Eat out on the cheap
No one likes a tightwad, but there are few things more galling than paying through the nose for a meal you could have just as easily made for yourself at home.
Paying big bucks for an extra-special meal is nice once in a while. But if you like to dine out more regularly and don’t want to pay over the odds for the pleasure, then there are ways to cut the cost.
Increased competition means many restaurants are desperate to draw diners through their doors, and are resorting to promotions and special offers to appeal to the credit crunched.
You may have received vouchers for buy-one-get-one-free meals at nationwide restaurant chains, and these are well worth using although you may have to queue to get a table.
You can find vouchers yourself by checking out offers on the internet - a quick Google search will return thousands of sites offering vouchers, but it’s worth using the most reputable ones. Myvouchercodes.co.uk and vouchercodes.co.uk are two of the most popular, alongside with discountcodes.tv.
Remember to watch out for fakes though – you can read more about using vouchers here.
Use the web
The internet is host to dozens of websites that allow you to search for restaurants in your local area, with many offering booking discounts as well.
Toptable features special offers such as 50% off restaurants and allows you to search for cheaper restaurants with menus for under £25.
5pm.co.uk enables you to reserve a table and find restaurants offering discounted menus.
Lastminute.com offers an “eat out for a tenner” search tool, although most of the restaurants are in London.
Don't forget to check out the websites of your favourite restaurants. Pizza Hut has a special website featuring its current discount deals, while Giraffe will send you details of its special offers when you sign up to its website.
Moonlight as a restaurant reviewer
Becoming a mystery shopping in your spare time is a good way to eat out for free in restaurants you might not normally be able to afford. You can even get paid for it; websites such as Retaileyes.co.uk employ mystery shoppers to drop in unannounced on shops and restaurants and rate their experience.
After you send in your feedback, you’ll be paid for your time and reimbursed for any purchases you made. You could make up to £20 a day, and get a meal or a night in a nice hotel thrown in for good measure.
Go for cheaper options
Increasing numbers of people are ditching upmarket brands – from shops to restaurants – in favour of cheaper alternatives.
Pizza Hut, for example, has reported an increase in diners in the past year.
A spokesperson from Pizza Hut says: “We have seen a significant increase in customers visiting our restaurants as they move away from more expensive restaurants to more casual dining outlets.”
Many restaurant chains have their menus online so you can compare prices before you go. Going off the beaten track in search of places to eat is likely to throw up some cheaper alternatives, so explore beyond your local high street and see if you can find some hidden gems.
Lunchtime menus tend to be cheaper and often include several courses for a low price, so why restrict dining out to the evening?
In addition, many restaurants offer cut-price early-bird menus for theatre-goers or those who like to eat early.
Eat for free
You might not be able to reduce your food bill to nothing but there are ways to cut the cost of eating by making the most of special offers.
Many brands will send free samples of their product to you, although they may well add you to their marketing list in return.
Websites such as foodfreebies.co.uk offer examples of current free samples and also allow you to download vouchers for money-off meals.