Jan 12, 2017 09:15 AM EST

How To Save Money While Eating At Restaurants

For many people, preparing meals and eating at home is one easy way to save money. However, there are times that eating at restaurants make more sense, especially for couples with young children.

Though dining at restaurants can take a considerable chunk out of one’s weekly budget, there are ways to save money while eating out. By carefully choosing which restaurant to go to, as well as making smart food choices, anyone can save money while eating at restaurants.

Here are some tips on how to save money while dining out.

Skip the soda and bottled water

Most restaurants charge too much on soda and bottled water. For instance, a bottle of cola that costs $0.20 at the grocery store will cost about $2.00 at a restaurant. The same goes for bottled water.

To save money, opt for the restaurant’s water, which likely comes from the tap. If you’re worried about getting sick from tap water, don’t be. According to David and Tricia DiCenso, who own Lakeside Restaurant and Bar in Wayne, New Jersey (via Eat This), restaurants wouldn’t offer tap water if it wasn’t palatable or safe to drink.

Be a coupon clipper

The Sunday paper is usually filled with coupons, and chain restaurants usually offer coupons for discounts. Clip these coupons and keep them in your purse.

Fill up on free appetizers

Some restaurants give free appetizers while customers are waiting for their orders to arrive. Fill up on these appetizers and order a smaller entrée to save money.

Red Lobster usually give diners baskets of its famous Cheddar Bay Biscuits, and customers are known to snack freely on several pieces while waiting for their meal. Olive Garden is famous for its free breadsticks. The Cheesecake Factory also serves two kinds of bread while you’re waiting.

Split your meals

Instead of ordering two same dishes, you and your dining companion can split one dish and order another dish to split as well. This way, both of you get a taste of everything. The same can also work for families who dine out, as appetizers and desserts can be shared.

Take advantage of free meals

Look for restaurants that offer free meals. There are some places that offer free meals for one who’s celebrating his or her birthday, while others have a “kids eat free” policy.

For more, check out Jobs & Hire’s tips on how to jumpstart your savings in 2017.

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