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How to Save Money and Still Eat Out

by Laurie Israel, Esq.

My family of origin enjoyed eating out as a family pastime. I remember many wonderful moments with my dearly departed parents in restaurants, talking, enjoying the food. One special memory is with my parents during my college years, in a Chinese restaurant on the second floor of a busy street in New York City. My father ordered, and ate, a wonderful large whole fish from the menu. I still remember that meal and my father’s gustatory joy at the eating experience.

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My siblings and I still remember many wonderful food treats and experiences from my childhood and young adulthood, especially those initiating by our food-loving father. (Our parents both died when we were still young adults.) I still very much enjoy eating out, but I need to watch both my wallet and my waistline. Here are some tips on how you can do both when eating out:

1. Eat a half of a meal. We all have the tendency of eating everything on our plate when we go out because we don’t want to waste food. This is very bad for our health and our pocketbooks or wallets. Ask for a takeout bag (these days, a Styrofoam container) when your meal arrives. You will find that you can put half of the restaurant meal into the container. You have now bought two meals for the price of one and saved yourself from eating too much.

2. Eat appetizers, not a main dish. Another effective restaurant technique is to order from the appetizer menu. This is usually an pleasant and adequate meal for us elders.

3. Drink before you go to the restaurant. Admittedly I like to have some wine with my restaurant meal. When I go with a group of four, this becomes quite pricey, adding about $50 to the bill. We have find that having a nice $6-10 bottle of wine before we leave the house gives us that same relaxing feeling, and we can happily drink tap water at the restaurant.

4. Drink regular water at the restaurant. Water is the most wonderful drink of all, notwithstanding the foregoing discussion of wine. Drinking water at the restaurant will save you several dollars off the bill, even if you are not ordering wine.

5. Go out for lunch, not dinner. Many restaurants have wonderful lunch menus consisting of the same food as dinner, in almost the same amounts, but at a reduced price. Take advantage of this.

6. Share food with a friend. I have been doing this for a couple of years with my spouse. It reduces the cost by 50%, and reduces the overeating that often is a result of eating out. Recently, on a business lunch with a 68-year-old man, after seeing him eyeing the menu warily, I suggested that we share a large sandwich. (We were at Zaftig’s.) He jumped at the chance! We reduced our overeating and cut the bill in half.

7. Be inventive on choice of restaurant. I have found great, inexpensive hot meals during lunchtimes at public places. The Tip O’Neill Federal Office Building on Causeway Street downtown has a wonderful cafeteria with excellent food. A hot lunch there (with tap water as the drink) will run about $6, and is so large, that you could save half of it for a future meal. While downtown, you could do a free tourist thing, such visiting the Atheneum on Beacon Street across from the State House.

8. Make going out to eat an outing. Use your T pass to go to different parts of the metropolitan area to have a meal out. Quincy has a multitude of wonderful, inexpensive Chinese restaurants, many located within walking distinct of the North Quincy redline T stop. At East Chinatown Restaurant on Hancock Street, three people could share their “small” wonton soup. You’ll find the outing very inexpensive, and quite fun.

Copyright ©2009 Laurie Israel.

Laurie Israel

Laurie Israel

Laurie Israel is a founder of Israel, Van Kooy & Days, LLC, a law firm located in Brookline, Massachusetts. She combines a family law practice with estate planning, tax, mediation and collaborative law. Laurie is a former board member of the Massachusetts Council on Family Mediation and the Massachusetts Collaborative Law Council. Her writings include articles on divorce, mediation, marital mediation, and prenuptial agreements. You can find her articles on, Huffington Post, and She is the author of the forthcoming book The Generous Prenup: How to Support Your Marriage and Avoid the Pitfalls.
Laurie Israel

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