share An Entree

Evidence suggests that portions have increased significantly over the last 30 years, according to a study published in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition.

And the issue is not limited to the United States. Tufts University discovered that larger restaurant meal sizes are becoming more popular around the world in a multi-country survey.

Taking this into account, we frequently split an entree rather than ordering two different items. This is an excellent method to save money while also lowering the calorie count of restaurant meals.

The portions are so huge that when we split an entrée, we always had enough to eat and never went hungry.

It's also possible to order one entree apiece and intend to take home half of it. However, more often leftovers are frequently forgotten and discarded.

Get Cash Back

Did you know you can earn money back when you eat out? You can now add a credit card to your account on some sites, such as Groupon, in order to get cashback at certain eateries.

When you use the registered card to pay for your meal, the money will appear as a credit on your statement.

You can also get cashback on restaurant purchases with certain credit cards. Some people earned money back with several cards for eating at restaurants that have an agreement with the card companies.

Look For Children's Specials

little boy enjoying his delicious meal

Try sharing a meal or looking for a restaurant that offers a kids-eat-free deal if you're going out to dine with your children.

With the purchase of an adult meal, certain restaurants will provide a complimentary children's lunch. Depending on how many children you have, this can be a considerable money saver. Consider ordering from the children's menu for yourself if you're eating out at a fast-food establishment. You may frequently discover lower-cost bargains in smaller quantities, which will save you money and calories.

When ordering a children's meal at their favorite fast-food restaurants, some have discovered that they get just the right amount of food without feeling overly bloated or overstuffed.

Instead Of Dinner, Eat Lunch

eating burgers with fries for lunch with friends

Going out for lunch rather than dinner is another way to save money when eating out. Lunch rates are frequently lower, and many of your menu favorites are still available.

Furthermore, lunch specials are frequently available, making eating out at lunch even more affordable. Try to organize a lunch date whenever possible to take advantage of the savings. Plan to eat at several of the restaurants on your wish list for lunch rather than dinner when you are on vacation.

You'll also save money because you'll be less likely to order expensive beverages for lunch.

Conclusion

Your restaurant budget might be slashed with a variety of different strategies and tactics. The next time you dine out, try one or two of these tips to save money.

You don't have to give up eating out totally if you plan ahead of time and do some study. Simply apply the suggestions above to get more bang for your money every time you go out.

Daniel James | Daniel James is an author, keynote speaker, and entrepreneur who is a professional coach and gerontologist. Daniel holds a bachelor's degree from Georgia Tech, a master's degree from UCLA, a diploma in gerontology from the University of Boston, as well as a Professional Coaching Certification.

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