One of the biggest keys to living a frugal lifestyle is making your budget for food work as hard as possible. After your costs related to the place you live (whether that’s rent or mortgage), feeding yourself and your family is the next biggest part of the of your regular monthly budget. And the fact of the matter is it is always a lot cheaper to cook for yourself than eat out.
But the Frugal Lifestyle is not about just pure dollars and cents. It’s also nice to relax, hang out with friends, and enjoy a meal at a restaurant every once in a while.
It is important for your social life to catch up with friends and it is important for your relationship and mental health to have a break in routine.
But, just because it is a break from your budget doesn’t mean we throw the frugal mindset to the wind completely! Here are some tips on how I eat out on a budget.
Lunch instead of dinner. Lunch specials are cheaper dining out option than dinners, and breakfasts are usually even cheaper. If possible, I’ll meet up with my friends earlier in the day, we save some money, and it’s still just as fun!
Share. If you go to a restaurant with a significant other or friend, split a dinner and an appetizer between the two of you. At most restaurants this will be plenty of food for two people and cheaper than paying for two dinners. This is especially true if you’re the sort of person that usually has a lot of leftovers.
Eat leftovers. Most restaurant portions are so huge these days so if you are really looking to have the whole experience when eating out of ordering exactly what you want, you can still make it cheaper by taking home the leftovers and eat it as another meal. Two meals for the price of one!
Drink water. This one is simple. Water is free. Save and few bucks every time you eat out, and the savings add up quickly. If water is too bland, ask for a slice of lemon or lime for taste. Often the thing that really pushes the bill up when your eating out at a restaurant is the drinks. You calculate the cost of a meal pretty easily off the menu but when the waiter says “another drink ma’am” 2 or three times over the course of the meal it can really add up.
Wait for dessert. At most sit-down restaurants, desserts are usually not the cheapest for what you get. If it is a nice night, find somewhere that does gelato by the scoop and go for a walk. Or simply drop by the grocery store on the way home, pick up some ice cream, and make your own delicious concoction for only a fraction of the cost.