How to eat out cheaply!

Eating out is fun. It’s enjoyable to try food from diverse cuisines. It’s a way to get inspired for home cooking or a way to eat food that is clearly beyond the ability of the average home cook! Unfortunately, it can cost a lot. There are some ways to keep the costs down. Many of these techniques relies on the privilege of time both for research and time flexibility e.g. to eat at off-peak times. These methods also work better in big cities rather than small towns. It also assumes the ultimate privilege i.e. not being in a pandemic related lockdown, either mandatory or voluntary! Nevertheless….here are some ways to eat out at reduced prices….

Lunch is cheaper than dinner. Eat a bigger meal at lunch time rather than dinner. Eating out is usually always cheaper at lunchtime and there will often be more deals and combos which are good value.

Eat Asian Food. In most cases, Asian food tends to be cheaper than Western food. There are plenty of cheap and cheerful Asian places that are amazingly delicious, diverse and require a level of skill or time that cannot be replicated easily at home. Western food is viewed (unfairly) as a more premium product and often involve dishes which includes a large amount of meat, a high value item. This tends to result in Western meals costing more than Asian meals.

Zig when others Zag. A food business is much more likely to offer a discount when it suits them e.g. when they are less busy or when they can get something so the discount. One example is the discounted food offered at food court stalls late in the afternoon before they close. Another example is reduced price dishes which only applicable between 2 and 5pm in the afternoon. If you are willing to behave opposite to the crowds, there may be some savings to be made.

Look for outlets and deals at a lower price point for big name chefs. If you are foodie who wants to try the food of a big name, celebrity chef, their premium restaurant will usually be an eye-wateringly expensive degustation dinner affair! In some cases, there may be an separate bar snacks menu which is more affordable or an entirely different restaurant by the same chef which is designed at a lower price point to capture a different part of the market. There may also be a more economical lunch time menu so you can try their offerings without emptying the wallet!

Markets, street food stalls, food trucks, hole in the wall places. These type of places have lower overhead and staff costs so the food should be cheaper than a sit down dining place.

Hotteok, filled Korean pancakes, store at the Chatswood Mall Market
Scallop Aburi from the Sydney FIsh Market, 3 for $10AUD – much more affordable than a sit-down restaurant

Keep your eye and ear out for discounts. Check the website and Facebook place for special deals e.g. Taco Tuesday, Schnitty Wednesday, discounted bucket of beers etc. Keep an eye and ear out for discounts, deals and specials as you walk around. There are also places around which are “pay what you want” which can be a cheap feed if you are happy to pay less.

To get more customers onto their app, Easi was offering a 90% discount at this store!
50% off the bill to celebrate the opening of this store! The queue to get a discounted meal was understandably very long!!!
Sunday 11am to 8pm, pay what you want at Ikhwan restaurant at Pyrmont in Sydney. A delicious meal, dessert and drink at a price that you deem fair!

Book via a discount app or website. Eatclub, First Table, Entertainment Book and The Fork are all pretty good but do come with their pros and cons.

Eatclub app – pros and cons

Pros

  • Allows restaurants to advertise discounts specifically when they require them e.g. on a rainy quiet afternoon.
  • Discounts on food ranging from 10 to 50%.
  • App is easy to use and allows the consumer to locate discounts in the vicinity of their location.

Cons

  • Deep discounts of 30 – 50% have been increasingly more and more rare. This could be pandemic related.
  • Only available in the big cities i.e. Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide.
  • Does not allow much planning and booking ahead for the consumer as discounts are only displayed on the day.

First Table – Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Allows the restaurants to fill tables early in the evening by giving patrons a deep 50% discount i.e. first table. This hopefully sets a restaurant up for a good night as they can bring in more foot traffic by looking busy!
  • Massive 50% discount on food for the consumer.

Cons

  • A booking fee of $10 is required – which means there is a penalty if you change your mind about going to the restaurant!
  • There are often conditions of what is not included in the discount e.g. seafood, high value dishes etc.
  • Having to eat at a very early time e.g. 5pm, 5:30pm etc.

Entertainment Book – Pros and Cons

Pros

  • 20% of the annual subscription cost goes to a charity of your choice. There is a large list of organisations to choose from and many organisations choose to sell the Entertainment Book to fundraise.
  • Discounts of 25% off or 2 for 1 for dining, sightseeing and services.
  • Entertainment Book are good if you have a complaint e.g. when advised, they provided an additional discount of my choice when a listed business refused to honour the discount.

Cons

  • There is an annual subscription cost of $70 for 1 city or $120 for multi cities i.e. all cities in Australia and NZ.
  • The mobile app is quite annoying and terrible to use.
  • The number and quality of the discounts has deteriorated over the last few years. This may be pandemic related but is more likely due to the horrible app!

The Fork – Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Ability to make restaurant bookings online and receive instant confirmation either by the website or mobile app.
  • Some restaurants provide deep discounts of 30 to 50%.
  • Loyalty points for bookings which accumulate to give $20 or $50 off meals. Booking via the mobile app gives you more loyalty points.

Cons

  • Requires some advanced planning to make a booking.
  • Number of restaurants offering deep discounts has reduced in the last few years. This may be pandemic related.

In conclusion, with some effort, discounts are available to making eating out more economical! Hope this post has been helpful and finds you in the privileged position of being able to eat out. Stay safe and well!

Love to hear what you think! Thanks!!