Eating Out Cost Effectively

buddha bar

The older I get, the more I appreciate fine dining, opulent surroundings and expanding my palate; so eating out has become a new hobby that I enjoy at least once monthly. However I am often asked ‘how do you afford it’, ‘isn’t fancy food a waste of money’ or my favourite one ‘shouldn’t you be cooking?’.  To be fair, I love a home cooked meal and frequently try recipes from fellow contributor Tracey Sokoya but eating out is a great way to socialise inexpensively and try food from around the world.

Like me, you might be living on a budget but there is no reason why you can’t enjoy eating out once in a while. Saving money whilst eating out takes minimal effort and I have six tips to help you in this endeavor:

  1. Curb Your Appetite – it may seem backwards to eat before you leave, but just like visiting the supermarket whilst hungry is a bad idea (as you pick up extra foods you crave at the time), the same applies to eating out. Trying new restaurants on an empty stomach leads to ordering sides which are generally overpriced. Remove that temptation by eating a small snack before you go such as an apple or cheese and crackers.
  2. Skip Dinner – Dinner is the most expensive meal due to the ingredients, staffing demands and portions. Instead, go out for brunch or lunch (unless you have a voucher. See point 4). On average it cost 25% more than lunch and 50% more than breakfast.
  3. Watch Your Drinks – Unless you are ordering from a set menu which includes a drink, drinking table water (which sounds better than saying tap water) will save you 20% on your final bill.  Prices on alcoholic and non- alcoholic drinks are marked up significantly, sometimes 3-4 times what they would cost in a store!
  4. Vouchers Apps – Most smartphones come with 16gb of storage and I know I use 50% of mine on Voucher and Restaurant apps! Voucher apps are always a good way to save money as they show the most up to date deals and menus. These include pre-theatre deals (you do not need to be going to the theatre), early bird or tasting menus. Below are links to my top 6 apps. It’s ok to whip out a Groupon
  5. Service Charge – Did you know that unless clearly stated before you eat, all service charge is discretionary (read more from Which Magazine) So why pay it? Service charge is normally 10% of your total bill, which is not too much if the service was fantastic, however it is split between all restaurant staff and not your server, therefore I believe tipping is kinder especially if your server was attentive and generally they are the lowest paid.
  6. Share Meals – The trend these days is to serve large portions. Unfortunately the other trend is to not take home the leftovers. Bear with the potential embarrassment and take home what you cannot eat at the restaurant. It is often enough for another meal and makes for a great work lunch.

Treat yourself on occasion but be wise and stick to your budget. There are some affordable restaurants out there, you just need to be aware of what to avoid, what to look for, and how to get the most bang for your buck!

My Top 6 Favourite London Restaurants Currently on Offer until October

  • Buddha Bar London – Situated in Knightsbridge with a variety of choices from Prawns to Duck. 3 courses for £30 including a Champagne cocktail. Online offer through Bookatable.
  • Quaglino’s – Situated in Mayfair, Quaglino’s have re-branded in opulent style. You can currently book a variety of deals online through Bookatable. The great thing about Quaglino’s is that they often have musical entertainment, which rounds of the night superbly.
  • Waldorf Hilton – Normally £99 for 3 courses, the Waldorf are offering 3 courses for 2 people with  a glass of Prosecco for £44. Online through Wowcher.
  • Hotel Rafayel – Located on the Thames, you can currently have a Champagne Afternoon Tea for £35. That’s a 50% saving only on Amazon Local.
  • The Balcon – Exquisite French food with great service. currently have deals throughout the day from £20.
  • Beach Blanket Babylon – Probably my favourite Modern European restaurant. Located in Shoreditch and currently offering unlimited prosecco with brunch for £15. Online at OpenTable until 25th October.

Top 6 Deal Apps/Websites

Cover photo: Buddha Bar London