A Cheapskate’s Guide to Eating Out

By Paul Michael on 26 August 2009 (Updated 10 May 2010) 55 comments
Photo: TooBig4Pond

When I was a young lad, eating out was something of a luxury for my family. Most of our meals, at least 95%, were prepared and eaten at home. This was the model for most people my age or older. But these days, society has migrated to eating out of the home way more often. The result is that we’re spending a lot more on food than we used to. So, are there ways to chop the bill and eat out for less? You bet.

1. Share your soft drink

Most of the time, my wife and I find that one drink is adequate for both of us. But in this day and age of countless free refills, we will never run short of our soft drink anyway. It’s not much, but a couple of bucks saved every time you order a drink at a restaurant or fast food place really adds up. And that goes for the kids’ drinks, too. My kids are quite happy to share a juice box or fountain drink. Oh, and before anyone cries for the poor fast food joints or restaurant chains, it’s worth noting that the average fountain drink costs the restaurant around 20 cents and they charge you around 10 times that for the beverage. So, I’m not losing any sleep over it; they’re still making an insane profit from any drinks we order.

2. Don’t be shy — use coupons

I see people hand over coupons at the grocery store all the time, but in fast food places it happens less; and in restaurants, it’s even more rare. There seems to be a taboo about coupons in restaurants, maybe because people feel like they’re picking the pockets of the waiter who is looking them right in the face. As several commenters have pointed out, your waiter will gladly accept coupons as long as you remember to tip the waiter based on the price of the bill BEFORE the coupon was deducted. That way, you get the saving, the waiter gets the same tips, and only the restaurant chain itself is out of pocket. But as the coupon enticed you in, the loss of revenue is worth it for the extra custom. Therefore, bring on the coupons, hand them over proudly and enjoy your free grub.

3. Be wary of the advice from your waiter

When we go into a restaurant we’re unfamiliar with, we will often ask our waiter “so what do you like?” or “what do you recommend?” Unsurprisingly, our helpful waiter usually picks from the more expensive end of the menu. Rarely do we hear “go for the burger” if there’s a filet mignon for four times the price. The more expensive items mean a larger bill, which equates to a larger tip. It may well be a great meal, but it may also stretch your budget; so, load the question with something more useful, like “what do you recommend in the $8-$10 range?”

4. Order apps as main courses

Appetizers are supposed to whet your appetite for the main meal. Have you seen appetizers these day though? They’re just as big as the main meal! I ordered potato skins a few months ago and could hardly finish half of my main course. So, although they’re cheaper and labeled as appetizers, there’s no reason not to order them as a main course.

5. Split a meal

Many restaurants these days go way overboard on portions. A restaurant I go to occasionally called Claim Jumper serves half and full portions. They recommend the half portions unless you’re insanely hungry. So, as the full portion is only a few bucks more, it’s well worth asking for that and an extra plate. You can also split the rest of the food, including salads and dessert, and will no doubt be surprised at how satisfied you are with the amount of food you got to eat. Half portions these days are like whole portions from the fifties.

6. Take advantage of your birthday

Hey, it only comes around once a year (unless you’re the Queen of England) so make full use of the special offers handed out by restaurants and fast food joints. A few near me give you a free entrée on your birthday. Others do a BOGO, and some offer free drinks or desserts. And remember, that infamous fake birthday song that most places sing to the guest of honor, well, that comes with a free cake or free ice-cream. Sure, you have to endure 30 seconds of embarrassment, but for free dessert? Go for it.

7. Get the salad bar three-course meal

These days, salad bars are becoming the norm in many restaurants. They’re easy to stock, they’re self-serve and most people don’t take full advantage of them. But you really can just order the salad bar and do very well for yourself. Start with salad and bread, move on to the pasta dishes and finish with fruit, cheeses, pudding or anything else that’s on offer. At about $8-$9, it’s not a lot to pay for a healthy three-course meal.

8. And then there’s the buffet…

Whether you love Indian food, Mexican, Chinese or traditional meat ‘n’ potatoes grub, buffets are a great way to feed your whole family for around $20-$30. Now, buffets get a lot of criticism because the food is not always the best quality and the atmosphere is hardly conducive to a wonderful evening out. But this is budget dining, and if you choose good foods (vegetables, fresh fruit, salads, pastas, the grill and so on) you can have a great meal for peanuts. Usually, kids get in for free or a few bucks per head. Our local Country Buffet has been packed out every time we visited recently. In tough times, the buffets get the customers.

9. Doggie bags rule

If you’re not into the idea of splitting a meal with someone else (or you’re eating alone) then split the meal with yourself. As I’ve mentioned earlier, portion sizes are huge these days, so eat half of your meal and ask for a box for the rest. This splits the cost of your meal in two, and dinner has already been made for you for the following day.

10. Look for half-off gift certificates

My favorite site by far for this is halfoffdeals.com. You can buy gift certificates to over 41,000 restaurants for around 50% of their face value. You can search by zip code or city, and there’s even an email alert system to tell you when new deals go live. Most certificates do come with restrictions, which is why you get such a great deal. A common one is that you don’t get any cash back from your certificate, if there’s any left. But if you pay $15 for a $25, do you care about the extra $5 anyway? And remember, you can always order something to take home.

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Guest's picture
Guest

Sorry, Paul, but I beg to differ with you on No. 2. As a former server and someone who paid an entire household's expenses from doing same, I need to contradict you a little. If you use a coupon, that's perfectly okay with the server, but it is considered poor form to tip on the bill less the coupon. For example, if you go to Fridays and use one of their free dessert coupons (or heck, a BOGO entree coupon), the server is doing the same amount of work to serve you whether you're paying for the dessert or entree or not. Do NOT punish the server by reducing the tip. Usually the entree or dessert is not more than $10, typically much less. Just tip the server as though the coupon had not been applied. It's an extra dollar or two, and you're still saving money, but you're helping someone make a living on HORRIBLE wages, hours, and treatment.

Guest's picture
Guest

I agree with the frist comment. You ALWAYS tip on the price BEFORE your discounts. Saving money is fine, being cheap and leaving a bad tip is pitiful.

Guest's picture
Guest

Okay so I meant to say "first" instead of "frist"...spell check, my pal....

Paul Michael's picture

And I will amend the article accordingly. Thanks for the feedback, I appreciate it.

Guest's picture
Guest

If you are being charged per drink (not all you can drink), then sharing your drink is a fine idea. If there are refills, i think it's the same concept as an all you can eat buffet and sharing isn't okay. If you think the restaurant's profit is too high on beverages, water is always an option. I also think it's important to tip on the pre-discount amount. Waiters make $2 an hour around here and I wouldn't give them less of a tip because I got a good deal on the food.

Guest's picture

Well, there are exceptions of course like a special occasion or an emergency, but generally I like to cook at home as much as possible. I published a list of cons when it comes to eating out and while you can save and maximize on eating out I think cooking a great meal at home with high quality ingredients is the way to go.

Here's the link to my article, "7 Reasons Why You Should Never Eat Out"

Best,
Vince from Scordo.com

Guest's picture

After abandoning soft drinks about a year ago and switching to water as my main beverage, I've found that it makes food taste better. Soda dulls the taste buds, making meals taste less enjoyable than they would otherwise.

Plus, it's way cheaper.

Guest's picture
Della

This should be added to your deals for the day:

http://entertainment.travelzoo.com/entertainment/641401?utm_source=top20...

This is an insanely great deal. I purchased some gift certificates with this same deal 3 months ago and spent $11 on $150 worth of gift certificates. TOTALLY worth it.

p.s.. If you use coupons, ALWAYS tip on pre-discount food like Paul said. You're already getting a bargain; don't be a stingy pants!

~Della

Guest's picture
Sarah

I agree with #5 and #7. If a restaurant offers free refills and I'm sharing, I believe that is unethical. It may be overpriced, but that doesn't change the fact that I'm not abiding by their rules. I'm a water drinker myself, and I still often feel guilty stealing a sip of my husband's free refill soda - even though that's the same as I'd do if we were at home.

Guest's picture
eigafan

Don't forget to try the daily special. It's usually a discounted menu item used to entice new customers to the restaurant. And I second Trent, sugary soda drinks just add more calories and keep me awake at night with the carbonated gas and the caffeine.

Guest's picture
Guest

Gotta disagree with this one...the "special" is to get rid of something and not to entice new customers (that's just a perk if it happens)...too much pasta cooked last night, meat or veggies on last day of freshness...these are the selections that end up as a "special". No chef/cook will order the "special" when eating out. Price IS usually better, true, but considering it will be tossed if not sold that day...it should be even less.

Guest's picture
Guest

I often just order take out at restaurants (most restaurants offer take out). That way I don't have to put up with:

- Noisy customers (and their kids!)
- Poor wait staff that you have to tip anyway to make sure they don't spit in your food next time.
- Directly financing the restaurants labor (tips) on already overpriced food because it's always been done that way. How about paying the staff a decent wage and making the price on the menu what I owe. Poor wait staff should be fired, not punished via bad tips.
- No need to buy overpriced drinks (especially alcoholic)

Guest's picture
Zengirl

good suggestions Paul. check out 20 money saving tips when eating out for other ideas.

Guest's picture
Guest

I definitely agree with previous comments that it is dishonest/unethical to share a drink and then get refills. Just because you are sharing a glass doesn't mean you're drinking any less of the soda, and the crazy markup on drinks does not make stealing ok. I would rather pay the extra $2 and have a clear conscience.

Guest's picture
MichaelM

I agree that tipping on the pre-coupon price is polite, but Comment #1's argument wasn't really sound.

For example, if you go to Fridays and use one of their free dessert coupons (or heck, a BOGO entree coupon), the server is doing the same amount of work to serve you whether you're paying for the dessert or entree or not.

The server is doing the same amount of work if I buy the $4 burger or the $20 steak too. It's not like they're the one cooking the thing. They just carry it out and clean up when I'm done. Why would ordering the $20 steak automatically up the tip?

That raises the question of what a waiter really should get paid, but I don't have an answer to that.

Guest's picture
Will

You have never been a waiter. No, waiters don't cook anything. But they deal with smart a$$ cooks, managers, and other waiters. When a waiter has five tables with 4 people at each table, being hassled over a free dessert you won't get tipped for is just that, a hassle. And furthermore, having to deal with "sharers" (yup, that's what you're called) is another headache. When two people drink from one glass, that mean it gets filled twice as often, which means more trips to the kitchen, wondering if the ice is stocked, and fresh glasses are in the glass trays. Then you have a manager audit monthly (at least where I work you do), and he is gonna question why you have tickets with two entrees and one beverage. Then there are people who order water. Then you bring their water, and they want a bowl of lemons and 20 packs of Splenda, because they are too cheap to pay for LEMONADE. You people knoooow who you are. More often than not, I will bring them a shotglass of lemonade, and say next time you should try this. It will keep your carpal tunnel from acting up when you try to stir in too much Splenda. I know some people say that a waiter is someone who can't find a real job. Maybe that person is paying for college because he isn't eligible for government handouts, and the restaurant industry is the only place that offers hours that are flexible enough to work around class and studying.

Guest's picture

Restaurant.com has 70%-80% off their gift certificates all the time. I recently picked up a $25 gift certificate for only $2.25!!! There are stipulations but usually aren't that strict. My fiancee and I had a $50 dinner for about $10. Not too shabby.

Guest's picture

I agree with #11. Its amazing that many fine dining restaurants allow you to take orders to go.

That way you don't have to worry about the wait time, the noise, and paying for overpriced drinks and desserts which you can get much more cheaply from your own kitchen.

Also consider many restaurant mailing lists. They send you great coupons. Recently, Boston Chicken emailed me a coupon that allowed me to buy one dinner and get one dinner free, saving me $7.

Guest's picture
Jake

I love how at least half of these comments are bashing the author about something. The refills thing, give me a break! When the gas companies were reporting record profits, you guys were outraged. But restaurants continue to charge AT LEAST ten times what they pay for soda, and you guys want a clear conscience? If soda was double or even triple what they pay for it, that would be one thing. But I agree 100%, share a soda and use the refill.

Guest's picture
Guest

Completely agree with you! It's outrageous the price some restaurants charge for soda, but people are foolish enough to pay that price. A huge profit is made, but people only get outraged when like you said the oil companies are making a profit. We need oil alot more than we 'need' soda.

Guest's picture
Guest

I have to agree with both the author and Jake on this. Sharing a soda is NOT going to hurt a restaurant's bottom line, folks.

Guest's picture
Kathie

Good comments.........we always just order water for our drink. Alcohol can really add up! We try to use coupons whenever we can- the Entertainment book, the half off deals, Restaurant.com, valpacs that come in the mail, local newspaper......there are plenty of sources. You just have to make sure whatever the restriction is works for you. If you have to order a certain amount, you can order a dessert to go. We ALWAYS make sure to tip on the pre-coupon price, you shouldn't short change the server. We always bring leftovers home, it's lunch for tomorrow!

Guest's picture
prufock

You know, it just occurred to me, but I don't quite get why we're expected to tip based on a percentage of the price of the meal. Is it more difficult for a waiter to deliver a $25 steak than a $12 steak?

I think tips should be based on quality of service, not on what you order.

Does this make any sense to anyone else?

Guest's picture
prufock

I'll also second the suggestion to just order water. One drink is cheaper than two, but no drinks is cheaper than one.

As for the complaining about "ripping off" the restaurant on sharing refills, consider that we often pay more per litre of soda than we do per litre of gasoline. Bottled water is even worse.

Guest's picture
Guest

I only tip on quality of service. I actually rarely give a good tip, because good service is hard to come by. Plus, if you dont like the wages, get another job. Dont be such a whinner

Guest's picture
Guest

Poster #1 here again with a few follow-up thoughts:

@Paul - thank you.

@#14 - You're right, it's not a sound argument. However, it's the way things work. The other reason servers expect to get paid percentage (and why some people do really well in cheap restaurants) is turn-around time. For example, if you go to a quick-service restaurant where entrees are around $7, the turnaround is very high, so its okay that the servers aren't getting huge tips per table, because they turn a lot of tables. On the other hand, in a higher-end restaurant with entrees of $20+, most people expect to sit for a while and (honestly) receive more attentive service, so a server has a lot fewer tables over the course of a night. So, the percentage thing is completely stupid, but it works. I've done both (in the past) and made about the same amount of money on a per-hour basis.

@#22 - Tipping by percentage based on quality of service is an excellent idea. However, make sure you either make your expectations clear (i.e. "Please keep my cup full.") or speak with the management prior to leaving if service was disappointing. Often, servers recieve a smaller-than-normal tip and aren't sure whether it was based on service or a cheap customer. If you pull aside the manager and let him/her know about your concerns, they will have the opportunity to let the server know how to improve. Most poor service in this country is a result of poor training. Also, I re-read my original post in response to your last two sentences and I will stand by it. I do not believe I was whining, just stating the facts as I came to know them through some tough times. And incidentally, I am not a server any more - but it did land me a lucrative job in a medical practice (of all places.) But if I had to, I would go back to it in a heartbeat - because most customers are great people.

Guest's picture

I like tip #9. If you truly want to save money, don't order a drink. Restaurants usually provide water for free.

Guest's picture
Alicia

If you want to save money stay home! As a server I constantly see customers who want to save money by not tipping or sharing drinks or making their own lemonade. Ugh! Stay home. It is what I do when I have no money! I have had students who tell me they can't tip because they are broke! I tell them I am also a student and so I do not go out to eat when I can't afford it! Makes sense, huh?
I do not want to get another job because I am a student and this is the most flexible job I can get (i.e. works less during exam times and more during breaks) so I resent the people suggesting that we get another job. If all waiters quit then who would serve you?
I pride myself on providing good service and am shocked at the behavior of some people when they dine out, however I will continue to do this job because most people are really great customers! I have met many wonderful people while working in restaurants. I hope you all enjoy going out to eat but be aware that the people that serve you are also human.

Guest's picture
djchriscruz

My girlfriend and I share drinks but only at fast food places like Chipotle where you can fill your own drink.

What I do sometimes is order takeout during lunch and save it until dinner. The prices are less and the portions are healthier. Like at our favorite sushi joint its $8 for a lunch bento box which includes 2 rolls, soup, salad, and rice. All that for dinner would easily cost $20 each. Plus we dont have to pay for drinks and tip the waiter.

Guest's picture

I agree with Alicia - I waited tables all through college and if you can't afford to eat out, you should stay home. Here in the US paying a tip is part of eating out, it's how your server makes money. When I waited tables, my hourly wage was $1.50 and my taxes were determined assuming that I would get at least 15% in tips for each table.

As far as point #3 goes, I humbly disagree. Any good server when asked for a recommendation will base their recommendation on quality rather than cost - other than being the right thing to do, it makes good financial sense - satisfied customers tip more. If the $10 burger is sublime and the $20 steak is horrible, I will always recommend the burger.

Guest's picture
Phil

#4 Order apps as main courses
--Totally agree...they can make a meal

You should always tip on service and not total bill...that is the point of "tipping."

Usually ALL these rules get thrown at the window for me, because my booze bill is usually higher than the food bill...but hey, whats the point of eating out without drinking too? :)

Guest's picture
Guest

When did a tip stop being a tip and become mandatory? I will tip if I feel the server did something to deserve it. Let's look at what a server's job entails:

-take the order

-deliver the food the cooks make to me when it is ready.

-fill up my drink

-wash the tables

-take the payment

-be polite

I would rather go and tip the person who actually made the food than the wait staff. If people don't like how much they are paid by their employer, they should have negotiated a better wage when they were hired. If they don't like that I won't give them a tip, then get a job that pays enough. If I tip I tip very well, but don't expect to get a tip from me if you do the bare minimum of your job.

Guest's picture
Guest

I agree with number 27. I wouldn't have recommended food that was more expensive if it wasn't what I would eat. No one tips if they don't like your meal.

As to tipping issues, if you don't feel like following tipping rules, we servers suggest you stay home. We're not whining and we shouldn't get another job. We are payed a smaller than minimum wage amount of money, based on what society has decided are the rules of tipping. You tip hairdressers and cabbies and plenty of other people based on "rules" and food service is just a part of that. If that's not okay with you, either explain that to the server at the beginning of the meal, or get take out. You not tipping a college kid because your water wasn't filled doesn't change what is an unfair disadvantage to a subset of workers regarding payment. You shouldn't tip for bad service, but should make sure you alert a server or manager to your dissatisfaction, because different people expect different things, and a bad server may have no clue they are doing something wrong if they were improperly trained.

Paul Michael's picture

I would like to point out that my family and I always tip 18-20% of the bill. More if the service was outstanding. I would never have the patience or dedication to work those hours and deal with some seriously rude people with a smile on my face. With one or two exceptions, my servers have always been hard-working and polite. They all rely on tips as income. I don't ever want to be Mr. Pink (watch the opening of Reservoir Dogs for the tipping scene).

Guest's picture
partgypsy

#29 -
The law is that waitpersons do not have to be paid minimum wage. It is expected a large portion of their income is tips. They have to report all tips, and have to pay income tax on a minimum of 11%? of their receipts. That means that if you give the wait person less than that, not only are you stiffing them, they are paying taxes on that non-existent income.

for the people who don't agree or like tipping, it is your prerogative to not frequent restaurants that involve tipping (fast food, eat at home, do takeout). If you are really bothered by the system you can also get involved and try to change the law in your state so that waitpeople are paid minimum wage. It's kind of like someone getting hissy at the mechanic because they charge for both parts AND labor. As the mechanic would say, if you don't like it, then fix your car yourself.

Guest's picture
Jim

"The law is that waitpersons do not have to be paid minimum wage."

Not always. It depends on the state law.

Alaska, California, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, Oregon and Washington all require full minimum. Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Iowa and Ohio have lower minimums for tipped but are still in the $3-5 range.

Guest's picture
partgypsy

OK, amend to in most states service staff are not paid minimum wage.

Guest's picture
bacall

I'm a server and I am not surprised by the strong comments here! Some people seem to feel resentful "having" to tip. As someone already commented, society has invoked this system. Is it fair? Not sure that it is, since the acronym tip means "to insure prompt" service, but it's given after the fact! I do know that if restaurant owners had to pay at least federal minimum wage, than at part of that cost would be passed onto the customer, i.e., higher food prices.

My job is to wait...wait on customers to decide, get off their cell phones while I'm at their table, and all around ensure that they have an excellent dining experience. Most of my customers are very pleasant people & are a pleasure to serve. But yes, their are customers who like to make a lot of special requests and demands, and it's very frustrating when I have fulfilled their needs and they leave a poor tip (less than 15%). I still have to pay taxes on $ I didn't earn, and tip out to support staff (hostess/bussers). Unfortunately, every job has its cons, and if you're a server, you're sure to run into this situation from time to time.

Guest's picture
Guest

I am a server as well I was trained in a five star restaurant with three star prices. During our training, it was pointed out that people could make and serve their own food at home. They go out to eat for the convenience of having someone else prepare, serve, and clean up afterwards. They are paying for a pleasant, clean place in which to eat and pass the time in conversation. A servers job is to do all the convenient things that someone doesn't want to do for themselves (that should not include baby-sitting, however). So tip if they handle all that.. If they can't handle that, tell a manager. I can't stand when people say "I got bad service so I didn't leave a tip." instead, you should say "I got bad service, so I talked to a manager, moved to another servers section and had fantastic service"

Guest's picture
Elley

I don't like the tip system. I go to a hair salon that doesn't let its stylists accept tips (it pays them well). But I still tip waiters/esses 20% because I know that's how they're supposed to make their money. If they couldn't expect tips, then the restaraunt would just up the price of the meal to cover their wages (like my salon that charges $45 instead of $10 or $20 for a haircut) and I'd pay more anyways. I'd prefer that system, but it is what it is. I went to steak & shake recently and wound up with a $5 meal (they really shouldn't have people who serve for tips) and I tipped the waiter $5, because waiting on a table really can't be worth less than $5. I'm frugal, but I'm not cheap.

Guest's picture
Guest

Many servers are required to tip-out the cook(s) bus staff, and dishwashers after the shift. AS most of these jobs are minimum wage.. which is very hard to live on... if you eat out tip.

Guest's picture
Guest

As a former waitress, I tip, but not always 20%--used to be 10 then 15 and now 20%--ridiculous that one should have to give a tip that is more than what many people make in an hour for waitstaff who spend less than 15 minutes waiting on you. I often made very, very good wages with tips. The arguments of some of the waitstaff on here are not legitimate. If you work in anything other than a coffee shop, even at less than minimum wage paid by the employer, with tips you make far above minimum wage--if you are good at your job and polite. (Polite is what a lot of waitstaff lack!)

Cheapest eating out story--a local restaurant gives free meals or $15 off higher priced meals on your birthday. When eating there one time, a family came in, husband, wife and 2 children. The husband said it was his birthday and made sure he ordered a meal under $15, but as close to $15 as he could get. He then asked the waitress for the cheapest meal on the menu and got one salad bar meal for his wife and two children to share. He sat there eating a good meal, while they watched. Got his free birthday meal by paying about $5 for the rest of his family. Now, that's not frugal or even being cheap, it's just stingy and rotten!

Guest's picture

A true cheapskates guide should have had dont leave a tip, no matter how good the meal or service was.

Guest's picture
Ellen

I find that many Mediterranean places offer $3-4 sandwiches that are just as tasty as main courses. Also, Italian places that offer all-you-can-eat salad and soup meals can be very affordable. Vegetarian entrees will usually be less expensive than meat ones. And places that give you free bread or chips & salsa fill are great because then you can order a smaller dish and still be full.

Appreciate the article!

Guest's picture
Secret Squirrel

Is it right to use your "refills" on another full drink? Ok, how about buying one salad bar or one all you can eat meal. But when you're done the other person with you is "splitting" the meal so they go get a plate. Is THAT okay? Multiply that by a dinner party of more than 2, make it 4, make it every 2 people per restraunt per day. Sounds like the "stealing" music and software argument that just because it isn't a lot of money or seems insignificant, doesn't make it karma-tastically OK just because you feel like you're being ripped off. And now you're telling the thousands of people who read the site. So I hope you'll realize you might begin to lose sleep over it and drop a quarter in their "tip" jars for each "free" drink you had next time... =/

Guest's picture
Guest

You all should go to Japan....The people there are actually insulted by tips and refuse them! I spent 3 years there and it took us quite awhile to get used to not tipping. They also offered refills without any problem. However the people there are respectful enough to NOT share meals. And the prices are decent the food good and the servers are POLITE. It was a pleasure to eat there.

Guest's picture
brianking

If you want to be cheap and save money, just cook the same recipes you would buy at the restaurant and you will save a ton of money. Just follow these restaurant recipes and your tip can go to your children if they wash the dishes.

Guest's picture
LizS

This is a great guide...if you eat at chain restaurants. For me, I don't eat at places that have salad bars and the waitstaff really are the most reliable resource for what's good...because they eat the food themselves and know first hand. Instead of worrying about squeezing every penny out of your meal, check out some local places. They usually offer a better quality meal for your money and you get a better experience because you're patronizing your community.

Guest's picture
linner

you do realize that you're on the "frugal living" area of this website, right? so obviously the advice is aimed at helping you squeeze every penny out of your meal.

nothing wrong with supporting local restaurants, but it's often not do-able if you're living on a tight budget.

Guest's picture

I'm a serious foodie and never eat at fast food or commercial chain restaurants, but I like to save money. The best deal is www.restaurant.com where you can buy a $25 restaurant voucher for as little as two bucks. Also www.blackboardeats.com offers big savings on good restaurants. I often bring my own Trader Joe wine to save on the huge restaurant mark-ups. Even if the corkage fee is ten or fifteen bucks, it's still a big savings. www.chowhound.com is another good resource for good eats at low prices.

Guest's picture
RoxyLopez

I think you add Tip # 11 Go to restaurants during happy hour! A lot restaurants have discounted appetizers with their discounted drinks! I love to go to RA sushi the have the best happy hour! I go for dinner often because they have half off their sushi rolls and appetizers with affordable drinks! You can get some awesome food and still get to drink for fairly cheap!
-rlopez

Guest's picture
Guest

All I can add is to PLEASE tip the waiter or waitress properly. For example, if you have a coupon for $10 off of a $30 meal, that would obviously bring the bill to $20. However, you really should tip the waiter/waitress based on the original $30. Only a cheap jerk would reduce the tip for the wait staff based on the final total of the bill. If you can't afford to tip properly, then order take-out! (And for the record, I am NOT a waitress.)

Guest's picture
Guest

I was a waitress for 12 years. I waited tables in high school, college, and then in the summer after getting a teaching dregree.I can spot mediocre service a mile a way,and I refuse to pay for it. The comments about how the wait staff was poorly trained is silly. It does not take formal training to know how to wait tables. Smile, be pleasant, carry extra napkins and straws in apron, be prompt and attentive. Even if my server is excellent (which does not happen often unfortunately), I rarely tip 20%. I reserve 20% for fine dining establishments such as the ever rare super special trip to Ruth's Chris. Outback, Red Lobster, that caliber restaurant--15%. Mediocre service with no discernable reason (i.e. understaffed during busy time) 10%. Poor service--Less than and I will speak to manager. I do not consider myself a cheapskate and I sleep well at night. I actually had a waitress text on her cell phone while taking my order, never refilled drinks, and when our order was incorrect did a poor job of fixing it. I did not tip and spoke to her manager. She seemed oblivious, but her excuse was that she and her boyfriend (the bartender) were having a spat. I am not tipping for that! I have bad days, but I still have a job that must be done for me to get paid.

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Guest

your waiter will gladly accept coupons as long as you remember to tip the waiter based on the price of the bill BEFORE the coupon was deducted

thats what he said

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Guest

The writer did say "BEFORE" but still so many people who wrote about tip calculation seem to not have understood that. How scary.