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Money matters: Eating out? Slim down on the spend

By Jill Smyth

Published 11/08/2015

Eating out: slim down on the spend
Eating out: slim down on the spend

Meals out with family and friends are a real luxury for many of us. There are however some cheaper ways to enjoy a nice meal out if you take the time to look. Here are a few suggestions:

Look online for the best deals

Most restaurants have a website, so check this to see if they have any offers before you book. Alternatively, why not sign up to sites such as Groupon and Living Social who search the market for you and offer customers a selection of current deals. There are many offers listed for meal deals, afternoon teas, lunches, and even weekends away. Signing up is free of charge and only takes a few minutes. It could be well worth it if it means you can have an affordable meal out.

BYO restaurants

Are you wine rich and cash poor? If so, why not consider taking your wine with you and trying a BYO (bring your own) restaurant. Quite often, the most expensive part of a meal is the wine, so look out for restaurants that allow you to bring your own. These are restaurants that don’t hold a license to sell alcohol; so they give you the option to bring along your own wine and beer. Some have a corkage charge, while others don’t. But even with the charge, this approach can really bring down the cost of your meal. Some don’t allow beer or spirits, so best to call in advance and check or you may end up spending more than you had planned.

Check out your local colleges

Some colleges that run catering or cookery courses will have training evenings when members of the public can pay a nominal amount to sample a menu cooked by trainee chefs. This gives the students the opportunity to experience what it’s like to work in a catering establishment and it’s a great way for you to support your local college. Many of them even allow you to bring your own wine, so you can get a top notch meal for a fraction of the cost.

Mid-week deals and early bird menus

Many restaurants have special meal deals and offers available for mid-week dining, so if you aren’t fussy what night of the week you dine out, this might suit you. Some also offer Early Bird menus which are usually great value, but they have set times that they are available, usually around standard tea time from 5pm – 6.30pm.

Be a mystery shopper

Big restaurant chains use mystery shopping companies to keep staff on their toes, and ensure food, service and premises are up to scratch. Check out online for companies that are looking for people to get involved – in many cases you will get paid to try out the restaurant in return for providing a review and feedback.

MoneySense is a free, independent programme by Ulster Bank for schools and parents covering topics including banking, borrowing, budgeting and running a small business.

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