Since turning my back on over-spending, I’ve cut the number of visits I’ve made to restaurants dramatically. In fact, since February, when I started this blog, I don’t think I’ve eaten out more than four times, and two of those were paid for by somebody else. My birthday meal was one I wouldn’t really like to give up and as I had to split it over two evenings this year, I ended up have two meals instead of the usual one, but that’s ok - it’s important to me to take my loved ones out for a meal once a year at least. Then there was lunch in the pub with Richard as a treat, a meal in Wales rather than just grabbing a take-away, lunch at another pub with a friend who just sprung it on me as her treat and finally dinner with Richard way back in early Spring. Considering I’d usually eat out at least once a month, that isn’t too bad. And I only paid for 3 ½ of those meals.
During those few meals I’ve realised that there are ways of cutting back still further without having to give up eating out entirely. Here’s how I’ve managed to keep the bill lower.
- I don’t have a drink with my meal. I ask for a glass or jug of tap water instead. Four out of those five times I’ve been given it with ice and lemon - only once was I served a glass of rather tepid water ‘au naturelle’.
- I skip dessert. I really don’t need anything after my meal. It’s enough to have eaten a good meal without having to prepare it or wash up after and to have enjoyed it with good company.
- I look for 2-for-1 offers. Pubs often have a certain number of menu items that can be ordered on a 2-for-1 basis and, in my experience, they’ve been no worse than the meals that aren’t on the offer. The offer will usually be displayed outside in order to bring the punters in so finding them isn’t difficult.
Other ideas that I’ve thought of and shall no doubt be putting into practise are:
- Go to ‘all-you-can-eat’ style grills and buffets. My daughter recently went to one and said she’d never eaten so much food for the money (and believe me, she can shovel it away!). Years ago, our local pizza restaurant used to have a buffet style lunch menu that was extremely good value so they’re definitely worth looking out for.
- Look for new ‘opening offers’. Newly established independent restaurants often have special offers in order to introduce themselves to the locals. Next time a restaurant opens in town, I shall be enquiring about their menu and prices.
- Look for special offers in the local rag. I recently saw an ad for “20% off any meal with this coupon” in our local newspaper. I didn’t need it at the time but I shall definitely look out for them before planning a restaurant visit.
I know some say that if you’re serious about saving money then you shouldn’t be eating out at all, but I do think we all deserve a little luxury now and then, no matter what our situation. It’s just a matter of balance. Go overboard and you’ll regret it - deny yourself everything and saving can easily become too much of a chore.
Saving for a better future is good but I don’t think we should ever forget that it’s today we’re alive.