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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Dining out- made affordable!

With the economy being in the condition it is, many families have had to cut back on dining out or getting take-out food, but there are some ways that you can save money. Most families already know about many of the "kids eat free" deals in their communities, but when your children reach that cut off age for the free meals or the discount kids menu meals, eating out as a family can become a lot costlier. This blog entry is to share information for those who fit into that description. I have learned a few tricks in the past several years since my kids became teens.

Of course there is www.restaurants.com where you can buy gift certificates for local restaurants for typically 70-80 % off- right now they have a special- $25 gift certificates for $2 with the following code= special. The deal here is that you buy the gift certificate, you are given a link to print it out from your computer and then you use it towards a minimum purchase during the allowed dining times-some indicate dinner only, some lunch only. So typically most $25 gift certificates require a minimum purchase of $35 and they will generally indicate that a 15-18% gratuity is automatically added to the pre-discount bill.

There is another online source for discount gift certificates for locally owned original restaurants that is generally available in larger cities- for the Louisville area, it is http://louisvilleoriginals.com but there are similar sites for many other major cities like Chicago: http://chicagooriginals.com, Sarasota/Manatee: http://www.freshoriginals.com/gcs.php, and many more. Search your local area, ask local restaurants.

Some cities are offering Dining Club cards where you buy a card for $30 and get to use it at a number of local restaurants for a buy one get one free entree. Right now they are available in Omaha and Lincoln, NE and Long Island, NY, but is coming to Colorado Springs soon

Of course there are the Entertainment Books, and right all of them are available for $15 and free shipping and if you go through Ebates you can earn $6 back right now so it costs you only $9 and it pays for itself with 1 use!

Check out your local radio stations- many of them offer discount gift certificates to local restaurants and businesses. In the Louisville area the link is www.halfpricelouisville.edu but there is a universal link where you can look up these deals in your area-www.halfoffdeals.com

A couple other tips I can offer: Order take out from Chinese restaurants before their lunch menu cut off time- usually 3PM and order the combination lunch plates. You can refrigerate them and heat them up later for dinner. They usually cost 2-3 dollars less then the dinner combinations. You can follow the same advice for other restaurants, the lunch menu is usually cheaper and you can always refrigerate it and heat it up later.

Sign up for restaurant clubs- Captain D's sends wonderful coupons, Arby's is offering a free item each Wednesday with a purchase, fill out those birthday club offers- they send offers for free meals and desserts.

My last piece of advice is avoid ordering soft drinks, tea, etc., in restaurants because I have learned through experience and through friends and family who are in the restaurant business that this is where they have their largest mark-up. I have noticed that many restaurants are not including prices of drinks on the menus and then you get your check and they have charged you anywhere from $2.50-$3.00 for a soft drink- regardless of whether or not you drank 1 or 10 glasses of it! Add this up for a family of 4 and drinks could cost as much as an entree. Order water or bring in a bottle of coke or those kool aid single powder packs!