eating outEveryone is watching their budgets more closely these days. This does not mean that you have to give up going out to eat all together, but you do need to get more for your money.

But as times have changed, so too have restaurants. The tips that worked for eating out on the cheap before may no longer work. Here are some tips that may not help your budget any longer.

One suggestion has been to choose an appetizer as a meal to save money. But if you will look closely, you will see that some appetizers can cost as much as some of the lower priced entrées! Many restaurants offer lunch specials or meal specials that will give you an entrée for about what you would have spent on an appetizer.

In fact, one major restaurant chain has started a new program that allows you to choose an appetizer, entrée and dessert from their special menu, all for only US$10.

It has often been suggested that two people can order one entrée to split between them, and just add salads on the side. However, even simple side salads are more expensive now than they were in the past.

You may actually get more food and have a more satisfying dinner if you order two entrées. If one entrée is too large for one person, which is sometimes the case, plan to take leftovers home.

For little more than the price of one entrée and two salads, which feeds 2 people, you can get two entrées, which will feed 2 people for 2 meals—a much better bargain for your buck. It’s also nice to save the trouble of having to cook a meal on the next day.

This brings up another bit of traditional wisdom: make your meal from side items. It really depends on the price of the side item. By the time you pay for a couple of sides and a salad—making a full meal—you could have paid for one of the lower cost meals that comes with sides.

There are certain types of restaurants that have always had the reputation of being inexpensive places to eat. Cafeteria and family style restaurants come to mind.

But as with any eating out experience, it depends on what you order. A meat and two vegetables with bread and dessert at a cafeteria style restaurant can be just as expensive as a similar meal elsewhere.

If you want to save money and still eat out, try going out for lunch instead of dinner, don’t order beverages that cost $2.50 each, and patronize restaurants that offer specials.

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