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I don’t know about you but I love eating out. Good food, good company and no dishes to deal with – it is definitely one of my favourite things to do! Obviously though, eating out a lot can have a massive impact on your finances.
Have you ever looked at how much you have spent on eating out over a month? Just going for lunch a few times and the odd evening meal can quickly rack up to hundreds of pounds. The solution? Do not eat out. Ever again.
I am joking of course, but there are some ways to save money on eating out without completely restricting yourself. I have compiled a list of a few ideas to help your entertainment budget, stretch that little bit further.
You’ve seen the adverts – so you’re probably aware of the 2 for 1 cinema tickets/meals deal offered by CompareTheMarket when you take out an insurance policy. If you have already sorted your insurances for the year, don’t worry! You can still take advantage of Meerkat Meals with this clever hack. Head over to Compare the Market and search for Travel Insurance. Get a quote on a day trip to a city (for example) and buy a cheap policy. I managed to get Travel Insurance for a trip to Manchester earlier this year for less than £2 (though friends I told about the offer found even better deals). This is a qualifying purchase that you can use to get access to the deal. Download and install the app, input your policy details and the first time you use your 2-for-1 offer you’ll more than recoup the small outlay for the insurance.
Taste Card is similar to Meerkat Meals in that you can get 50% off or 2-for-1 meals. However, there are a lot more restaurants available on Tastecard and you can also get up to 40% off cinema with Tastecard+ (which is included in Tastecard membership). They have varying membership deals – you can get annual membership for £40 – but if you regularly eat out you’ll likely make that cost back in savings in just a few trips as the average saving is £18. But if you want to try it first, you can get 60 day membership for only £1.
Groupon is great for local deals, and if I’m ever stuck for what to get someone for a gift I’ll head to groupon and see what’s available. You can buy vouchers for discounted 3 course meals, wine tasting, afternoon tea and all kinds of other food/drink experiences. When you sign up, you can get up to 20% extra off your first purchase using the code WELCOME.
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Lots of restaurants have a discounted menu if you arrive and dine before a certain time. It’s typical to book a table for food at 7pm but if you brought that time forward a couple of hours and dined at 5pm instead you can save quite a bit of money on eating out. For example, our local all-you-can-eat Indian Buffet costs £12.95 per person, but if you dine before 5.30pm it costs just £8.95 per person.
Lots of restaurants offer discounts and free treats on your birthday in exchange for signing up to their newsletter which you can use to save money on eating out. I’ve seen a few people on Instagram go ‘freebie hunting’ on their birthday and you can actually get so much for free! Here’s a few restaurants I found:
Sign up to Frankie & Benny’s Rewards and you’ll be sent a voucher 10 days before your birthday which is valid for a month. With this voucher, you can get 2 main meals for the price of 1 (or a bottle of prosecco for £10). If you download the Frankie & Benny’s app, you can also get a voucher for £10 off your next visit.
If you download the Toby Carvery app, you can get a £5 off a £15 spend voucher. Also, if you sign up to the Toby Carvery newsletter, you’ll be emailed a voucher on your birthday for a free Ice Cream Sundae when you order a carvery roast. The voucher is valid for four weeks after your birthday.
If you sign up to the Pizza Express newsletter you’ll receive offers and also be emailed a voucher for a free bottle of Prosecco on your birthday. You can redeem it when you buy 2 main meals and it’s valid for two weeks before and after your birthday.
Zizzi* have a refer a friend scheme where you can earn £10 for each friend you refer who dines with them and if you use a refer a friend link you will also receive a £10 voucher.
If you sign up to their mailing list you will receive a voucher a month before your birthday for a free main course and/or a bottle of prosecco.
When you sign up to a Beefeater Grill Rewards card you can accrue loyalty points which you can exchange for a money off voucher. Around your birthday, you will also receive an email for a voucher for a main meal when you purchase at least one other main meal.
If you sign up to Las Iguanas newsletter at least 2 weeks before your birthday you’ll be emailed a voucher for a free main meal when you buy at least one other.
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TOTUM is a discount card for students and offers a whole range of discounts, not just food! But if you have one you can typically get 10%-25% off your food bill.
Again, not strictly for food – you can save across a whole range of goods and services – but if you work for the NHS you can register for health service discount. There is cashback available and discounts for showing your card in certain restaurants. Even if the restaurant isn’t listed online, it’s still worth asking – lots of our local pubs and restaurants offer NHS and Armed Forces discounts.
If you work for any kind of emergency service in any capacity, you probably qualify for a blue light card – this includes armed forces, veterans, st johns ambulance and even Visa and Immigration workers. Head to the website to see the fully list of qualifying jobs. Again, this discount isn’t limited to restaurants – you can use it online and in lots of shops too!
If you don’t have a discount card or app of some kind, you can probably still save money!
Follow local pubs and restaurants on Facebook (if they have a page) and many quite often post about special offers and days/times when you can get a good deal. The often run giveaways too for liking and sharing a post where you can often win free meals.
Voucher Codes wherever, whenever you’re going to spend money – always search for a voucher or promo code first!
Hopefully that’s given you a bit of food for thought (badum-sss… it’s okay, I’ll show myself out…). Nah but seriously, there’s so many ways to get more for your money when you’re eating out. All it takes is a little forward planning, a little research and a bit of flexibility. You can then continue to have a happy social life without destroying your budget. If you have any tips to save money on eating out, please let me know and I’ll add them in!
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I started Katie Saves while on Maternity Leave to document our adjustment to living on less. Now back in work - I blog about all things money with a little life organisation thrown in for good measure. Join me!