Eating out is one of our favourite national treats, but is it possible to save money at the same time? Here are some of the best ways to stick to a budget if you’re enjoying a meal out.
Apps such as Vouchercloud and websites such as Moneysavingexpert often have great voucher codes and discounts for chain restaurants and cafes. You can download a voucher to print off or sometimes just show it at the restaurant itself. These deals are great if you like to eat out with friends or family at big-name locations, and you can find a great variety of offers – typically a percentage off your food bill or a course for free. Just keep an eye on the fine print – percentage-off deals often just apply to food rather than drinks, so check the details with the waiter first to avoid being embarrassed when the bill comes. You can find other tips around saving money on food and entertainment at the Money Advice Service, which is free, impartial and government-backed.
Don’t forget to look out for vouchers in newspapers, flyers and loyalty receipts either. When you keep your eye out, you’ll be amazed at what you can find. One example is vouchers in local newspaper weekend sections or free business papers. Sometimes local restaurants and cafes will print out special offers for customers, and these typically are found in print media rather than online.
Most restaurants will offer a cheaper menu for lunch or for midweek dining rather than Friday to Sunday. This is an easy way to enjoy the usual fine menu but for less money.
Some lucky people manage to enjoy a meal completely free. How do they do it? By signing up with market research agencies to become mystery shoppers. It’s worth doing a little research into this to find a well-known and reputable agency, but if you can get accepted on to their books, you could find yourself enjoying regular meals whilst being paid. In return, you carry out detailed research into your experiences and provide structured feedback.
Pop-up restaurants and street stalls are a relatively new phenomenon in the UK, but they are a great way of enjoying low-cost, high-quality, delicious and exotic food whilst on the go. How do these operations keep their costs so competitive? They have low overheads and benefit from low prices for catering supplies. Many of the street stalls sell an array of food fast food treats but remember to keep a balanced diet, you can help things along with balancing these out by taking daily vitamins, minerals or even daily iron supplements from places such as Blueiron.
This means that their focus is entirely on cooking delicious food – very typically restaurant quality but without the formality or price margins.
Don’t Forget to Tip
Remember that restaurant, cafe and serving staff work exceptionally hard to provide an excellent service to customers, and many earn little more than minimum wage. Tips are a vital part of the restaurant culture, and customers who remember to add on a 10-20pc tip will be greatly appreciated by those hard-working staff. There’s a useful guide on how much to tip at theguardian.com/money/2014/sep/29/how-much-should-i-tip-etiquette-tipping-service-charges.
So enjoy eating out, and get the most from your hard-earned cash.