Monday, September 26, 2016

Back to Basics: Restaurant Meals and Take Out

If you take a look at our last few expense reports you will see that these expenses have been hefty  especially considering how much we spent on food the last few months. It borders on ridiculous.

Restaurant meals, from this day forward, will only be for special occasions like birthdays, anniversaries, etc. Otherwise we will eat at home.

To make those restaurant meals cheaper, I will be using a number of strategies. I will always look for a coupon for a free item with dinner or lunch or a money off coupon. They come in the inserts, flyers, are advertised in our local paper, or can be found online through a number of sites like RetailMeNot 
or at Triple AAA, etc.

Many restaurants also run specials specific nights of the week. For example, wings are $.50 and pints of beer are $1.00 on a Tuesday, or dinner for two is a specific price and includes salad, entree and dessert. I always keep in mind what restaurants run these specials and when. Depending on where we eat out, some restaurants portions are huge. So Hubby and I have 1/2 of our meals boxed to eat for dinner at home the next day.

Some restaurants have early bird special deals. If you eat by a specific time, like 4PM, you get a break on the price.

Many restaurants run specials on appetizers. Hubby and I do appetizers many times when we go out. They are usually cheaper than an entree and the portions are more than plenty for a meal. 

We also ask if the restaurant gives a senior discount or has a senior menu. It is rare but once in while, we are given one.

We don't do many fast food restaurants because the food is so awful. Places like McDonald's and Taco Bell come to mind. They are also very unhealthy. We tried Taco Bell once in AZ and I am still wondering what was really in their food. McDonald's food is horrible and I can make it cheaper, healthier and tastier at home.

However, that said, we do frequent Subway and Panera Bread. Subway runs a sub of the day which is cheaper than their other subs. So that is something to keep in mind. They also allow us to get 2- 6 inch subs with the same meats for the price of a 12 inch. So Hubby and I get the same thing and just split it. Subway also has coupons in our Sunday paper once in a while. If you sign up for their reward program which gives you points, you earn free subs.

Panera Bread also has a rewards program where you can earn free items. We love their soup and sandwich deal. We rarely eat in the store. They also have great bagels. Bagels are the one bread I can't make very well. So I will still buy bagels when we need them on Tuesdays. They are $6.99 for a dozen on that day. When I get them home, I divide them up into bags of two for the freezer. We just pull a bag out to thaw when they are on the menu. I probably only get this deal once every 2-3 months.

We will still go to these two places but very infrequently. No other fast food will be eaten. We do not order take out pizza or Chinese food. We make our own most of the time. We have purchased frozen pizzas in the past but I will now get back to making my homemade.

We also purchase restaurant gift cards when they run a deal. For example, around the holidays our locally owned restaurant called The Village Eatery ran a deal where you got a $5.00 gift card for every $25. one you purchased. Applebee's also ran a similar deal. We loaded up on those gift cards. 

If we know we are going to a certain restaurant in a couple of weeks, we purchase a discounted gift card at a site like We also buy our Panera Bread and Subway gift cards discounted. If we do pay for a meal without a gift card, I always use my 2% back rewards card. I combine as many strategies I can to get the meals as cheaply as possible.

This ought to free up some of the money we have been spending on restaurant and take out food. Cooking most meals at home will help us do this.

If there is an other way to save on this category that I haven't mentioned, please share with us by leaving a comment. 


  1. I do various points programs like Mypoints, Swagbucks and a few others. Our Credit Union also has a rewards programs that I can cash in my points earned there for gift cards. I usually alternate getting gift cards for restaurants with gift cards for Walmart. I try to combine the restaurant gift cards with deals or specials and coupons when I can find them. If we are going to eat out, I want to make the most of our money! ;)

  2. Hi Debbie,

    Thanks for the tips. I did My Points years ago but it took forever to earn anything. I wonder if it has gotten better.

    Thanks for sharing.

    1. I usually just do the daily poll, a few searches and I click on the emails they send me that get my 5 points each.

  3. Hi, I know you've adjusted your diet a bit with Hubby. Could you share some of your recipes for homemade Chinese that is a little healthier version? I love your ideas, and thanks for the reminder to buy discount giftcards from websites.

    1. Yes, I use many of the recipes on this site:

      You are welcome for the reminder.