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Eating out on a budget (how to in 11 practical ways)


IMHO, dining out is one of the greatest joys in life.

As someone who likes to eat out but also likes to be savvy with spending, I've found these can contradict each other. I've pulled together all the ways that I eat out, without spending ridiculously. Score yourself discounts on courses, free starters and free drinks!

Find out how to eat out on a budget using restaurant vouchers, seasonal offers, loyalty programmes and more. 

Make use of free restaurant vouchers and offers

Cheese, tomato, ham and onion pizza on a wooden board

Credit: The BBC

Rule number 1: never go out for a meal without checking to see if the restaurant has a discount voucher online.

Popular restaurants like Pizza Express, Frankie & Benny's, Strada and Prezzo almost always have discount offers available. They're so easy to get and to start saving money today.

Whether it's 2 for 1 on courses, money off the food bill or a free drink, it's always worth checking out what's available.

So, before you head out don't forget to check out the Restaurant Vouchers page on the Magic Freebies UK website for all the latest restaurant vouchers. We update our site every day with all the new offers available, so it's your one-stop shop for all the best savings and deals.

Discount offers are often time sensitive so make sure you check the T&Cs to make sure that the offer you want is available at the time you wish to visit. 

Be savvy to seasonal offers

This one works two ways.

Restaurants use seasonal holidays and events to their advantage and will offer set menus/offers to persuade you to celebrate with them. If you were planning on dining out anyway, then make sure you make the most of these! Whether it's Mother's or Father's Day, Valentines Day or the school holidays, restaurants will normally have a few offers going.

On the other side, these are the peak times of year in the restaurant business and places are expected to be busy. At other, less popular, times of the year, restaurants will not expect to be as busy and will offer cheaper offers to try and persuade you to chose to treat yourself and dine there.

So before you dine out, consider the time of year and what offers might be going on. Psst, if it's a school holiday, you might just find your fave restaurant swarming with children...

Which leads to my next point...

Parents, use restaurants to entertain the kids during holidays

3 young boys enjoying slices of pizza

Credit: Freepik

Family-friendly restaurants will almost certainly be offering child-related restaurant offers during half-terms and school holidays.

Restaurants know that parents will be looking for ways to entertain their little ones that won't break the bank. Discounted meals out are perfect, as they're fun for the adults too.

Frankie & Benny's, Prezzo, Bella Italia, Giraffe, Café Rouge and many more restaurants have all recently run Kids Eat Free or Kids Eat for £1 offers (with the purchase of an adult main) in the school holidays.

Use the kids to your advantage and enjoy a family meal out for less than you might think.

Sign up for restaurant newsletters and emails

All major high street restaurants will have their own mailing list where they share all the latest deals and offers first.

Sign up for your favourites (and your less favourites!) and be one of the first to hear when new discounts, menus and special offers are on.

With the rising trend of apps, restaurants are also jumping on the bandwagon. Many have their own, lots with a special sign-up treat waiting to be used by you.

Score £10 off your bill at Frankie & Benny's, get a free starter at Turtle Bay and enjoy a free glass of prosecco at All Bar One - just by downloading their apps.

Make use of restaurant loyalty programmes

Red Nando's loyalty card on a wooden background

Credit: Intu

We all know about coffee shop loyalty cards (get a free coffee after ten stamps), but did you know some restaurants offer loyalty cards as well?

While discounted offers are a great way to bring in custom, by offering loyalty schemes restaurants make sure that you come back time and time again to their restaurant, as you'll be earning points/freebies every time that you eat.

If you regularly dine at Nandos, you probably already know about the Loyalty Reward Card. Pick up a card instore, register it online or via the app and start collecting points. For every £7 you spend you'll earn a Chilli - the more Chillis you earn the bigger your reward. Once you get to ten Chillies you'll earn a whole chicken or a single combo meal with regular sides...

Subway lovers, make sure you're the proud owner of a Sub Card. Collect points with every purchase you make and earn free subs. Plus, you even get a free Subway cookie on your birthday - yum!

Jamie's Italian Gold Club gives you exclusive monthly rewards, free tasters for your entire part and priority booking. Jamie's Italian has never, and will never, run discounted offers so this Gold Club is the perfect way for you to save some dollar when you visit this Italian restaurant.

Be flexible with your timings

If you can afford to be flexible with when you dine, you can find yourself saving some pennies.

Lots of restaurants offer early-bird set menus, allowing you to enjoy several courses for a fixed price. Plus, if the restaurant is close to a theatre they will tend to offer pre-theatre menus - that aren't limited to just theatre-goers!

If you can arrange to have your meal out at lunchtime, that will help you save money. By dining at lunch you might (!) be less inclined to drink alcohol and restaurants tend to offer fixed lunch menus that work out cheaper than dinner ones.

Become a mystery diner

If your love of eating out goes beyond spending time with loved ones, then becoming a mystery diner is the perfect role for you. Visit and review restaurants and hotels and be reimbursed for your time (and food!).

External marketing companies, watchdogs or internal companies organise mystery guests to check and evaluate the level of customer service, quality of food and overall dining experience. You pose as a real customer and keep note of your experience, giving a full and honest review at the end.

If you think this is something you'd like to give a go, why not apply to be a mystery diner today?

Follow these tips and you'll find yourself eating out but at the slice of the price. Have I missed out any of your favourite ways to save money at restaurants? Let me know!

Alex xx