5 Practical Tips to Reduce Your Restaurant Spending


Whenever we found ourselves in leaner financial times, one of the easiest ways to reduce our spending was to avoid eating out. Ordering take-out may be the easy solution to a full day that leaves me little time to cook, but food that you have to pay someone else to cook certainly eats your budget unnecessarily.

Whether it’s the double bacon cheeseburger at your local fast food place or a perfect medium rare ribeye at a 5-star steak house, you can find ways to steer clear of the most tempting restaurant specials to save yourself some bucks. Here are 5 practical tips that have helped us.

Before You Go Out, Eat

Kind of obvious, right? If your grumbling stomach is not a distraction as you run some errands, then you will be able to drive right past the drive-through line without even a second glance. Your wallet and your body will thank you for it.

Brown Bag It

If the time that you go out happens to be in between meals, you can bring a bagged lunch to eat later. When I go out with the kids, I try to think ahead and see if our outing will run into the next meal time. If so, I pack a few sandwiches, bring some water, and we’re good to go. The times that I have failed to do this, we would certainly end up at McDonald’s or some equally not-so-healthy fast food joint.

sandwich assembly line

Bring a Few Snacks

Maybe you’re in a rush, and you just don’t have time to eat or pack a lunch before heading out the door. Some on-the-go snacks will keep those tummies quiet until you return home. If you keep your pantry or fridge well-stocked with pre-packed snacks, this will take no thought or preparation before you go out. Check out this post for some ideas on making your own snack bin.

Break Open the Cookbooks

Are your cookbooks collecting dust on the shelf? Is your Pinterest account overloaded with recipes that have yet to materialize in your kitchen? One of the best ways to avoid unnecessary restaurant runs is by taking some time for regular menu planning. Schedule some family favorites to cook during the week, and maybe try one new dish a week to keep things from getting boring. Sometimes, we get tempted to go out because we’re tired of the same dishes. You can also look up copycat recipes of some of your restaurant favorites, and you may find that your version tastes way better.

Budget It

I’m totally not opposed to eating out, especially when my husband and I can go for a date night. So, if we are able, we plan for it in our budget. You can decide what amount you can set aside for this on a monthly basis. If it’s too hard to keep track and you don’t want to go over budget, an envelope system may be helpful. Put the pre-determined amount in an envelope marked “Eating Out”. Use that money wisely. Once that money is gone, you better have a plan B.

What else have you done to reduce restaurant spending?


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18 thoughts on “5 Practical Tips to Reduce Your Restaurant Spending

  1. Great tips! I bring lunch too as often as I can when we go out. Saves money and no waiting. When the kids go hungry, we find a spot and presto! Kids are eating. No tantrums. But I really need to work on meal planning. That’s going to be my challenge for next month!

    1. Meal planning was challenging for me when the kids were younger because they were so picky and their tastes were constantly changing. It’s gotten easier now, and I know more what kind of foods the whole family likes. Hope your meal planning goes well!

  2. I enjoyed your tips! I have trouble planning, because when my husband is actually off work things are completely insane and I only occasionally know what is coming up. That accounts for most of our eating out. Something I do just in case we do have to eat out is to carry with me all the time any restaurant coupons I have. We’ve rarely planned to eat out in the first place, so keeping the coupons with me this way at least it saves for us when we do, often by as much as 50%.

    1. I’m glad you mentioned that! That’s a helpful money saving tip! I usually keep various restaurant coupons in the glove box … for those “emergency” moments.

  3. I love this post!! I agree completely with all these tips and regularly do them! 😀 We eat out one planned time a week. I would like to actually see that change to once every other week….but having someone else cook and do the dishes is just SO NICE!!! 😛

    1. Yup, I agree. It’s nice to get a break from the kitchen now and then. We do try to work it in our budget when we can.

  4. Such good tips! When things are tight and we’re trying to get a little more excited about eating in, I try to find copycat recipes for dishes that we love at our favorite restaurants. There are tons online and it helps me get a little more excited about cooking if I’ve been stuck in a rut. This week I’m actually making come copycat Chipotle recipes. Should be fun!

  5. These are excellent tips! I find that we end up getting food on the go most often on the weekends when we haven’t planned appropriately. We leave (hungry) as you said and then we’re gone during lunch time. It’s such a waste of money. We actually just sat down recently to make a plan for our weeks. We now have a type of meal designated to each day of the week which is really helpful! The snacks are an issue though. I’m going to check out the snack post!

    1. Weekends are tough for me too because plans are sometimes up in the air. I sometimes don’t want to make the effort to cook a meal when I’m not sure we’re even going to be home. Make-ahead freezer meals might help.

  6. I like this. We use a budget and have recently gone back to the old envelope system for our ‘Fun Money’ which includes eating out. That is one way to really see the results of restaurant spending! PInning!

    1. You don’t realize sometimes how much you spend eating out, especially if it’s just little things here and there … but it really adds up. The envelope system is a big help. Thanks so much for stopping by and for the pin.

  7. HI. I love this post. I need to be better about always relying on eating out. I do love it, though. My husband and I really enjoy dining out together. In an effort to be mindful about money, we will order one drink and no apps/no dessert. It’s not quite as fun…but we end up having as much fun and not spending as much.

    1. We do the same thing too … share a drink or share a meal if we know the restaurant serves larger portions. We also like being able to eat out once in a while for a date night, so we try to keep it reasonable so we don’t go over budget. Thanks so much for coming by!

  8. These are great tips! We like to go out to eat every now and then and we have found a few ways to cut the cost. We always order water and if we get a dessert we share. Often times the appetizers are a meal in themselves and can serve as the meal. We like to get one appetizer and one meal and share them..

    1. We’ve done similar things when we go out to eat. When we’re with the kids, we usually have them share a plate because they never finish their own. Restaurant portions can be so large sometimes. Thanks so much for stopping by!

  9. I ALWAYS make sure to sign up for specials through my favorite restaurants this way when we get to eat out we can save a few bucks or get a free appetizer! I also like to take advantage of kids eat free specials! Great ideas to help us all avoid the last minute fast food purchases!

    1. Yes, when we do have chance to eat out, my stash of coupons will usually determine where we end up. Thanks for coming by!

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