So, how can we save money on eating out?
1) Cut coupons! I actually do go through my junk mail just to find coupons for local eateries. I also cut coupons out of our paper on Sunday. In my coupon book that I use for groceries, I have a section titled "Restaurants" where I put coupons for eating out. When we decide we want to go out to eat, we make our decisions (many times) based on what coupons we have available. For instance, Acapulco Restaurant has a regular coupon in the Sunday paper for "Buy one meal, get one for $3.99". We eat out a lot at this restaurant because we love mexican food and it is cheap! SoupPlantation also has regular coupons in the paper.
2) Get an Entertainment Book. At the beginning of each year, these sell for about $20. The book is packed full of "Buy one, get one free" coupons at various restaurants. Saving money on one meal out can pay for the whole book!
3) Find out what nights or times restaurants offer food cheaper. For instance, The Cheesecake Factory offers all of their appetizers for at least 50% off Monday-Friday from 4-6pm. Some Mexican restaurants have "Taco Tuesdays" where you can buy tacos for $1 and appetizers for 1/2 price. You will probably have to sit in the bar area, but most restaurants have booths available in these sections, and the earlier you go, the better.
4) Split a meal if the selections are big (we do this often at Lucille's BBQ). Instead of ordering a kid's meal (if your kids are young enough), share your food with them and order an extra side salad instead.
5) Skip the drinks. These alone can save you over $5 each meal.
We eat out about 3x a month at restaurants, and each time is special because we don't do it all the time. You CAN have a great, full meal and save money at the same time!