going to restaurants for cheap

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If you’re on a budget, dining out every day may not be the best choice for saving money. It’s usually quite the task to save money at restaurants.

That being said, when the occasion arises, there are ways to ensure you don’t go broke when going out for dinner.

I’ve listed some tips and tricks I use both at home and during travel to save some money at restaurants.

How to Save Money at Restaurants While Travelling

Maybe you’re celebrating. Don’t have access to a kitchen, or just need someone else to do the cooking.

Whatever the reason, skip worrying about the bill and try these options.

Look for Fixed Menus to Save Money at Restaurants

Fixed menus are often cheaper than ordering a la carte. Restaurants that offer a menu of the day usually combine an appetizer, main course, and extra all for one price.

This is common in Europe and helps in super touristy locations like Paris.

Adventurous foodies will be excited at the chance to sample a few items off their menu. While those on a budget will have the chance to experience some finer dining without breaking the bank.

The cheapest fixed menu prices are often found at lunch, but some restaurants have options for dinner for a slightly higher cost.

eating at restaurants while travelling

Dine Out for Breakfast

Breakfast is often the cheapest meal to find, and I think this stays true for most of the world.

Whether it’s grabbing a crépe in Paris, or eggs and pancakes in America, breakfast meals usually come with a cheaper price tag.

You might think diners would be your best option; and while they’re a good bet, you can also find cheap breakfast options at cafes and trendy restaurants.

If you’re really hungry, you can buy a bunch of low-cost baked goods to create your own special meal (I won’t judge you for having a tray of croissants at lunch).

Some restaurants have brunch deals as well on Saturday and Sunday, so you can celebrate the weekend abroad on the cheap.

Visit That Hole-in-the-Wall

Some (if not all) of my favourite restaurants around the world are hole-in-the-walls.

The great thing about these smaller tucked away restaurants is that they usually offer delicious local dishes for a fraction of the cost.

From my adventures, I find many hole-in-the-walls to be much more authentic than other restaurants, depending on where you are.

Stick to Cafes or Bakeries

Cafes and bakeries are usually my go-to if I know I don’t have much money but need to eat.

While homey bakeries and cafes are common in Europe, they’re also trendy in major metropolitans like New York City, LA and Montreal.

I’ve already mentioned that breakfasts tend to be cheaper at cafes than restaurants, but many cafes and bakeries also carry cheaper sandwiches and small meals that you can easily grab.

Food at cafes and bakeries will often be better (and cheaper) than fast food options, and depending on where you choose, you’ll have a relaxing environment to chill in (great for taking a midday break).

save money at restaurants

Even if the cafe or bakery doesn’t have much of a menu, chances are, you’ll be able to find some sort of baked good or pastry for a couple of dollars.

If you’re really hungry, you can buy a bunch of low-cost baked goods to create your own special meal (I won’t judge you for having a tray of croissants at lunch).

Comfort Your Wallet with Comfort Food

Even though the idea of comfort food might change from destination to destination, one thing’s for sure – it’s usually cheap.

For North America, comfort food means options like burgers and mac and cheese. In France, you’re more likely to go after a French onion soup while there’s definitely something comforting about tapas in Spain.

Whether it’s pizza, waffles, or crispy frites, seeking out some greasy comfort food items are often cheaper (and so much more satisfying) than a full course meal in a trendy restaurant.

Dine Out Early and Cash in at Happy Hour

Happy hour deals are common in almost every city. Some cities even have 2-hours (I’m looking at you Montreal)!

While this is probably the best time of day to head out for drinks on a budget, you can also find some deals on grub too.

You’ll find happy hour deals at bars, pubs, trendy restaurants, and even chain restaurants. There aren’t too many venues that don’t bank on the after work crowd.

Feeling a little fancy? You can even find happy hour deals that include $1 oysters!

Save Money at Restaurants by Saving Some Time for Research

Researching some restaurants in your area will allow you to choose a restaurant in your budget. This way, you won’t have to awkwardly escape when a pricey menu arrives at your table.If you know how much you’ll be spending, you can budget for it and save some surprises and empty wallets in the long run.

Now I know when you’re travelling (or just generally busy) you may not have the time to sort through a dozen restaurant menus for one that works for you. There are shortcuts!

While I personally like to look through menus, it’s easy to go on a website like Yelp or Tripadvisor to help narrow your search down by price.

going to restaurants for cheap

Calculate Your Totals Ahead of Time

If you know how much you’ll be spending, you can budget for it and save some surprises and empty wallets in the long run.

If you’ve already done your research on the menu, you’ll likely know how much your dinner will cost. But be sure to also calculate any gratuities and taxes.

Even if you don’t know the exact price of your meal, add taxes and gratuity to the ballpark price in your head to get a better idea of what the total meal will cost.

Use Apps to Help You Save

Extending your research to local discount apps will aid in your mission to spend less money dining out.

There are a number of apps around the world that offer discounts for dining out; it would be a shame to never take advantage.

Apps That Help You Save Money at Restaurants

Below are a few of my favourite apps to use both home and abroad to find some killer savings on delicious meals.


Groupon is pretty well known, offering discounts and coupons to 15 countries worldwide.

dining out on the cheap

I’ve used Groupon both in North America and Europe to dine out at interesting venues for a fraction of the cost.

You can find a ton; from local sushi restaurants to new ‘dining in the dark’ experiences.

Discounts vary (sometimes more than 50% off) and retailers are usually respectful of your coupon.

That being said, do note the fine print. Taxes, fees, gratuities, or any other extra pricing will be noted there so you can know exactly what you’re spending.

The Fork

The Fork or La Fourchette was my go-to app in France for dining out. This app allows you to reserve a table at designated times.

The perk? Most restaurants offer a discount with your reservation. This is how I fell in love with one of my favourite restaurants in Paris.

Mobilis in Mobili in Paris’ 3rd arrondissement offered a 50% discount on everything on their menu. Pair that with a delicious seafood spread and they have my heart forever.

The Fork has a number of other trendy restaurants and the app is available in 11 countries.

eat out on a budget

To Wrap This Up

Being on a budget doesn’t mean you have to forgo dining out altogether.

If you’re smart, plan a little, and take advantage of some technology, you’ll be dining out at your leisure, without breaking the bank.

Happy travels!


Want to put these skills to good use? Check out my growing lists of favourite places to eat on a budget!

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