Top 10 ways to save money while eating out

If you're paying full price, you're paying too much.

Paying too much?
Paying too much?

In tough economic times, one of the first budgetary cuts is often eating out. But with so many restaurants embracing social media and finding new ways to get customers, there's never been a better time to eat out. Here are 10 great ideas to help you save money whether eating out is a special treat or a way of life.

10. Buy gift cards at Costco or Sam's Club. It is an automatic 20 percent savings, and they can be used with another coupon, The selection varies, but you can almost always find cards for Palomino, Kincaids, and others.

9. Bring the kids. Many restaurants have free food for kids under 12. Currently Ikea's food is free to kids everyday through August 15, Applebee's gives a free kids' meal for each adult entree on Mondays, and Fuddrucker's kids' food is 99 cents Tuesday nights. Go to Frugal Living for a day-by-day listing.

8. Like the restaurant. Before going to any restaurant, see if they have a Facebook page. "Like" it and check the photos page for coupons. Recently while in line at Leann Chins, I saw this sign for their Facebook page. I immediately pulled it up on my phone and showed them a coupon for free cheese puffs. It was social media at its thriftiest.

Top 10 ways to save money while eating out

Mike Loney, COO of Leann Chins, says, "Facebook has been fantastic tool for us to connect on a more personal level with our loyal customer base. It's incredible how excited and passionate the fan base that we've built can become."

7. Eat out on Monday nights. Many restaurants have special Monday-only deals and promotions. For instance, Il Gatto has happy hour with wonderful $3 mini-burgers all day Monday.

6. Follow the restaurant on Twitter. Many restaurants have automated replies that send you instant coupons when you follow them. For instance, follow Green Mill and you get $10 off your next purchase of $30.

5. Get older. Go to the website and sign up for the birthday club. At Round Robin they send you an email that you bring in for a free burger, no questions asked. The Sunshine Factory in New Hope gives you a free entree with the purchase of another.

4. Visit on specials night. Check to see if the restaurant has any specials nights, like Champps half-price burger night or free pie at Baker's Square on Wednesday. Just buy the coffee and the pie is free. (Get there early.)

3. Use Go to this site and sign up for their email list. They routinely sell $25 credits for $10, but often it is much less. Recently, for instance, a $25 credit for Mix Fusion Bistro in Eden Prairie sold for $3.

You have to spend $35 total, but you get a $35 meal for $13. It has hundreds of offers to choose from and runs discounted specials every month. Just print out the coupon and bring it to the restaurant. Another deal site is

2. Get happy. While the main idea of happy hours is to get you to drink, the food specials can often be wonderful. Half-price apps, small plates or free app buffets all are worth getting there before 6:00. Go to and search under whatever city you want. Don't forget the late-night happy hours as well. Favorites include Chino Latino's and Kincaid's, 10:00 to midnight.

1. Try This is a site to go to everyday and just check the latest deals. Carrie Rocha, founder of, says,"As restaurants struggle to get customers in the door, they are offering amazing deals. That includes both chain restaurants and mom-and-pop shops." Her site keeps a daily list of new deals and ways to save money. She gathers most of the previous points and puts them all on one page.

See a live version of these tips with a couple more.

So go out, have a good time, and save some cash.
Rob Barrett

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