Self-Created Culinary Discounts

The ability to take on a bit of work yourself nearly always equates to savings. When it comes to dining out, this DIY rule also applies. Refuse to be chained down to a menu and you’ll likely break the price barrier by running up your own savings. The next time you decide to dine out, consider trying one (or even a few) of the following suggestions to keep your bill low and your stomach full:

Create your own meal courtesy of side dishes. Your eating out adventure needn’t be an all or nothing proposition (or cost, for that matter.) Building your own meal using side orders can enable you to get exactly what you want to eat all at a price that will likely be cheaper.


Split the meal to get a deal. Restaurant portions can often be way too much for any one person. Consider splitting an entrée and sharing the bill. You’ll both enjoy more appropriate portions and a price that’s nice. (Dining solo? Ask to have half of the entrée immediately boxed up to go. You’ll immediately gain two meals for the price of one.)

Ask if half or split portions are available for a discounted price. Don’t want to share or tote it home? Get the same price break by asking the wait staff for a split or half portion. While not usually advertised on the menu, many restaurants will cater to this request.

Get creative and be adventurous about your restaurant options. Refuse to take a restaurant at face value. Traditional all-American food your fare of choice? Be open to trying a local ethnic restaurant. While not the obvious choice, many specialty restaurants devote a small portion of their menu to catering to diners such as yourself. And, frequently, their prices are far cheaper than what you would find in ordinary American restaurants.

Don’t forget to factor in freebies. Restaurants who offer free bread service, free beverage refills and complimentary soup and/or salad starters can help bring down the cost of your bill considerably. Factor these additional accommodations in when considering your overall savings.

Consider dining at untraditional times. In an effort to lure in potential diners during traditionally slow times, many restaurants offer discounts and promotions during specified time periods. If you’re willing to be a bit flexible in your dining plans, you can likely cash-in on a deal. Money-wise diners will also make note that lunch menus are notorious for being significantly cheaper than their dinner-time counterparts.

Dine out while staying in with a bit of DIY help. If you’d like the flavors of eating out without the excessive cost, couple it with the comforts of eating at home. Order sides of sauces, salad dressings and meal “extras” for takeout that make the restaurant meal especially enjoyable. If you’re willing to contribute to the meal at home by tossing your own salad, boiling your own pasta or even just plating the food yourself, you’re likely to save a pretty penny while still enjoying a great meal.

Let the chef decide what you dine on. Blue plate specials and fresh sheet fare (smaller, additional menus that regularly change to reflect restaurant specials) often offer the best of the chef’s creativity, the freshest ingredients and a great price. If you’re willing to adopt an adventurous spirit, then order the special of the day to save when you pay.

Don’t let dining solo keep you from using a “Buy-One, Get-One Free” coupon. So many restaurant coupons feature a buy one entrée, get a second one free or half price offer. Forget letting a great deal go simply because you’re dining solo. Instead, keep the bill low and the value high by ordering the second discounted or free meal and requesting to have it boxed up to go. Voila! A second restaurant meal ready to enjoy when you want it for a fraction of the price.

Photo credit: Echo_39

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Author Info

This post was written by Shannon M. Medisky. Shannon is an educator turned parent turned writer and focuses on sharing new and innovative ways to not just survive, but thrive on empty. Visit to learn more. Her newest book The Complete Idiot's Guide to Stretching Your Dollar is available in bookstores now.

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