Reflections on life, marriage, and a young woman who is constantly learning how much there will always be to learn!

Friday, January 20, 2006

Eating Out on a Budget

During our tenure as people without much "extra" money to speak of, my husband and I have found that it is quite possible for a couple to occasionally enjoy eating out at decent restaurants without breaking the budget! Just consider these ideas:

1. Scout out eating places where little to no tipping expected. In my area, there are many such places that are nicer than the typical fast-food grade restaurant. These include delis, some buffets, and places such as La Madeleine’s (French restaurant), Pei Wei’s (Asian food), and Chipotle (Tex-mex) where your food is ordered at the counter. You usually won’t have to tip much or anything at any restaurant that doesn’t provide a wait staff. When you consider that a respectable tip is at least 15% to 20% of the cost of your meal, that is quite a savings!

2. Forgo drinks and order water. For two people, this will save you $3-$5, or more if you generally order alcoholic beverages. My husband loves to order soda when we eat out, as we do not usually keep it in the house, so this is not always a very popular option for us! When we don‘t have much to spend, however, it is a good way to cut back and still enjoy eating out together. Sometimes we’ll skip the drinks at the restaurant, but stop and buy soda or lemonade on sale for less than $1 to enjoy when we get home.

3. Share an entree. This may not always work in every case, especially for the guys out there who can really put it down! But at least explore your options. Many restaurants offer some dishes with very large portions. Even if an entrée isn’t large enough to satisfy you both, consider supplementing with a couple extra side dishes instead of a second entrée. At our favorite Italian restaurants, we have found a great pasta dish that--once we combine it with two side salads and the free loaf of bread served--usually yields us leftovers after we’ve both eaten our fill.

Important: If at a restaurant where tipping is expected, We always calculate our tip according to the typical two-person ticket, regardless of whether we ate for the cost of one. Servers make their living from tips, and we wouldn’t want to short-change them whilst saving money for ourselves! I always enjoy imagining, as we order, that our server is thinking “Oh great…I got a couple of those people…stingy cheapos!” I love proving him wrong by leaving a nice tip as we dance out the door!

Here are some of our typical “eat-out” bills:

$4.87 - sharing a huge baked potato served with beef and all the trimmings at our favorite local barbeque place. This price also includes one large drink.

$7.87 - sharing a Burrito Bowl (rice, meat, cheese, toppings, etc) and bowl of chips with guacamole at Chipotle

$8.00-$9.00: Sharing Chicken Fried Rice with drinks at Pei Weis (we usually have leftovers of this, even after we share!)

And if we have a bit of money to splurge…
$24.00: Pasta, bread, two side salads, and $8.00 tip at our favorite nice Italian restaurant.

If we ever finish a meal and are still hungry (this hardly ever happens for us) we go home and make a big bowl of homemade popcorn. Nobody's hungry after that!;o)


Blogger Mrs.B. said...

These are some good tips. I was glad that you talked about tipping. I think that is so husband and I like to leave a gospel tract(I like Chick tracts because they have pictures and are, generally, more interesting to read) with our tip, so our tip MUST be good or we will hurt the cause of Christ. I'm ashamed to say that I've actually seen Christians leave a tract with no my opinion, that is a bad Christian testimony. Also, in my early 20's I worked as a hostess in a restaurant and I found that most of the time the wait staff cringed when it was two women who were eating together because they generally didn't tip well.

3:57 PM, January 20, 2006  
Blogger Erin said...

Mrs. B-
Yes! I have waitressed before, and one of my sisters has waitressed for several years. If nothing else, the experience makes you pay more attention to the example you're setting when you eat out! You are so right that Christians set a terrible example to their servers when they are demanding and/or don't tip appropriately.

5:56 PM, January 20, 2006  
Blogger Samantha said...

I love your posts! Those are all great ideas. I'll have to think about that tonight as my future-husband and I are going out for dinner and a movie. We almost always split a meal, and with the large serving sizes nowadays we usually end up with left-overs! Have a wonderful weekend!

6:12 PM, January 21, 2006  
Blogger Erin said...

Thanks, Samantha! And thanks for reading:o) I hope that your fiancee and you had a WONDERFUL weekend!:o)

11:50 AM, January 23, 2006  
Blogger Mrs.B. said...

I talked about leaving a tract with a(generous) tip in my first reminded me of something. About 2 years ago, my husband and I frequented a certain chinese buffet. Well, I always carry Chick tracts in english, chinese, and spanish because these are the types of restaurants that we frequent. We left a Chinese Chick tract called 'This Is Your Life' and when we came back a week later the Chinese lady told us (in broken english) that she had asked Jesus to save her! I say all that to say that leaving a tract with a generous tip CAN be a great way to witness.

Erin, I'm sorry for taking your money saving post in a different direction (you had MANY wonderful ideas).....I really WASN'T trying to hijack your post! (o:

2:43 PM, January 23, 2006  
Blogger Erin said...

Mrs. B- That's a wonderful story! Don't worry about "hijacking" my post...I always love to read your comments:o)

3:31 PM, January 23, 2006  
Blogger Mrs.B. said...

Oh Erin, you're such a sweetie! Thanks so much! **hugs**

7:17 PM, January 23, 2006  
Blogger Kristen said...

Erin, thanks for the great post. These are all really helpful tips to keep in mind--Ryan and I follow them when we go out to eat.

I especially like that you included how important it is for Christians to tip well. It's just the right thing to do.

1:31 PM, January 24, 2006  
Blogger Carrie said...

I keep meaning to comment on this post--I really enjoyed it! I wish, wish, wish that we had more places like you mentioned in our area . . . alas, it is one of the few curses of living in a rural location. :) But, we can still eat out cheaply once in a while. Our favorite local Chinese restaurant has very reasonable lunch prices and huge portions. We sometimes eat Sunday lunch there, or get takeout, which is even better since you don't have to tip. Two of us can eat there for about $13-$14, or sometimes less, depending what we get. I feel it's worth it, since I usually have enough leftovers to get another meal out of mine! We can also order pizza locally for about $10 for a large pizza, which is more than enough for 2 of us . . . or get subs for about $5.49/each (and sometimes we share one and serve canned soup with it) . . . or get really yummy paninis at the grocery store for about $5/each. But unfortunately we don't have many local "sit-down" places that we can eat inexpensively. And Jim has such a big appetite that it would be a little harder to get a meal to share, I think! :)

I agree that it's so important for Christians to tip generously. I remember our college president always said that it would be a very poor testimony to leave a tract without a good tip, or any tip at all! We don't eat at places where we have to tip, very often, but when we do, we are sure to make it at least 15% and preferably 20%.

3:01 PM, January 24, 2006  
Blogger Martha A. said...

My BIL leaves large tips as a way of ministry. His mom was a waitress and he sort of feels like this a way he can give to God by leaving extra tip for the waitress.

Another way to look at saving money going out to eat is to look for resteraunts who have specials on certain days. For example Dennys and some Pizza Huts have children eat free nights or I know someone told me once KFC had on Tuesday nights a special on Chicken Fried steak.
At IHOP my sister and I bought a meal for $10 that had a huge steak, hash browns, 3 pancakes, and eggs, for the children we bought a silver 10 of 10 pancakes for $4 so for 2 adults and 6 children we all ate quite well!

12:45 PM, January 25, 2006  

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