In this economy, every penny matters, so I have heard repeatedly. Personally, I am tired of hearing the same advice on savings, “cut back”… “lose all expendables”… “eat at home; don’t dine out”.
Yes, eating at home might make sense for both the wallet and the waistline, but it’s still a pleasure of being an adult that is hard to sacrifice.

Over happy hour appetizers and drinks last week, I asked my husband a question which left us both speechless (which, if you know is, is very unusual),

“When was the last time we spent full price on a meal out?”

* Crickets *

We have a whole slew of tricks up our sleeves (which we probably purchased on sale) which have made full-price meals a thing of the past.

Here are some of our deal-ightful tips:

Subscribe and Save: Deal sites such as Groupon and LivingSocial are popping up right and left these days, which can be good for your bottom-line! Be sure to read the fine print and be certain that you will use any dining certificate you buy (why did I buy that certificate for all-you-can eat beets? Oops- that restaurant is in WHAT part of town???).

Happy Hour: Common misconception – happy hours only exist at the corner pub, where the choices are Budwesier or Coors? Nachos or Buffalo wings? Not so. Most restaurants offer killer deals on a variety of appetizers (who needs an excuse to try ‘Mexican sushi’ or indulge in lettuce wraps anyways?)… and of course, martinis, margaritas and other libations. Turns out that trying these tapas might actually be good for you! Many health professionals have encouraged diners to partake in a couple of small appetizers instead of munching on a main course to save valuable calories. Sweet!

Get Paid to Eat Out: Last Friday night, my husband and I enjoyed hot, bubbly cheese fries, a crisp spinach and chicken salad, and a burger big enough to boggle your mind- for free. Monday night, a couple of imported brews, cheesy crab bread, spicy seafood pasta and a mushroom burger.. how much did we pay for this? $40? Nope. $50? Wrong-o. The correct answer: a whole lotta nada.
Seriously. How do I do this? I mystery shop. Yes, this is a legitimate way to earn some extra moola or free loot. There are a handful of companies out there who pay you to dine out, observe the service and fare (tough work, but someone’s gotta do it), then write about it. Indulge your inner-critic and become a contracting foodie! Send me an email and I will refer you to a company who will feed your need for free grubbage! Note: you can also order healthy meals. I can say that the above examples were ‘fails’ on my (rear)end!

NETwork: Somewhat similar to the group buying deals I mentioned above, you can buy discounted gift certificates for a network of participating dining joints at You can purchase $25 gift certificates for a pretty standard rate of $10. But, slow your roll! Be sure to Google “coupon codes for” and you can usually score a promotional code for up to 80% off of that $10.
$2.00 for $25.00 worth of food is a damned good deal.
Just read the fine print- sometimes adult beverages are not included and you might have to spend a minimum amount, usually $35, so you will still have to bust out your checkbook.

Coupons: You know those fat blue envelopes that arrive in our mailbox every so often? Be sure to open them up- in addition to a plethora of coupons for everything from gutter cleaning to septic system maintenance, you might just find some buy one get one entree free coupons from restaurants in your area! Just think- the marketing geniuses who supply these packets of coupons will fill your mailbox with local deals. Vendors are only going to pay to advertise in areas where their patrons live!

Gift Cards at a Discount: Does your favorite eatery sell gift cards? If so, do some research and stock up on these plastic beauties! Some websites such as eBay and PlasticJungle will offer gift cards at a hefty discount for your consuming pleasure! Regifting for the modern ages.

Do you have any other stealth money saving tips to help stretch your dining dollar? Please share!