There are many ways dining out on a budget.
The average meal cost in NYC is almost $50 per person. Considering that restaurants charge about three times the ingredients’ wholesale cost, you’re paying double what you’d pay at the supermarket. Nonetheless, it’s likely you still want to dine out, and that’s not going to stop you. At the same time, you probably want to be frugal too. Fortunately, it’s not a choice of one or the other here. Dining out on a budget is possible.
Try a Trial Night
When you see a new restaurant opening, ask when they’ll be doing a practice run. It’s possible to eat for free the night before the restaurant opens to the public. Of course, there is a limited menu and the staff will be having a practice run but the price just can’t be beaten.
Restaurant Deals and Steals
There are many ways in which you can eat at good restaurants in NYC simply by searching around a bit. Look for ways to get cash back, possibly by using a cash rewards credit card or seeking out restaurants that take part in Upromise (a way to gain money for a college savings’ plan). Another option is to look at places like Restaurant.com for discounted gift certificates or buy an entertainment book wherein you’ll find lots of 2-for-1 and 50% off deals. You could also join a restaurant club at your favorite restaurant to receive free meals on your birthday and other great discounts throughout the year too.
Eat as a Family
Dining on a budget may mean going to a family-style restaurant instead of heading off somewhere fancy. At these restaurants, you’ll be passing and sharing dishes with your family (or whoever you’re dining with). These dishes are usually pretty big so why not save yourself the cost of one dish by ordering one less meal than the number of people you’re dining with.
These are great restaurants to take your kids to as well. However, even if you’re not dining at a family restaurant, you should still consider taking your children with you. Oftentimes it will cost you less to take your kids than it will to hire a babysitter.
Go At “Off” Hours
Spare your eating out budget by eating at off-peak times. Most restaurants offer both early bird and late-night prices. You can also save money by dining out for breakfast instead of dinner.
Skip Comfort Food and Splurge
If you’re going out to eat, you might as well splurge. While you may think that it’s bad etiquette to choose the most expensive meal on the menu, it’s also going to be your best value. This is because items like lobster and steak usually have a smaller markup. Plus, you probably won’t make these dishes at home. So, you may as well enjoy them now. Foods with high markups are usually the comfort foods on the menu (e.g. pasta, hamburgers, and ice cream).
Get Dessert Elsewhere
Desserts are expensive at a restaurant. Sometimes it’s hard not to have one after a good meal though. The best way to save money is to stop at your local ice cream shop on the way home. You’ll start by saving on the tip, and the ice cream will also be a lot cheaper too.
It’s a good idea to opt for water instead of buying pop or alcohol because restaurants have a large markup on such drinks. In fact, a bottle of wine typically costs double or triple the store price, with mixed drinks being even more. If you really need an alcoholic beverage, consider a BYOB service because this will usually only cost you $10 to $15.
Split the Meal or Take Home a Doggy Bag
When dining with someone whose tastes are similar to your own, consider splitting the meal. Otherwise, you could ask if there’s a half portion available. Most restaurants are more than happy to make you a half-size meal. If you find that the restaurant won’t do this for you, make sure to take the leftovers home. Don’t forget the bread basket!
The Bottom Line
There are many answers to how to eat out on a budget. Hopefully, some of these ideas are ones that you’ll be able to use. After all, everyone enjoys eating out even when you still need to be eating on a budget.