SAVING MONEY

Eat out for Cheap: 9 Budget Dining tips to Save Money at Restaurants

Dining out is a real treat, but one I think we should all be able to enjoy every so often; there’s nothing like the luxury of eating a meal you haven’t had to plan, shop for and prepare!

Whether you enjoy dining out with friends, as part of a date night or for a special occasion such as a loved one’s birthday, there are plenty of reasons to head out and enjoy some delicious food with great company.

Meals out can be pretty pricey however, but luckily there are plenty of apps, coupons and discounts you can get your mitts on to bring your dining bill down.

Here are nine ways to reduce the cost of eating out that you might not have tried before…

9 tips to eat out for cheap and save money at restaurants

Utilise loyalty apps

It can definitely be worth signing up to your favourite restaurants loyalty apps to ensure you’re not missing out on freebies, or money off coupons, particularly those you visit often.

Some loyalty apps cover a wide range of restaurants and cafes, so you can use any points built up at multiple locations. The Fork is a restaurant app offering big discounts, and you can also earn ‘yums’, which can be exchanged for vouchers off your next meal.

Mixr is another popular loyalty app which focuses on pub grub, bars and clubs; bag free drinks, and earn credit by referring your friends to spend on your next meal.

Some of the most generous loyalty apps include pizza express, coffee apps for free coffee and hot drinks, and fast food apps such as KFC.

I signed up to The Ivy app recently as they were offering £10 credit for new customers – keep an eye out for sponsored social media posts, as restaurants launching new apps will often give customers bonuses to encourage more sign ups.

Sign up to restaurant newsletters

Signing up to restaurant newsletters is one of the easiest ways to save money, as you will get specific offers for your favourite restaurant sent straight to your inbox.

I recently got 50% off at Rosa’s Thai from a newsletter promotion, and have bagged various free starters, discounts and BOGOF offers via newsletters! It’s a sensible idea to set up a separate email account for promotional emails so that they don’t clog up your main email account. I also use this second email account to enter competitions!

Sign up to your favourite restaurant newsletters and it won’t be long until those offers start dropping into your inbox.

In the last week I’ve spotted a free katsu curry offer when spending £20 at Yo Sushi, and BOGOF curries at Shoryu, via their newsletters and social media pages. The offers are out there!

Dine out in January

At certain times of the year eating in restaurants can be cheaper, and the number one time to eat out for cheap is during the month of January! After the chaos of Christmas, many people are staying home, saving money, and indulging a little less. 

However, this is the perfect time to head out for a discounted meal, as many restaurants roll out their best offers to attract customers during slow season; expect BOGOF deals, huge discounts and some freebies too.

Check out the best January restaurant offers to see which restaurants are running the cheapest deals this year.

Tastecard

Tastecard is a restaurant discount card which offer whopping discounts for restaurants, cafes and fast food spots, and they are currently offering a 30 day free trial for new customers, giving them the opportunity to try before they buy. Amazing!

Some of the benefits of becoming a Tastecard member include:

  • 2 for 1 meals or 25% off food and drink at well known chains such as Beefeater, Krispy Kreme and Burger King, plus 1000s of independent restaurants across the UK. 
  • 25% off barista-made drinks, 7 days a week at Caffè Nero. That’s every 4th coffee for free! (You can also utilise their loyalty scheme on top of this to save even more)
  • 50% off pizza delivery at Domino’s, Papa Johns and Pizza Hut Delivery. 

As well as foodie deals, you can get discounts on activities, offers on cinema tickets and more! 

NHS/Student discounts

If you are a key worker, you need to make the most of the NHS Discounts when dining out! It’s part of your benefits package after all, so you should be looking to get a discount wherever you can.

There are so many great offers available for healthcare workers, so be sure to take your badge or Blue Light card with you. Even if you’re unsure if the restaurant offers a discount, it doesn’t hurt to ask!

The same goes for students; you’re only a student for a few years, so use your card wherever possible! The savings can really make a difference when budgets are tight.

Meerkat meals

Compare the Market customers who buy any insurance products via their website will get automatic access to one of two perks; meerkat meals, or meerkat movies. 

Meerkat Meals will give you codes to get 25% off your whole meal at a fantastic range of restaurants across the UK.

If you don’t want to miss out on the movie discounts, never fear; there are plenty of ways to pick up discounted cinema tickets, if you’re looking to plan a date night movie and meal. Why pick one when you can do both for cheap!

Eat out on a week night

Restaurants tend to be busier Friday-Sunday, and therefore the best discounts can usually be found on quieter weeknights to attract customers. Monday to Wednesday are the most popular nights for 241 deals, or even the occasional freebie.

If you’re hankering for mexican food for example, head out on a Tuesday, as Taco Tuesday offers across London are some of the cheapest. If you are a chicken wing connoisseur, read through my list of Wing Wednesday deals to try spicy wings for as little as 40p each!

Head out to restaurants when everyone else isn’t, as you’re much more likely to find the bargains.

Cashback 

Cashback apps are essential for money savers, and it’s even easier now as you can set it up to run in the background and do the hard work for you!

Download Airtime Rewards, link your cards, and spend as you normally would. A few days later, if you’ve spent money with one of Airtime’s partnering restaurants you’ll receive a notification that your cashback has been tracked. You can currently get money back via Airtime at Honest Burgers, Slim Chickens, Giraffe and more. Easy peasy.

With Quidco, you can also choose to exchange your cashback for restaurant giftcards, which is another way to treat yourself to a freebie meal! 

Check discount sites

If you haven’t decided on a restaurant, or you’re looking to try somewhere new, take a look at discount and coupon apps to see if there are any vouchers you can take advantage of.

These deals change frequently, so you’ll need to keep an eye on the apps and websites, but you can get some absolute bargains. Apps like Groupon, Wowcher and Buyagift offer new dining deals every day, so don’t sleep on them!

Even more ways to save money on dining out

  • Set menu’s can often be good value if you plan to eat multiple courses
  • Early bird offers can work out cheaper if you plan to eat outside of peak meal times (between 4-6pm, for example). Check out these valentines set menu offers I spotted in London earlier this year
  • Opt for cheap restaurants or head to street food spots which can work out cheaper than sit down meals
  • Look out for kids eat free or feed the family deals – these Easter dining deals during the school holidays are fantastic value
  • Don’t overlook supermarket cafes for fabulous value breakfasts and lunches on the go. Recent supermarket promotions have offered porridge and crumpets to customers completely free

Final thoughts: Eat out for Cheap with these 9 budget dining tips

Have any of these budget dining tips surprised you? You can aim to get a discount or saving on every meal out; it’s truly surprising how many offers and money saving hacks there are if you look for them!

A final tip is to always take your leftovers home. No one will judge you – they will not even bat an eyelid. You’ve paid for that food, and if you don’t take it home, it’s getting swiftly dropped into the bin. Always ask for a takeaway container!

Check out these free money offers for the best freebies and deals around, and follow me over on Instagram & Twitter for daily money saving tips and tricks! 

You can also sign up to my freebie club newsletter for the latest free stuff, deals and hacks… see you there!