When you are on a debt free or money saving journey, it can sometimes feel like meals out and takeaways are an absolute waste of money. To an extent, they absolutely are! But that didn’t stop me from enjoying good food and dining out…
(This post contains a referral link – you can read more about what that means here.)
Shane and I were accustomed to treating ourselves to weekly meals out and takeaways a couple of times a week. However, whilst in the depths of saving for our house deposit we realised we couldn’t maintain that level of frivolous spending. Food for us has always been a source of enjoyment and entertainment so cutting back on that was hard but necessary. Having said that, we knew it was important to still enjoy ourselves and not let saving spoil that for us.
That is when I started to get more creative in the kitchen. I started cooking from scratch more, we had friends round for dinner parties and started having fakeaways instead of ordering in. It was important for us to still go out occasionally for a date night or just to get out for a change, the way I kept this in budget was to find brilliant dining out deals. It’s something I still do now and I absolutely love going out for a lovely meal knowing it isn’t costing an arm and a leg. So here a few of my favourite ways to save when dining out.
My new favourite way to dine out for less is Club Individual, it’s a loyalty scheme that gives points on meals and best of all, you get up to £40 credit when you first join – just check the terms and conditions for how much can be used per transaction as this may have changed since I last used this offer.
I used my welcome credit to treat my friend Erin to a belated birthday catch up at Gino’s My Pizza and Prosecco Bar. The following day Shane and I were off to a family party in Cheshire, on our way we stopped in Knutsford, Shane had downloaded the app too. We had lunch and a drink each at Piccolino for just £9 including a tip!
If you don’t have any Club Individual restaurants near you then fear not, there are still other fantastic ways to save on dining out. Sites like Wowcher, Living Social and Groupon can sometimes offer fantastic deals for meals out, especially if it’s a local deal you can sometimes get further money off using a discount code. At the moment new customers get 20% off local deals, so if you haven’t signed up feel free to use my referral link to sign up here. My one piece of advice would be to check the Ts and Cs and also check the restaurant website too in case they offer the same – or cheaper – prices when booking direct.
There are of course deals that local restaurants offer, especially mid-week, so instead of dining out on a Friday have a look and see if there are any midweek or Thursday deals instead. That’s what Shane and I used to do, it was purse friendly and a nice way to ease into the weekend. Loads of places offer two for one main meals or promotions like buy two steaks and a get a bottle of wine for free – at least they do where I live in Bury! The local pub that we are having our wedding reception in has 20% off for customers who sign up to their newsletter so keep your eye out for deals in your local pubs and restaurants.
You can also make the most of birthday freebies as lots of places offer things like free main meals or free drinks on your birthday. You can couple that up with additional offers like discounted gift cards which are sometimes available at Tesco and Asda, or even better, as family and friends for gift cards for your favourite restaurants for your birthday.
If it’s not your birthday any time soon you could save on your next meal out by checking for new customer offers. I went out for lunch to celebrate my friend Jen’s 31st birthday at a local Ember Inns pub, they offered a free drink for new customers that download their app. Their set lunch menu offered 3 courses for £9.29, 2 courses for £7.29 or 1 course for £5.29 and this was available every day! Now it wasn’t anything fancy, it was just good British style pub food. I had a three course lunch and pink G&T for less than a tenner!
Lots of other chain pubs offer similar discounts on their apps; Sizzling Pubs and Stonehouse and Marstons have some amazing offers and they (along with Embers Inns) are usually on Cashback Extras on banks like Halifax, Lloyds and Santander which makes for even more savings. Places like Pizza Express, Frankie & Benny’s and All Bar One also have a brilliant apps. The All Bar One app is one of my favourites as you get a free drink when you download it and there is no other purchase necessary, you can find out more about that here.
If you fancy something a little bit more upmarket for your dining out experience, there are plenty of restaurants that offer new customer deals. Miller and Carter offer a complimentary glass of wine when signing up to their steak club. Shane and I both signed up and used this offer when we went for my 30th birthday meal last year. I also had a 10% cashback deal on my bank account so thanks to those two offers we saved nearly £18.
There are of course lots of other ways you can save when dining out, you could use Meerkat Meals, Tastecard, Clubcard vouchers, mystery dining, loyalty cards, and so on. The list is endless, it’s just a case of having a quick search of what offers you have available to you. I have never done mystery dining but Fran – a money saving friend of mine – has and she has written all about it on her blog ‘From Pennies to Pounds, you can read her post here.
I hope this has inspired you to save some money on your next meal out. Though I think it is important to say that is it absolutely fine to just go out for a meal and pay full price for it. If you’re working hard and saving hard then a full price treat now and again isn’t going to hurt. It is important on a debt free or money saving journey to still enjoy yourself so you don’t resent your savings. If you want to have a go at cutting back on takeaways, have a read of my favourite fakeaways here. I also plan on adding some thrifty recipes to my site so keep your eye out for those over the next few weeks.
If you have any fab dining discounts and tips, let me know!
Thrifty Clair x