Eating Out and Saving Money

Food is important to us.  And I’m not talking about the nutritional aspect that is required to keep us alive but from the fact that we are gastronomic travelers.  Yes, that means our stomachs lead us around and sometimes dictate which city we land in.  Newly discovered restaurants rank right up there with world class museums and national parks.  We will turn this bus around when we see a divy burger joint with a full parking lot or a drive-in that has been in existence for 60 years.  But, my obsession with cooking means that we don’t eat out a whole lot so I can fulfill my culinary hobby; however, when we do, it better count.  Over-priced and uncreative just does not cut it and makes us sad.  It is so disappointing to pay lots of money for food that is just not that great.

019Restaurants in the area where we are staying are really good but expensive.  There are dynamite restaurants ranging from fine dining to casual beach side seafood joints to gourmet grilled cheeses from Airstreams.  A hamburger can run you $12-15 dollars and entrees at white tablecloth restaurants can easily reach $35.  To satisfy our desire to sample local fare we have found some ways to indulge in the finer food side of HWY 30A and avoid draining our wallets. 

Here are a few tips we have discovered. 

Half priced entrée or two-for-one deals.  Numerous restaurants near us offer great food specials if you are willing to eat between 5-6 pm.  We’re starting to think about dinner around 3 o’clock anyway so eating early is not a problem.  Lucky for us, numerous fine dining restaurants offer half priced entrees.  So now we can sit down to perfectly poached butterfish or yellow fin tuna with crispy Lyonnaise potatoes without worrying about the bill. 


Check for coupons.  Look in the local paper or brochures  in search of coupons or specials.  Most campgrounds offices/stores have racks with brochures and local information that advertise free appetizers if you purchase an entrée or maybe a 10% off deal.  The other day we came out of a movie and tucked under the windshield wiper was a coupon for free Italian Nachos – a $9 value – and no requirement to purchase an entrée.

Happy Hour Specials.  Again, if you don’t mind eating early (or a late lunch depending on how you look at it), you can score some great food and not bust the bank.  Recently, one of the local (and favorite) restaurants, Cowgirl Kitchen, started a $5 menu from 2-5 pm.  So the other day, Betsy and I split some awesome drunken shrimp tacos, cheesy queso and chips, and each got a beer for total15 bucks (tax and tip not included).  We were stuffed and satisfied.  As another bonus, on our receipt was a 20% off wine coupon good in their affiliated gourmet food and wine store called Feed and Supply.  Score!


Ladies Day.  Sorry gentlemen but sometimes it pays saves to be a lady.  Pizza at Bruno’s on Thursday is a tradition.  And yes, we do eat pizza every week.  For $5 you can settle in to the unlimited pizza buffet, salad bar, and soft drinks and eat to your desires from 11-2.  We are frequently there at 11 since the place is so popular and we just can’t wait to eat there.  Don’t worry guys, for you the deal is a mere $8.50 and based on eye witness accounts lots of men are getting their money’s worth. 


Special offers.  These seem to pop up because of places we work like here and our last job in Maine.  Take here for example.  If we wear our Florida State Park volunteer shirt to one of the 048local restaurants adjacent to the park, The Donut Hole, they generously take 50% off our bill.  Now that’s a great deal!  And, totally irresistible because they make an awesome corned beef hash.

Eat out for lunch instead of dinner.  We have found that eating lunch out is a great way to try local fare but not run up the bill.  Lunch entrees are typically less expensive than those offered at dinner.  Plus, we tend not to drink alcohol at lunch (there are exceptions though) as opposed to dinner when we like to have a cocktail and a glass of wine thus sending the bill way up.

Splitting.  Another great way to reduce cost is to split entrees . . . that is if both parties can agree on what to order.  Beware of additional charges applied to splitting items.  Most menus will indicate if there is a charge, if not ask your server. 

Eating out can be enjoyable, satisfying, relaxing, and a nice treat.  But when food becomes so expensive that you worry about the bill, the experience is diminished.  With a few money saving tips you can enjoy your dining out experience and keep a little more of the greenback in your pocket.

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