Eating out and going to restaurants with friends and family is all part of making the most out of life. But if it becomes a regular occurence, it can really start making a big dent in your bank balance. What if you could save a bit of money every time you go out to eat?
Let’s get something straight before I give you these eating on a budget ideas though. When I say cheap meals, I never mean the bottom of the barrel beans and rice kind of stuff. Don’t go back to eating like a student… unless you are one, in which case sorry, go right ahead! No what I mean is great value meals – cheap meals that are actually still pretty yummy and/or healthy. You should know by now that here at Sensible Reviewer we promote value over cheap every time, we still want you living a fun and fulfilling life. And in this case I’m promoting stuffing your face with the yummiest of cheap meals.
Making little changes to how you spend your money can make a big difference, and you don’t even need to change what or where you eat. Or stick to tap water and a side dish/starter. Just be frugal.
Look at Tripadvisor and Yelp
Seeing which restaurants are in your area and their price ranges can help you decide whether there will be something for you if you go.
They have little classifications such as a certain number of pound signs next to their name, with one pound being the least expensive and going up to five.
You won’t be able to see the exact price of the dishes unless they have a website or online menu, but seeing the general price grouping will let you know if the cheapest pasta dish is likely to be under a tenner or above £50…
You may also think you know where to get the cheapest pizza in the area, but there is somewhere ten minutes away which does pizzas that are just as good but for a fraction of the price. The reviews will tell you whether it is worth going the extra mile.
Use Voucher Code And Deal Websites
With sites such as Groupon, Voucher Codes and Voucher Cloud, local restaurants (in particular chains) tend to have offers. There may be a ‘Two Mains For £20’ or ‘Two Courses for £18’ offer on, or 50% off your main meal with a drink.
Sometimes you can only choose certain dishes or from reduced menus, but the likelihood there won’t be something on there you like is slim.
There are often deals if you have a group booking. So, you won’t necessarily feel like you are getting money directly off your individual meal, but if you split the bill it will all work out.
There will also be deals on afternoon teas, tasting experiences or brunch experiences, in case you’ve got a birthday coming up and need to treat a special someone, but still love saving a bit of money.
This isn’t the only place to get voucher codes. If you know where you are going, just type it in to Google followed by ‘voucher codes’ or ‘discount’. A lot of the time, something will come up. There may even be deals on which have been arranged by the restaurant themselves but they don’t like to shout about in-house.
Take Advantage of Chain Restaurants
Here is where the deals are most likely to be. Which deals and prices are available to you may depend on where you are; London and other inner-city prices seem to be a bit higher more often than not.
However, a burger at your local nationwide burger restaurant (and I’m not talking about McDonalds) will probably be cheaper than one in a local independent.
Sign Up To Email Newsletters
Restaurants, and in particular chains, can often reserve their best deals for the loyal customers. And you can’t get much more loyal that being willing to have your email inbox bombarded with emails every day.
Sign up to the newsletters of your favourite local restaurants right now, and they will frequently send you codes. Just signing up in the first place could see you get a 10% discount code straight your inbox.
Companies also love sending you deals around your birthday, so make sure you put this in if prompted and sign up before then.
Get a Tastecard
Use the free App first to see where is in the scheme near you. If there is an awful lot of choice, then listen up…
The Tastecard can get you money off thousands of restaurants nationwide. 6,100 restaurants to be precise. And with almost 2.5 million members, people are already taking advantage of the offers yet there are still a lot of people left behind.
Yes, there is a cost. It is £1 for the first 60 days, and then £79.99 for the rest of the year. Which, admittedly, is very steep. But if you know you have a lot of meals coming up in the next two months, the £1 option is definitely worth it.
There may be restrictions in place, which is a given as there are such good deals to be had. You generally get 50% off your total food bill or 2-for-1, but there may be specific limits as to how many people the discount can be applied to or what days you can use the card. But 9 times out of 10, it is going to be saving you a lot of money in the long run.
Top tip – if you have a Natwest or RBS bank account, you could be due a free Tastecard, so check your Ts&Cs.
Make The Most Of Loyalty Cards
A lot of high street stores have them, but did you know that several chain restaurants do too? They all work in a similar way, although the exact terms and benefits may vary.
Generally, you buy one meal, get a certain number of points and then these all add up to get you either a free meal or money off once you hit a certain point.
So you won’t necessarily save any money when you go to the restaurant tomorrow, but at least that money is being put towards a freebie.
Use Your Student Discount
Obviously this will only apply to a certain section of the readership, but if you have a student card keep it with you at all times. Even if you’re not sure whether they do a discount, ask them before you pay. Places like Bella Italia have student menus which you can see if you have a valid card, too.
With UNiDAYS, you can get a free 3 month Tastecard if you connect your accounts. No more excuses that you can’t afford that birthday meal at the end of the month.
Are the days of you being a student long gone? Not so fast. There is a way around it all, so you can take advantage of all of the offers. Follow this guide by Save The Student.
Consider Your Timing
A lot of restaurants now have early bird offers, such as cheaper meals if you go before 5.30pm. Some restaurants may call this time ‘Pre-Theatre’, especially if you are in London.
Even if there aren’t any discounts on food, there could be 2-for-1 cocktail offers or free starters with every main.
Choice will be limited in terms of the menu, but if you’re not fussy then it is a great option.