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8 Genius Ways to Save at Restaurants So You Can Eat Out for Less + Even Score Freebies

Plus how to save on delivery and snag all sorts of bonus deals

It’s not your imagination: That restaurant bill has gotten steeper over the past year. In fact, prices at dining establishments increased 5.1% according to the Consumer Price Index — and that outpaces the rise in grocery store prices, which are up 1.2%. Now time for some good news! There are ways you can save money and eat out for less. We’ve gathered genius tricks that let you enjoy your favorite restaurant meals without emptying your wallet. Keep scrolling for the 8 insider moves that’ll make a big difference to your bottom line.

1. Save big with limited-time deals

There’s a growing trend among restaurants: They’re offering more limited-time deals on entrées, sides, desserts and beverages that save you anywhere from 15% to 50%! For example, Hungry Howie’s recently had a one-week promotion that gave customers 50% off any pizza ordered online for carryout. And Bojangles offered customers 2 steak biscuit sandwiches for just $5, saving diners nearly 30%.

Even though these short-term discounts give big savings to you, restaurants love them because they introduce folks to their digital apps and websites, they help promote new additions to the menu and they bring in more traffic during slow periods, such as the start of the week.

Tip: Want to stay on top of which limited-time promotions are currently available? Visit and subscribe to their free e-newsletter. You’ll be regularly updated about new restaurant offers so you don’t miss them.

2. Find restaurant meals at the supermarket

eat out for less: Latin American woman buying groceries at the supermarket and reading her shopping list on her cell phone - lifestyle concepts

When browsing the frozen food section at your local supermarket, you’ve probably noticed that you can find side dishes from popular restaurants (such as Red Robin’s steak fries and Arby’s crinkle fries) that you can just heat and eat. Well, there’s great news to report: A growing number of restaurants now also sell entrées in your supermarket’s freezer section. This way, you can enjoy a whole restaurant meal for less than it costs to dine out.

For example, TGI Friday just partnered with Walmart to sell frozen single-serve main dishes (including Whiskey-Glazed Chicken and Mashed Potatoes and Spicy Cajun Style Chicken Fettuccine Alfredo) that cost just $5.94 each, translating to a savings of about 45% compared to ordering a similar meal at a TGI Friday’s location. And you’ll find frozen meals from other restaurants (including Boston Market, PF Chang’s and Rao’s) in the freezer aisle, too.

3. Eat out for less by tapping into rewards

If it’s been awhile since you checked how many points you’ve earned in a restaurant’s loyalty program you belong to, you’re not alone. A whopping 50% to 75% of accumulated reward points go unused. But here’s why you should check your account balance now: To encourage diners to be repeat customers, many restaurants have been improving their loyalty programs to make it easier to accrue rewards. For example, Subway just revamped its loyalty program to give members more ways to earn points that can be converted to Subway Cash to pay for purchases. So, you may already have earned enough points in your account to qualify for free food.

Tip: Check the websites of favorite restaurants that haven’t had loyalty programs. More and more are starting new ones. For instance, Cracker Barrel just launched its first loyalty program where you can earn 1 “Peg” for every dollar you spend at a Cracker Barrel location, online and in their app, which you can then redeem for take-home meals, sides, appetizers or beverages. By signing up now, you’ll be on your way to earning freebies.

4. Spend less on delivery

eat out for less: Woman holding paper bag with take out food, home delivery, food order, takeaway

Love the convenience of food delivery, but tired of the pricey fees that delivery apps like DoorDash, Grubhub and Uber Eats charge that can make your bill swell by $5, $10, even $20? When you’re in a pinch and need food delivered, opt for local restaurants that offer their own delivery service for a nominal flat fee (such as $2) or for free with a minimum purchase. Many are independently owned small businesses that earn more from your order by bringing your food to you personally than by partnering with a delivery service. You can find them by searching for “free delivery” at

Also smart: Check restaurant apps and websites since they often run free delivery promotions. You can find a few of these recent complimentary delivery deals by visiting

5. Eat out for less when you order this type of meal

Believe it or not, at many restaurants you’ll save cash while still filling up when you order a kids’ meal. That’s because children’s meals often offer portions that are similar in size to adult meals but at a significantly lower cost. One example: At Culver’s, a kids’ single ButterBurger meal is almost identical to the single adult ButterBurger Value Basket (it has the same size single burger and small or medium drink, but comes with a small order of fries instead of medium). However, the kids’ meal has something extra the adult version doesn’t: It comes with a coupon for a free scoop of frozen custard that you can use right away. That translates into saving about $4 overall while also getting dessert.

Tip: To find out if your favorite restaurant’s cheaper kids’ meals are the same size as the adult version, check the calorie count on each food item on the menu (which you can find on their website) to see if they’re the same.

6. Opt for DIY dishes to save money

eat out for less: Unrecognisable friends sitting at a wooden table in a modern restaurant, enjoying a meal out together in Amble, North East England. They are all eating from the plates on the table.

One easy way to save cash while enjoying the foods you love: When you can, order the components of your meal separately, then put them together yourself. One example: At Chipotle, instead of ordering two individual burritos, order one burrito bowl, double the protein (starting at about $3.45), request extra rice and beans (which is free), add two tortillas on the side (50 cents each), then fill the tortillas yourself with half the bowl each. You’ll have two burritos instead of one while saving more than $4.

Another way to save: Order family-style meals. A growing number of restaurants (including Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen, Cracker Barrel and Panda Express) offer these family size carry-out bundles that include one or two entrées along with sides, salads and/or beverages to share among 2 to 6 people, which can save you $10, $20 or even more compared to ordering individuals meals.

7. Eat out for less with bonus deals

Restaurant owners know that customers are tired of sky-high menu prices, so they’re offering more promotions that can help you save. One way is by giving discounts and freebies for unusual holidays. For example, Wendy’s recently gave away a free Crispy Chicken Sandwich with any purchase to commemorate the planet Mercury being in retrograde and they gave away free fries with any purchase to celebrate Friday the 13th.

Restaurants are now also offering more buy-one-get-one and 50%-off promotions. For instance, Subway recently offered one free footlong sub with the purchase of one and Macaroni Grill had a buy-one-get-one Pasta Milano entrée special.

On top of that, many eateries are no longer saving bonus gift card promotions for the Christmas holiday season. You can now find them offered throughout the year. For instance, Carrabba’s recently gave away a free $10 gift card with every purchase of a $50 gift card. To find the latest extra deals from your favorite restaurants, visit their websites, follow them on social media or download their apps. Or log onto, which lists the latest money-saving offers from national chains.

8. Snap up take-home discounts

eat out for less: Close-up of a restaurant waiter handing over food packets to a woman customer. Takeaway food during pandemic. Focus on restaurant owner and female customer hands with food boxes.

Pay closer attention to new offerings on a restaurant’s menu. Some are now giving you a price break on a second entrée to take home when you order one at full price. For instance, at Maggiano’s Little Italy, when you buy any entrée when dining in, you can get a take-home classic pasta for just $6. At Olive Garden, when you purchase any entrée online or when dining in, you can add on a chilled classic (such as fettuccine alfredo, spaghetti with meat sauce and five cheese ziti al forno) to take home for only $6.

For more saving tips click through the links below!

Turn Your Clutter Into Cash — 5 Easy Ways to Get Paid for Recycling Unwanted Items

The Best Time to Buy Home Appliances So You Can Save 40% or More: Savings Experts

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