Thursday, December 24, 2015

Eating out for less


Going out to eat is not normally considered an especially frugal activity. And you know what? It isn't.  The (usually American) hobby of going out to eat at McDonald's twice a week because nobody in the house could be bothered to cook, or frequent ordering of a latte and a sandwich on your lunch break at the café near your work, can be a huge and unnecessary financial drain (even if said café is Cofix. Those 5-Shekel coffees really add up over time!). And that's without even mentioning the negative health ramifications of eating fast food on a regular basis.

However, there is definitely a time and place for eating out even for frugal people, assuming you're not currently in serious financial dire straits. Meeting up with friends from out of town occasionally, celebrating a family member's birthday or your wedding anniversary - all those are great reasons to dine out in a nice restaurant, enjoying the food and the ambiance. Doing it at at a discount ? Even better.

Luckily, there are several ways to lower your expenses when dining out:

Find a coupon or a voucher for the restaurant of your choice. This will probably net you the largest savings on your meal. You can go about this in one of two ways: either first choosing the restaurant and then searching for a voucher, or searching around at the relevant websites and going to the place which offers the best prices or the largest discount. The latter method is also a great way to acquaint yourselves with restaurants you might not otherwise have heard about.

Vouchers for restaurants at significant discounts (50% and more) can be found at:
  • Your credit card's bonuses page will usually have a variety of 1+1 deals, often for breakfast, at various eateries in your area.
  • Groupons (If you use the original Groupon site for this, as opposed to Baligam, Buy2, etc. don't forget to get another 4% by going through cashback). A similar Anglo-geared website, specializing in eateries, is Janglo's Beteavone.
  • Facebook - this is mostly useful if you have a specific restaurant in mind. Follow them on Facebook and they may offer discounts periodically (though this doesn't seem to be a very common practice - yet). 
  • Websites specializing in restaurant criticism. Most of you are probably familiar with eLuna, which is especially easy on the Anglo eye (being in English) and which offers free printable coupons (the typical discount being 10% off) and discounted giftcards to kosher restaurants around the country. eLuna also has an app, which can be useful if you've forgotten your printed coupon, but getting the coupons through the app requires a small payment and apparently, there are technical glitches with it as well. I hope the admins address these problems, as it's a great idea.
  • Other Hebrew websites about eating out which offer coupons are ROL and 2eat. Their coupons are searchable by location, type of cuisine and level of Kashrut, and the perks offered are highly variable - from 50% off, to a free glass of wine or free dessert, to a kiss from the barmaid (presumably free as well). 
  • Gift vouchers for restaurants and attractions which you may receive at your place of work, coupon booklets you can find free at hotels and tourist attractions, or Buyme Chef vouchers acquired through filling out paid surveys (though keep in mind that if you keep kosher, your options with this voucher are very limited). 
Common courtesy dictates that you tip according to the non-discounted bill (the usual tip in Israel is 10-15%).

Be mindful of extras. Some restaurants will serve appetizers while you're waiting for your order, the price of which is included in the regular fare - e.g. pitot with spreads, salads and/or bread and butter. Since you're paying for them anyway, feel free to dig in and consider ordering only another appetizer as your main course - you may well be too stuffed to eat a whole main course, anyway.

Skip the appetizer and order only the main course. There's no rule you have to have a several-course meal, even if you're in a fancy restaurant. And you won't enjoy the experience any less (in my experience).

Split your order. Many restaurants offer huge main courses, more than one person can reasonably eat (Tip: if this is your first time at the place, take a look at tables which have already been served to estimate how large the portions are). Order one appetizer and one main course for two people, and though you may have no leftovers to take home, your bathroom scales will thank you. Ditto for splitting dessert, or forgoing it altogether if you're full.

As for the one appetizer you get - I suggest getting a variety plate, if available. It's usually cheaper than 2 different appetizers (though it might be a bit more expensive than one single one), but slightly larger and you get to enjoy many of the establishment's dishes at once.

Water (in a carafe, not in a bottle) is good for you. Both for your pocket and your waistline, mind. Soft drinks in particular are subject to a huge price markup in restaurants. 

Bete'avon! 

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