How to cut the cost of eating out

Tightened household budgets mean many of us are eating out less often but there are lots of ways to eat at your favourite restaurants without spending a fortune.

Tightened household budgets mean many of us are eating out less often, but there are lots of ways to eat at your favourite restaurants without spending a fortune.

When finances are tight treats like meals out are often the first thing to go.

But whether you fancy a romantic dinner for two or just can't face the thought of cooking there are plenty of ways to cut the cost of eating out.

Go online and you'll find numerous discount voucher websites where you can download and print buy-one-get-one-free meals at nationwide restaurant chains.

You can also find a weekly round-up of the best deals at Moneywise.co.uk – just head for the money saving section

The only downside of going to a restaurant with a voucher is that you may have to queue for a table.

You should also keep an eye out for fakes, so if in doubt, call the venue to check. Expiry dates can catch you out too as many vouchers have a short shelf life, so always check vouchers in advance to avoid any embarrassment in the restaurant.
You can also cut the cost of eating out by opting for restaurants with bargain menus, such as three courses for a tenner.

National newspapers often offer promos but you can also hunt out deals online at sites like toptable and last minute.

Also keep a watch on the websites of your favourite restaurants and sign up to their newsletters to receive details of any special offers and discounts.
Lunchtime menus are often much cheaper  so it pays to be flexible when you can. If you don't mind eating out in the early evening, you can save money by opting for cut-price early bird menus. They are often marketed for theatre-goers but anyone can take advantage.

It's even possible to dine out for free and even get paid, if you're prepared to give up some time to moonlight as a restaurant reviewer. Mystery shopping sites employ regular diners to drop in to venues and rate their experience.

So maybe there is such a thing as free lunch after all?