6 Tips For Dining On A Budget

"Food is one part of the experience. And it has to be somewhere between 50 to 60 percent of the dining experience. But the rest counts as well: The mood, the atmosphere, the music, the feeling, the design, the harmony between what you have on the plate and what surrounds the plate."

- Alain Ducasse

For many couples, dining out is a must!. From the food itself, to the conversation and time spent together, trying a hot new restaurant is all about the experience.

However, for many dining is considered a luxury, or something you only do for a special occasion. But that doesn't always need to be the case. If dining out is something your partner and you enjoy doing, these six tips will let you unleash your inner foodie no matter your budget.

1) Dine During The Week

One of the best ways to dine on a budget is to avoid doing it on Friday and Saturday nights. These are always the peak time for diners, and in fact weekends in general are the most popular time to head out and grab a bite. Some of the most popular restaurants in Canada are booked weeks in advance.

Instead of dining on the weekend, we'd recommend moving "date night" to Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday. Since business is generally a lot quieter during the week, it's common for restaurants to offer specials to entice people to visit them during the week. Keep an eye out for specials such as 2-for-1 entrées, or free desserts with every main purchased.

You can search for any specials in advance by visiting the restaurant's website for Facebook page. Also, be sure to check the specials board (if they have one) inside the restaurant as you're being seated.

2) Pass On Drinks

Sure, it might be considered a cardinal sin for some, but buying boozy drinks at a restaurant can be the difference between dining out or staying at home. Adding just one or two drinks to your meal can significantly increase your bill and take a huge blow to even the most modest of budgets.

While waiting for your table, it's temping to order a fancy drink and then once seated order another. Be warned though, drinking at a restaurant is not cheap.

In fact, avoid purchasing drinks of any kind (alcoholic and even non-alcoholic) and just order still water. This is a great way to keep your dining out budget in check and expenses down. You'd be surprised how much a juice or even tea can add to your bill.

3) Dine At Lunch Time

Dine At Lunch Time

In addition to dining midweek instead of on weekends, another great restaurant tip is to dine at lunch time instead of the traditional dinner hour.

Many fine dining restaurants offer a smaller menu during lunch, often with daily lunch specials at a cheaper price.

In most major cities across Canada, you can enjoy a lunch buffer for a set price, including tea, coffee, or a pop. Many restaurants and cafés also offer a pre-set lunch menu or "combo" deals as an attractive offer. Between 11am and 2pm you can often pick 3 or 4 different pre-set choices which can include anything from your main, a side salad, a pop, fries, and more.

4) BYO

No, this isn't something to do with personal hygiene, but bring your own. We've already discussed how expensive alcohol can be when dining out. Even purchasing the cheapest bottle of wine at a restaurant can be the same price of two or three main meals.

Why not look for restaurants that allow you to BYO wine? Sure you'll have to pay the mandatory corking fee, but if you're dead set on having a glass (or bottle) of your favourite red then it makes sense to bring your own and save almost half of what the restaurant would charge to buy.

5) Use Coupons

If your partner and you love trying new places to dine, a greay way to do this is by selecting restaurants that offer coupons, or that you know offer specials. Websites like Groupon and RedFlagDeals.com offer daily deals for restaurants, bars, and cafés.

Also, keep an eye out for advertisements and coupons in the local newspaper, your inbox, or even your real mailbox.

6) Skip The Entrées And/Or Dessert

Last but not least, ordering just a main and skipping the entrée or dessert is a sure fire way of dining on a budget.

Many Italian restaurants, for example offer complimentary bread and olive oil before you order your mains. Similarly, often when eating at a Mexican restaurant, you'll be given complimentary chips and salsa (yum!). Take advantage and enjoy this little perk!

Instead of ordering two desserts, why not try ordering one and sharing with your partner. Or why not share an entrée and a dessert with your partner instead of ordering one each.

Whatever combination you decide, sharing or skipping one course entirely is a great way to save money and not break the bank.

Need a bit of a financial boost? Before you take out a loan, be sure to ask yourself these 5 questions before you borrow.

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