Recently, I read an article on Reader's Digest's site. It was about the 'secret' shenanigans that happen in restaurants. Some included servers lying about broth being vegetarian or about a card being declined just to embarrass customers they consider bad. And it doesn't stop there. The eggs are oftentimes made from a powdered substance. Fish on Sundays and Mondays tend to be the worst (because a lot of restaurants order new fish for the week after Monday). If a diner asks for a complicated drink, a server might say they're out just so they don't have to spend time getting it made.
Those are just the tip of the iceberg. (There are 52 other things featured in the piece if you want to check it out). Yeah, these restaurant incidents are wack, but even with all of that warranted side-eye info, let's not act like we won't probably walk up into a restaurant within the next couple of weeks.
To tell you the truth, if there's something that irks me even more than the list that I read, it's how high a restaurant tab can sometimes be. So, in the hopes of helping you to keep a few extra dollars in your pocket, here are some simple ways to save money when eating out. Hey, at least there can be a silver lining to all of the other ish that sometimes goes down up in those establishments.
Easy Ways To Lower Your Food Bill At Restaurants
1. Look Online Before You Leave
There are benefits to following your favorite restaurants online. Sometimes they list last-minute deals and discounts---ones you wouldn't see elsewhere. About 30 minutes before you head out, check out their Twitter or Instagram to see if you can save a couple of bucks via one of their offers. While you're at it, visit discount sites like Retail Me Not, Eat Drink Deals and Restaurant to see if there are any coupons or promo codes that you can download. Don't be embarrassed to use coupons while eating out. You could literally be throwing money away, and why would you want to do that?
2. Have a Snack Before You Go Too
I'm pretty sure you've heard that if you don't want to spend more money than you should while grocery shopping, you should eat before you go. To tell you the truth, the same tactic applies before you go to your favorite restaurant, too. No one is saying to heat up leftovers or anything. But doing something as simple as munching on a banana, mango or even a little bit of popcorn can help to curve your cravings and prevent you from, as grandma used to put it, having eyes that are bigger than your stomach. (I wonder what you should do beforehand if you want to avoid overspending at Target or Walmart. If you've got a tip, please leave it in the comments).
3. Dine on Specific Days
Not too long ago, I penned a piece on how to make Monday your favorite day of the week. One thing that I suggested was going to happy hour at the top of the week rather than at the end of it. If you're down for a few 2-for-1 drinks early in the week, why not get dinner while you're there?
Typically, restaurants are a little slower on Mondays and Tuesdays which means you can oftentimes find a pretty good deal on an appetizer or even an entrée. Call ahead, just to be sure.
Speaking of days, you should avoid going out to eat on major holidays. Restaurants expect there to be more traffic, so they sometimes will roll out a fixed-price menu. Depending on how hungry you are, that can really start to stack up as opposed to ordering a regular entrée on other days.
4. Inquire About Status Discounts
Restaurants are a business, just like everything else. This means that, more times than not, your server isn't going to volunteer information when it comes to who automatically qualifies for a discount. But if you're a student (with valid ID), a teacher, a part of the military or a senior, sometimes that can earn you as much as 15 percent off of your total bill. (I wish I had known that back when I was in college. Applebee's would've been good and sick of me!)
5. See if the Restaurant Is BYOB
If you're the type of person who can't even imagine having a meal without a glass of wine or some other alcoholic beverage, avoid spending a mint at the restaurant's bar. You can save quite a bit if you head on over to a BYOB restaurant instead. It's not that hard to find one in your area. Use your favorite search engine and type, "BYOB restaurants", along with your city and state and—voila! Food is on them, drinks are on you, and extra money is in your pocket because of it.
6. Have Lunch at Dinner
Not all restaurants offer this option, but if the restaurant allows you to order their lunch portion at dinner, go ahead and do that. If you split an appetizer with a friend and have a drink or two, you're probably going to be fuller than you think. Rather than take a doggy bag home that you might not ever eat, how about spending less moola instead?
Speaking of menu items, pass on the so-called "chef special". More times than not, there's nothing "special" about it, other than the high price or the abundance of a particular item that is about to go bad if the staff doesn't get rid of it. Eww.
7. Look to the Left (No, Seriously)
A lot of times, the most expensive items on a menu are on the right side of it. Ain't this about a trip? Although we mostly read from left to right, what some marketing people have discovered is our eyes will automatically drift over to the right while looking at a menu. That's why some restaurants put the lower-priced items on the left.
You might've never given that much thought until now, but appetizers are typically on the left, right?
8. Nix The 'Extras'
Bottled water. Soda. Dessert. Not only can these kinds of items run up your food tab but—when it comes to bottled water, reading this article here about BPA should make you want to avoid ordering that at all costs. Soda? With all of the sugar and acid is in it, y'all know that it's the devil's drink. As far as dessert goes, you'd be better off foregoing it at the restaurant and picking something up at your local grocery store on the way home. That one slice of cake at your favorite eatery probably costs about the same amount as a whole cake at Kroger's or Publix's. Just sayin'.
9. Get It to Go
A lot of times, while I'm in the mood for a certain restaurant's cuisine, what I don't feel like dealing with is the wait to be seated or the crowds. The way that I avoid all that is to order something to go. If that's how you sometimes feel, you can oftentimes get more bang for your buck if you ask for a larger container for your order. For instance, if you order a small salad but ask for a large to-go carton, they will sometimes fill it to the brim. Or, if you get a burger and ask for a large container, you'll end up with a lot more fries. This might not happen 100 percent of the time, but many servers don't care to be so meticulous that they weigh your food, etc., so it doesn't hurt to ask. It's worked out in my favor many times over.
10. Don’t Forget to Look over Your Bill
There is one person, in particular, who I hate going out to eat with. She is so nitpicky that I feel bad for the server from the very moment they introduce themselves. But if there's one thing that I do appreciate is how thoroughly sis goes through her bill. While I don't think that servers are out here to jack us, they do tend to handle a lot of people at once, so you should never assume that what is printed is automatically right. Look through it, make sure your tab is correct, and then pay. There's no telling how much money we've all thrown out of the window because we failed to be more observant when it comes to this.
Bonus: For You Chipotle Lovers
Lawd, I can't even count how many people in my life are Chipotle fans. That's why I figured I'd do some of you a solid and add a few hacks before you go back to your favorite spot.
- First, more rice is usually on the house.
- If you skip the protein, guacamole doesn't usually cost extra.
- Most establishments won't trip off of you ordering from the kid's menu.
- If you ask for extra chips or taco shells, you've basically just made two meals out of your burrito bowl.
- You can get more meat by opting to have two proteins while placing your order.
- If you're really up for some tacos, order more than two; the unit price tends to go down when you do that.
- Ordering both styles of rice and beans will result in you getting about 90 percent more of both.
- Lastly, if you order a meatless dish, you can save around a dollar per order.
Oh, remember the discounts that I talked about earlier? If you sign up for the app that's on Chipotle's site, not only will they text you last-minute deals, you can also earn points for a free entrée with each order. No need to thank me, it's all good. Eat up and enjoy—for less.
Want more stories like this? Sign up for our newsletter here and check out the related reads below:
You Must Get In On These Thrift Store Shopping Hacks
I Jetset On A Budget For An Entire Year With These Travel Hacks
12 DIY Beauty Hacks For Boss Girls On A Budget
10 Holiday Season Airport & Flight Hacks To Make Travel Less Stressful
Feature image by Shutterstock
Did you know that xoNecole has a podcast? Subscribe on Apple Podcasts or Spotify to join us for weekly convos over cocktails (without the early morning hangover.)
After being a regular contributor for about four years and being (eh hem) MIA in 2022, Shellie is back penning for the platform (did you miss her? LOL).
In some ways, nothing has changed and in others, everything has. For now, she'll just say that she's working on the 20th anniversary edition of her first book, she's in school to take life coaching to another level and she's putting together a platform that supports and encourages Black men because she loves them from head to toe.
Other than that, she still works with couples, she's still a doula, she's still not on social media and her email contact (email@example.com) still hasn't changed (neither has her request to contact her ONLY for personal reasons; pitch to the platform if you have story ideas).
Life is a funny thing but if you stay calm, moments can come full circle and this is one of them. No doubt about it.
Take Our 2-Minute Wellness Quiz To Up Your Self-Care Game!
Black women are not a monolith. We all are deserving of healing and wholeness despite what we've been through, how much money we have in the bank, or what we look like. Most importantly, we are enough—even when we are not working, earning, or serving.
Welcome to Black Girl Whole, your space to find the wellness routine that aligns with you! This brand-new marketplace by xoNecole is a safe space for Black women to activate their healing, find the inspiration to rest, and receive reassurance that we are one small act away from finding our happiness.
Want to discover where you are on your wellness journey? You don't have to look far. In partnership with European Wax Center, we're bringing you a customized wellness quiz to help you up your wellness game. Answer our short series of questions to figure out which type of wellness lover you are, what you need to bring more balance into your life, and then go deeper by shopping products geared towards clearing your mind, healing your body, and soothing your spirit.
Ready to get whole? Take our quiz now!
Everything Kerry Washington Has Said About Her Husband Nnamdi Asomugha
Actress Kerry Washington and her relationship with her husband, actor Nnamdi Asomugha, is the perfect example of a winning team.
The pair became an item following a chance encounter in 2009, and many years later, on June 24, 2013, Washington and Asomugha would secretly tie the knot. Since then, the high-profile couple has expanded their blended family by welcoming two children, a daughter Isabelle Asomugha, 8, and a 6-year-old son Caleb Asomugha. Asomugha also has a daughter from a previous relationship.
Despite Washington and Asomugha choosing to live a relatively private life for the most part by not sharing images of their family on social media and occasionally attending events together. The rare glimpses they provide to the public showcase that Washington and Asomugha have much in common regarding essential topics.
For example, Washington is highly involved in politics and encourages others to participate by spreading information about various issues and how everyone would be affected.
As for Asomugha, the 41-year-old officially founded the Asomugha Foundation in 2010, years after doing other charity work in Nigeria. According to its site, the organization was created to help "disadvantaged youth and women by providing educational opportunities and mentorship."
Washington's public remarks regarding her relationship with Asomugha and their family may be rare, but when she does speak about their family, it's all positive.
Kerry On Why She Keeps Her Relationship Private
Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for Bronx Children's Museum
In March 2016, the UnPrisioned actress revealed during a discussion panel at SXSW Festival that one of the reasons why she is adamant about remaining private about her union with Asomugha is because she doesn't want the public to make any narratives regarding her marriage.
At the time, it was reported that Washington and the former NFL player were experiencing marital troubles and were allegedly planning on getting a divorce. Washington would shut down those allegations by saying she hasn't and will not share any information about her private life.
"Social media has actually been great for [other celebrities'] relationships with the weeklies or the gossip sites because people say things and they say, 'That's not true!' So I'm thinking in some ways, it's been great because people are able to maintain their voice," she explained.
"It's a little different for me because I don't talk about my personal life. That means not only did I not tell you when I was getting married, it also means if somebody has rumors about what's going on in my marriage, I don't refute them, because I don't talk about my personal life."
Kerry On How She Met Nnamdi And What A Normal Day Looks Like for Their Family
Fast forward to October 2018, the Scandal star gave insight into how she met Asomugha and their family life. During an interview with Marie Claire, Washington shared that she and Asomugha met in 2009 while she was working on the Broadway play Race.
The mother of two told the publication that her life has "completely transformed" since their encounter. "The last time I did theater, it completely transformed my life. That's where I met my husband. I love being with my family. My days off look like homework, reading, and watching stuff. Just hanging out, doing things we love to do," she stated.
Kerry On Nnamdi's Accomplishment
Photo by Jeffrey Camarati/Getty Images
But as time progressed, Washington began speaking a little more openly about her man. In October 2022, Washington gushed over Asomugha and his Netflix project, The Good Nurse, which came out around the same time her film, The School for Good and Evil, was released. While talking to Entertainment Tonight, the star expressed how "proud" she was of her husband.
"I'm really proud of him, I think he's doing amazing work. I'm really excited for his film, The Good Nurse," she said. "It's really exciting to both have really important films at Netflix right now, we feel really blessed.”
Kerry On Why Nnamdi Is Her Soulmate
Washington shared how her love with Asomugha goes beyond the surface after spending over a decade together.
In a March 2023 interview with Marie Claire, Washington explained that she and Asomugha are perfectly aligned because she's allowed to be her authentic self with him.
"I'm in my immediate truth with [him]," Washington said. "Those mirrors are important because they help me get back to myself."
Kerry On The Couple's Upcoming 10-Year Wedding Anniversary
Photo by Bruce Glikas/Getty Images
That same month, Washington expressed that in addition to the many years the couple has been together, and their personal and professional accomplishments, she still finds Asomugha "incredible."
Washington shared this revelation while promoting her latest project, UnPrisioned, in an Entertainment Tonight interview.
"I do have an incredible husband," the actress told ET host Kevin Frazier as she disclosed little to no details about their upcoming plans for their tenth wedding anniversary. "Do you remember how secret my wedding was? How private and secretive it was? That's how the anniversary is gonna be too!"
Kerry On Why She Thinks Nnamdi And Their Children Are A Gift From God
Washington's love and admiration for Asomugha and their family grow increasingly each day, so much so that she uses it as inspiration to share positive messages with her fans.
The 46-year-old revealed during a panel with Al Sharpton at National Action Network Convention on April 12 that she sees her husband and their children as "proof" that God exists and loves her because of the great joy they bring to her life.
"Well, you've met my husband, my husband's amazing. I got a good one. We have three beautiful children. And I think, you know, when I look at my marriage, and I look at my kids, fundamentally, they are proof of God to me,” she said. "Because I know that God loves me to have put those people in my life. And that sense of like, knowing that God loves me. That, to me, is so much of how I make the decisions about the activism that I do and the content that I make."
Regardless of what the public may think about Washington and Asomugha's private union, they are proving with each moment that love can conquer all.
Let’s make things inbox official! Sign up for the xoNecole newsletter for daily love, wellness, career, and exclusive content delivered straight to your inbox.
Feature image by Arturo Holmes/MG23/Getty Images for The Met Museum/Vogue