Dining Out – A Penny Pincher’s Guide

When traveling, eating out is a must. This is the best way to enjoy the local flavors. You cannot honestly expect to bring along rations at every leg of your trip, and you cannot stay away from the temptations of a good meal when with friends or family. With the trip’s budget weighing on your mind as you take the menu, how can you make sure you save as much as possible on your meals? For starters, you can follow this guide.

1. Look for group meals
The expression “cheaper by the dozen” applies to all things food, and especially when eating out in a restaurant. When checking the menu, always look for the meals that can serve 2-3 (or more) people. If unsure, you can always ask the waiters. These meals will cost significantly less than buying the same meal individually for each.

Most of the time, these meals also include drinks, entrees, or desserts (or any combination of these). If you’re in a fastfood chain, these are easy to spot since they advertise savings. Examples include bucket meals and set meals.

2. Look for coupons
Sites like MetroDeal can give you discount vouchers or certificates to restaurants and other food chains. The purchase is done through these group buying sites, and can be completed through a debit or credit card. All you have to do is print the electronic voucher afterwards, and redeem it at the establishment.

One thing to make sure when looking for discount coupons is to look at the date of eligibility, as well as the fine print associated with the promotion. If you are travelling, you would want the vouchers to still be eligible during the dates of your travel.

3. Look for specials
Weekly or seasonal specials are now a common thing in restaurants and other food establishments in the country. You can ask the staff about it, though many restaurants hand out their specials in a separate menu. These include “bundled” meals, buy-one-take-one deals, or meals whose ingredients just happen to be in season. These are cheaper than most other menu items. Note, however, that some specials do not allow you to use discount coupons or certificates on them, so it is important to confirm before placing the order.

4. Look for the best hours
There are some establishments – especially in the more upscale restaurants and buffets — that change the price of their meals depending on the time of the day. For example, many buffets price lunch lower than dinner. Check out the websites of these establishments to know whether they have varying prices, and time your meals accordingly.

Another common example of this is the “happy hour” that some food chains (especially those that serve alcoholic beverages) employ. At this time, some entrees and meals can also be priced lower than the average.

5. Look for local patrons
As they say, when in Rome, do as the Romans do. Try asking the locals where you can best eat without spending too much. They would often be happy to point you in the right direction. It is also worthwhile to do some research on the place you will be going so that you have an idea of where to eat and how much to shell out.

Eating out is a form of relaxing, and you shouldn’t spoil it by worrying about going budget. By following these tips, you should be having a hassle-free trip, complete with a fulfilling dining experience. Bon appétit!

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