Despite my efforts to trim down the “dining out” nights each week, I still find that, more times than not, eating out is inevitable. Particularly, when many of our relationships are cultivated over food; whether it is a first dinner date or brunch with the pals. For the financially savvy AU student, what are some strategies to improve cost savings while also enjoying a meal outside of the house?
- Research the menu before hand: One strategy I like to employ includes thoroughly doing your research before suggesting a dining location. For example, while you might not always get your top pick of restaurants, having a few budget-friendly eateries on your list will help create some ideas for both yourself and the individuals you might pitch to. Most restaurant menus are available online through Google Reviews or Yelp and taking a peek at these prior to sitting down and ordering might help with an informed decision. Also, having access to photos from other food reviewers helps you have a better understanding of the portion sizes so you won’t over or under order.
- Look for specials:
Almost every restaurant offers weekday specials or happy hours that can significantly reduce the final bill size.
- Have a say in the restaurant options: Whenever a social outing is necessary, I typically take a moment to research a few restaurants before pitching the top few. For example, if the three star Michelin star burger joint proposed by your friends is outside of your budget range, then offering restaurants in your comfort zone might help reduce the “financial damage” done.
- Pick items without large combos: Many restaurant combos offer upgrades with an extra side of fries or mashed potatoes, however if you’re both health and financially conscious, then perhaps selecting a main would be a better option. If the combo means you’ll have to pack up the rest, then it’s likely that you’ve over-ordered. To have a picture of their serving sizes, ask the server for more details or look at the restaurants’ Yelp reviews to find photos that can give some hints to their serving size.
- Alternatively look for large portions to share instead:
At times when I was not entirely hungry but the pre-set menus did not allow for smaller items, sharing might be an excellent option. Sometimes, the appetizer portion alone is enough to qualify for a meal.
- Pre-eat before the occasion: while this may sound silly, but pre-eating has been tested and true for many occasions when the restaurant was either too upscale for my student budget or when I was not a huge fan of the restaurant decided by the event organizer. Therefore, I would eat a smaller meal prior to heading out to the social gathering. On many fronts, pre-eating has been valuable in helping me choose smaller plates or soups rather than a mammoth meal.