Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Restaurant Dining - My Ten Rules

I highly recommend you do not pay others to cook and present your food. The added cost is enough that you could easily prepare two additional meals at home for the same price. But sometimes it is sort of unavoidable for social reasons. So what can you do?

First.  Try to eat out at lunch if at all possible. Lunch menus are typically less expensive than evening meals (supper or dinner depending on where you come from).

Second. Avoid the popular all you can eat buffet places (Old Country Buffet, Golden Corral, etc) on weekends; they all jack up the prices on weekends.

Third. Look for coupons and dining specials. My wife and I used to eat at a very nice steak house in Sierra Vista, AZ called "The Beef Baron" on Thursday nights because they had a "Two for one" special to bring people in on the least popular night of the week. Unfortunately they closed and were replaced by yet another Chinese Buffet.

Fourth. Fill up on the endless salad and breadsticks that some chains offer, eat a tiny bit of the main course, and take the rest of it home for a second meal.

Fifth. Avoid alcoholic drinks, they are always way over-priced.

Sixth. Ask for water. Water is free. We take single serve drink packets, those handy little tubes of powder, and add them to the water. I buy mine at any one of the Dollar Store type shops or Big Lots. One dollar buys me anywhere from 8-12 16.9 ounce drinks. A soda or tea at any restaurant will cost $1.59 at least.

Seventh. Share a desert if you must have one. Restaurant deserts (as delicious as they are) are full of empty, unhealthy calories and are expensive, so cut it in half.

Eighth. Look for smart "add-ons". I sometimes treat myself to Peruvian Chicken at work when I must have a "Working Lunch". They charge $5.99 for a 1/4 chicken with two sides (I always get mashed potatoes and coleslaw). For just one dollar more I can get 1/2 a chicken instead of 1/4. So I eat the thigh and drumstick with the two side items, a very filling meal, and take the chicken breast home for supper. It is hard to buy a large cooked chicken breast for a dollar anywhere. I bring my own drink in a cooler bag and take the chicken breast home in the same cooler bag.

Ninth. As mentioned above in eight, I almost always bring my own drink and desert when I eat on the road. I travel a lot and while I usually take a cold lunch with me I often am on the road for longer than one meal. So I bring drinks that I froze at home, which thaw and are available still cold later in the trip.

Tenth. Breakfast is always the cheapest meal you can buy at a diner. You can get a good breakfast at Ikea for less than two dollars.  I often eat at Ikea if I see one and need to eat. For $5.99 you can get 15 meatballs with gravy, mashed potatoes, and a mixed greens salad. That is hard to beat.