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Saving Money While Dining Out

Q:

My family still likes to go out for dinner, any suggestions on how we can curb some of our spending but still enjoy a night out?

A:

Saving Money with Idaho Potato Skins Recent studies show that in addition to less frequency for restaurant visits, consumers are cutting back on beverages, desserts and sometimes sides when they order.  Even The Cheesecake Factory had felt the pinch and their chefs got very creative in coming up with reduced portion size lunch entrees (along with a proportional lower menu tab) so as to make visits a little more affordable.  Navigating a menu with a crowd can be somewhat intimidating if you are trying to save money.  My first tip…plan ahead and actually visit the restaurant website so everyone can decide ahead of time what to order. Discussions can happen outside of the public setting on what kids will eat or not eat as far as quantities so no food gets wasted. A second tip is to order appetizers to share and enjoy them before ordering entrees.  You’d be surprised at how someone in your party might just get filled up and then want to just finish off the meal with a bowl of soup or a salad.  Ask the waitstaff about the portion sizes and whether some appetizers are more shareable than others.  One of my favorite appetizers to order are potato skins which are very popular with young children.  The portions are easy to divide and often large enough to where you may not need a full size sandwich or entrée, which might get wasted.

When dining with a club, or group with various ages, ask for separate checks.  No need to share the costs of someone else adding up the tab with multiple drink orders, desserts, even an extra entrée.  If you are with someone, agree ahead of time to share an entrée and maybe add an additional side dish. They are probably healthier for you and the portions are more in keeping with most dietary guidelines.

At home, check out some of our recipes for Watching Waistlines and Wallets.

And, here is a fast sharable meal for four:  Chili topped fries.