I'm just a fat gal with a blog and an opinion. Well, lots of opinions.

Restaurant Reprieves: How to save some moolah and still eat out!


All joking aside (eat out! Ha-ha!), I love to eat at restaurants. Isn’t it marvelous that we can pay someone to make us dinner without feeling guilty about it? Yeah! My fave is probably going out for breakfast on the weekend. Because, much to my husband’s chagrin,  I just don’t like the smell of cooked eggs in my tiny apartment, y’all. But some recent outings have given me some small insight into how to save some cash and still go out to eat.

1.) Lunch menus rock! Seriously! Most restaurants have a lunch menu that features cheaper prices. While this often translates to smaller portions, it doesn’t always and half the time the larger portions are really 2-3 servings as it is. Sometimes you find some neat stuff you wouldn’t normally find, too! Going out to lunch was really big when I had a corporate job. Everyone just wanted to flea the office, so we’d have a few usual spots. I love when there is a good soup & salad deal, too. In fact, while I’m not a fan, Chili’s restaurants has a $5.99 unlimited soup & salad deal (and chips & salsa) that is sure to please any appetite and budget! Of course there’s the classic Olive Garden soup & salad deal (w/bread sticks), but I’m so over Olive Garden (ask me why) I laugh at their commercials as I fast forward them! So yeah, even if it’s a restaurant that’s normally a bit too pricey for ya, try ’em at lunch!

2.) Brunch isn’t just for fancy ladies anymore! I was surprised yesterday when my husband and I hit up our local TGI Friday’s after watching Michael Moore’s new film that they have a brunch menu! Score! It just so happened that I had a gift card from two years ago so I technically got the whole thing for free, but it was still a good deal on it’s own. I got the french toast for $6.99 which included a lot of french toast, choice of bacon or sausage and potatoes. The potatoes were different, but good. Two heaps of hot potato cubes with some sort of cheddar-garlic mixed in…tasty! The bacon was even good! The french toast was fried and not very thick, but you also didn’t get that gross raw egg batter taste either.

3.) Your drinks can kill your budget! The gal at Friday’s was taken aback when I asked her how much the fountain drinks were (aka soda or pop). When she said $2.69 (w/free refills of course) I ordered a glass of water. I mean, c’mon! You could but a 6 pack of soda for that price! No thanks! Some restaurants won’t offer tap water either, so be careful. I try to specify by saying “Ice Water” but they may still try to up-sell to bottled. No thanks, I actually don’t like the taste of plastic. Also, some restaurants have meals that come with a specified beverage. The Old Spaghetti Factory for example has meals that come with either iced or hot tea! Just know that if you order something else to drink by mistake, they won’t remind you of their tea deal. My fave breakfast place (a little Mom & Pop in Mountain View, CA called “Good Morning”) has free fresh squeezed orange juice with any combo meal. It’s soooo tasty, too! I mean, what beats fresh? Nothin’! Also, be careful when ordering cocktails in restaurants! Most don’t list the prices on the menu and instead entice you with colorful pictures. Don’t fall for it! Ask what the specials are and if you have a usual ask how much before ordering! Same thing with sodas, ask if they have free refills before asking for one…never assume!

4.) 3 Course Deals! This is where you get to choose form a limited offering (usually) of an appetizer, main course and dessert. I think TGI Friday’s did this awhile back (didn’t check if they still do), but I was pleasantly surprised to find such a deal at Daphne’s Greek Cafe. We got an appetizer of hummus (your choice of flavor) and pita, a main course of chicken kabob plus gyro street pita with choice of sides (I got rice and salad, yum!) and choice of baklava or pecan delight. All of that…for…drum roll…$6! Oh yeah! And filling, too! I love Daphne’s actually! I’m part of their VIP club and they are very generous with the coupons in the old email inbox! Love that!

5.) Join the club! Restaurants love loyal customers and loyal customers love being rewarded! Win-win! Go to your local/fave places and ask if they have such a club that offers coupons, points or other rewards. I think the most generous is the Soup Plantation/ Sweet Tomatoes. They always send me buy 1 get 1 free coupons! If you’ve never been it’s sort of like Fresh Choice (as in a salad, soup, etc buffet) but I prefer Sweet Tomatoes, myself. I also get them form Coco’s and Daphne’s and Hometown Buffet and all sorts of places I like to eat. Ask your local mom & pop place if they have anything like that. They may offer you a coupon on the spot or tell you about their exclusive Twitter specials (I do this with my own cafe).

6.) Gift Certificates! But don’t buy them right at the restaurant. Instead try which always seems to be having some majorly big sale going on (80% anyone? Yes, please!). It works like this: you buy say a $25 gift certificate for Mr. Happy’s House of Ham (made up, could ya tell?) but you only pay $10 for the certificate. Pay attention though, because most have purchase limits/requirements. Like it may not work on a Saturday or on cocktails or you must spend $50 to use the $25. But it’s still a fab deal! Sign up for their email list and you’ll be notified when the certificates are super cheap! Also, you print your own certificates at home, so no waiting for the mail or wasting plastic and all that jazz.

7.) Tapas or Little Plates! You can do this one anywhere, really. Basically, you go to a restaurant with some friends/relatives/whatever and everyone orders one small dish (like appetizer or side or something) and then everyone shares! It’s fun and exciting and you often end up finding out you like stuff you’d never normally order. It’s fantastic! And it’s awesome when you go to a place that specializes in actual Tapas (Spanish). We have a local joint called Cascal that is always packed, but they make great food and cocktails! Whew! So good! And they have a Cuban Sandwich that’s ridiculously good. So good my frend J rarely wants to share it! Ha! You can do this with desserts, too! My friends and my husband and I will often order one or two desserts and split them between the four or five of us. Super fun!

What tips/tricks/secrets do you have when eating out (tee hee)? Well, tell me!  =0)

posted under Bargains, DIY, Easy, inspiration

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