Eat out for less

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by Kimberly Blaker

Delicious tacos with beef

The average markup on prepared food is 300 percent, a “hefty chunk of change most families could use for other things.” ©Adobe Stock

The average American household spends $3,008 annually on eating out, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Consumer Expenditure Survey, 2015.” Considering the average markup on prepared food is 300 percent that means families lose $2,000 a year in food costs. That’s a hefty chunk of change most families could use for other things or even just bank.

So how can families significantly reduce their eating out expense without giving up the ease and convenience of it? You might be surprised to discover it’s not an impossible feat.

Eliminate the beverages. Beverages add up to between 10 and 30 percent of the cost of dining out. So, order tap water to drink instead. Not only will you save money, but it’s also healthier for your family, especially considering the average person doesn’t drink nearly enough water.

For eating on the road, keep a supply of soda or bottled water in a cooler in your vehicle so you can avoid ordering beverages when you’re on the go.

Order carryout. By doing so, rather than dining in, your family can have their selection of beverages from home. You’ll also save on tipping, which usually tacks another 15 to 20 percent onto your bill. For eating on the road, keep a supply of soda or bottled water in a cooler in your vehicle so you can avoid ordering beverages when you’re on the go.

Eat an early dinner. Look for restaurants that offer special lunch hour pricing that extends late into the afternoon. Then take advantage of it by going out for an early dinner shortly before the lunch pricing ends for the day.

Kids eat free. Some restaurants offer ‘kids eat free’ when dining with adults. Look online or call around to find restaurants in your area that offer this deal. Be sure to find out whether there are specific days and times or any particular requirements.

Go to happy hour. Many bar and grills offer appetizer specials during happy hour. Depending on the appetizers, they can often suffice as a meal.

Use coupons. Watch for restaurant coupons in your mailbox or newspaper. Also, visit restaurant.com where you can buy restaurant certificates at the cost of 50 to 80 percent below their face value. Groupon is another option with similar restaurant deals. You might also want to order your city’s entertainment book at entertainment.com. This thick book is filled with restaurant coupons among coupons for many other forms of family entertainment.

Look for big servings. By eating at restaurants that heap on the servings, your family can order fewer plates and share with each other. Another option is for everyone to order their own dinner, but plan to take half of your meals home, so you get two for the price of one.

Cut back on how often. Finally, to really cut back and save in this area, refrain from eating out—one week or weekend a month. That can make a nice budget difference!

Kimberly Blaker writes frequently for many community oriented family papers.

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