8 Easy Ways to Save Money at Restaurants

Note from Cath: Today we have a fantastic guest post from Leila, the creator of the awesome website Child Friendly Dining 8 easy ways to save money at restaurants– it is the place to find all the best cafes, restaurants, play centres and Bar & Bistros that cater for kids.

I know some of you might be thinking it doesn’t make sense to spend your money on eating out. It is cheaper to cook at home. This is true, but a splurge every now and again I think is perfectly OK.

For us, we often head out on a weekend for lunch with our girls. Even the Barefoot Investor talks about being able to go out for date nights.

So for that reason Leila has joined us today to fill us in on how to get the best bang for our buck.

Families love to eat out, but we can’t always afford that luxury. According to recent studies, the average Australian household eats out a whopping two or three times each week!

Dining at restaurants and lunching at cafes is often the first thing to get cut from the family budget when things get tight.

Follow these eight simple steps to control your dining and save money to treat your loved ones to a relaxed family meal – free of any cooking, dishes and mess!

Know Your Limits

Putting a cap on your eating habits can help you not to splurge. Before you go out, set yourself a budget, be mindful about the prices on the menu and don’t over order on food and drinks.

For example, you may choose a cheaper casual Mexican diner over a fancy restaurant. Sometimes a bar menu is cheaper than the restaurant menu, if your dining at a hotel, family friendly pub or tavern.

Note from Cath: This is a great one. Taking cash so when it is gone its gone is a great way to manage your spending as well. 

Don’t Order a 3 Course Meal With All The Trimmings

Instead of each chowing down on an entrée, share a starter to curb your appetite before the main dish arrives.

Sides are a restaurant’s equivalent to super sizing your meal, you probably don’t need them.

Skip dessert. If you really need to satisfy your sugar craving, grab an ice-cream from the freezer at home.

Avoid over-eating, it keeps money in your purse and is also better for your family’s waistline.

Dine on “Kids Eat Free” Nights

Many family friendly eateries offer a “kids eat free” night. This can save you a lot of money, particularly if you have a big family.

Taking advantage of this deal can save $10 to $15 per child and the kid’s meals often include desserts and drinks.

Note from Cath: We always try to do this. And we find with our girls being so young we can often get away with sharing just one meal between them.

Choose a BYO Restaurant

Most restaurants make their money on the alcoholic drinks bill, and this is where you can really save. Choose a restaurant that offers BYO drinks (Bring Your Own Wine and/or beer) or opt for a non-alcoholic mocktail or soft drink.

Also, good restaurants and cafes will supply your table with free tap water, so no need to splash out on drinks! It’s a healthy choice too.

Suss Out The Specials

There are many ways in which cafes and restaurants offer special prices and deals on their customers’ meals. Become a member of their mailing list or sign up for their loyalty card. This may also entitle you to something free on your birthday.

Follow social media accounts (Facebook, Instagram and Twitter), to keep up to date with your favourite restaurant’s special offers.How to save money when dining out

Join discount websites Scoopon, Groupon and Living Social who offer heavily discounted meals at restaurants.

The Entertainment Book provides many “buy one, get one free” discounts and vouchers. Some eateries offer “pasta nights”, “steak nights”, “parmi nights” etc early on in the week.

Be aware that sometimes the “specials” may not be the cheapest meals available on the menu.

Take a Doggy Bag Home

Once you’ve finished feasting on your meal, if you have leftovers – that’s a bonus! Ask your waiter if you can take this home with you in a container and it will save you buying lunch tomorrow.

Try Take-Away Instead

If you have a hankering for your favourite Thai or the kids would love a pizza treat – you don’t even need to leave the comfort of your own home to enjoy restaurant quality food. Take away is often cheaper than dine-in options.

Cath note:I always check if a pizza place charges a delivery fee or if the price is more for delivery. If it is I will go pick it up. Some places like Thai or Chinese usually do free delivery over a certain limit.

Forget Dinner – Enjoy a Family Brunch

They say brunch is the new dinner… Brunch menus are very reasonably priced, most meals are between $15 and $22 dollars. Even lunch could be a cheaper option.

If you still want to eat out for dinner, some restaurants offer early diners specials for those eating before 6pm.

Eating out is a treat to be enjoyed by everyone and you don’t have to break the budget!

Leila is the owner and founder of Child Friendly Dining. She is a mum of a cheeky four year old boy, who every now and then, steals the limelight in her Instagram feed. Child Friendly Dining is the go to place to find a family friendly restaurant, cafe, play centre or bar and bistro.

Do you have any other tips for how you save money when dining out?

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  1. Wow. So many great tips. I also think taking the left overs home is great to avoid food wastage great win 🙂 Thank you for this article.

  2. We used to eat out/get takeaway at least three times a week. Thankfully I woke up to myself and it’s now a treat. I enjoy dining early for a cheaper price. I’ve also found that now I’m older, I can no longer eat a three course meal. These days I seem to struggle with the just main. It does make me sad to say no to dessert, though.

    I find that if we want to eat in a restaurant, the Entertainment Book provides really good value. We only have to eat out 3 times a year to have made our money back at least. Also, we get to try new places!

    1. We tend to go out early with the kids. So used to eating at 5pm these days rather than needing to do 2 meal times.

      The Entertainment Book is great. I have actually been pretty lucky and got given a free copy for quite a few years as the company I worked for advertised in there and I was the marketing person who arranged the ad. So it was an even better saving for me!

  3. Great advice! I’d also add that if you’re able to, going out midweek, rather than the weekends can give more options, and many places are more likely to have mid-week specials, or lunch deals, or things like pasta or parma nights.

    1. Great point. Lots of the family friendly places around our area have 2 for 1 meal deals mid-week.

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