Eating out can be a sinkhole for your wallet if you aren’t careful. Major corporations and chains entire job is to take as much money as possible from you when you step inside their stores or order food for delivery. For many, the idea of cooking your own meals and shopping just isn’t realistic due to the free time that you have. My excuse is I am a single guy and hate cooking anything but chicken. So every time I eat out I try to find the cheapest ways to do this and this is what I have found. Also, this isn’t suppose to be How-To Eat Out And Save Money While Eating Healthy so if you are a health freak this article may not be for you.
This is one of the biggest rabbit holes you can go down when it comes to throwing away your hard earned money. Most delivery services charge you a delivery fee that can easily hit as high as $3 to $4 per order. Then since you aren’t an awful person you have to include a tip as well. On top of that, many of the specials that you might be able to take advantage of are not available for delivery. For example, most pizza places have a carry out special where you can get a large pizza for less than $8. That same pizza delivered, with delivery fee and tip? Try closer to $16. Most places have a minimum order amount before they will even deliver as well. So by simply not being lazy and driving a few miles down the road to pick up your pizza, you are saving nearly $8 on a single pizza order.
Use Mobile Apps To Eat Out
Mobile ordering is all the rage right now and every single major food chain is breaking their back to roll it out and they are literally giving away food to get you hooked on it. Mobile ordering saves food chains money by removing the need to have someone take your order. The less cash registers they need, the less people they need to pay. With rising minimum wages being a trend, there is even more incentive to push you to do most of the work to get your order out the door. Here are some national chains that have great apps with great deals and rewards programs you can take advantage of.
Burger King offers an excellent app that has quite a few deals and allows you to order ahead and pick up via Drive-thru or in-store. I eat here frequently as there is one close by and I can grab lunch or dinner for just a few bucks. The only downside is that they do not offer a rewards program, which would be a huge plug considering the amount of deals they have.
Chick-fil-A recently revamped their entire amp and their rewards program. While they do not offer and deals in the way that Burger King or others do, their rewards program is very good if you can’t resist one of the most popular fast food chains in the United States. The app allows for mobile ordering ahead and curbside pickup, which if you have ever been to a Chick-fil-A can improve the quality of your life by not having to fight the crowds or the long Drive-thru lines.
Their rewards program will reward you with up to 12 points per dollar you spend with 500 points being enough for a single Chick-fil-A sandwich.
If you’d prefer to skip fast food and upgrade just a bit, Chili’s offers are great mobile app for ordering to go or even reserving your place in line ahead of time. They also offer a rewards program, though it isn’t as involved as others. Some of the perks include free kids meals, appetizers, desserts as well as free salsa and chips or a free dink every visit.
Dairy Queen has come a long way since I was in high school. The quality has improved and they have really done well with their desserts. If you have a sweet tooth check out their mobile app for deals. They are also rolling out their rewards program in certain areas, so keep checking back to see if it has arrived where you are.
Domino’s has been a leader in mobile ordering for some time now. You can even use Twitter to order a pizza. Their Piece of the Pie Rewards program offers you 10 points if you spend $10 or more and at $60 points you can redeem your points for a Medium 2 topping pizza.
The Domino’s app also has deals for you to browse through and from time to time they do online only deals. The only downside is that their deals rarely change.
If you are in the mood for a good sub, Firehouse offers a great app and rewards program. Reward points can be redeemed for meal upgrades, free subs and more. Plus, for just signing up you get a free large drink on your first sub order. On top of that, Firehouse Subs donates a portion of the proceeds from each order to Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation, to be used to provide lifesaving equipment to first responders. So you can enjoy a nice sub while knowing you are supporting a good cause.
Pizza Hut, in my opinion, has the best rewards program for any Pizza chain. While Domino’s essentially only gives you 10 points for every order and nothing at all if your order is under $10, Pizza Hut is purely based on how much you spend. They also tend to have better deals and they are updated more often. For example, a large two topping pizza can be had for $7.99 every day and every so often they will reduce the price to $5.99. For me, I can make a large pizza count for two meals in a day. For every dollar you spend you receive 2 reward points. You can redeem a Medium 2-topping pizza for 150 points, a Medium Any-topping pizza for 200 points and a Large Any-topping pizza for 250 points.
McDonald’s has really made a push in the last few months with their mobile app. Going as far to give away food just for using the app. The app is well designed and works exceptionally well. You can choose to pickup your order inside, at the curb or through the Drive-thru. The deals section is constantly updated and has some great breakfast and lunch/dinner deals you can take advantage of. I mostly use it for breakfast and can the food delivered to me at my car for $2 before tax some days, depending on the available coupons.
If you have to have your coffee and you get it on the go, Starbucks, while a bit more expensive then other places, does offer a decent rewards program and specials on their app from time to time. If you are going to spend the money, you might as well make sure that you get something out of it in the end.
The mobile app is very user friendly and can help you quickly pay and get out the door as well.
And Many More
These are just some of the apps that I use on a daily basis. If you eat out somewhere frequently or even if you are thinking about trying a new place out, see if they have a mobile app you can download for your phone! If they do, you can almost bet there is a way to save, either by coupons or a rewards program.
Just so I am reminded, I create a new folder for all my food apps and keep it on my homepage. This way I always am being reminded there are ways to save when eating out.
Complain If Something Is Wrong
Now, only do this if something is truly wrong with your order and do so in a polite manner. You know the saying, don’t piss off the people that handle your food. If something is wrong with your order you can almost always get credit in someway for a future order.
Eating out will never be as cheap as being frugal at the grocery store and cooking your own meals at home. For those who do not wish to cook, can’t cook due to time or for whatever reason it is that you choose to eat out instead of at home, you can still go a long way with saving money by using technology and a bit of common sense when ordering your food.