Some people would argue that if money's tight, people shouldn't be eating out at all but the fact is that many Americans, including myself, still indulge. In fact, there are plenty of ways to pay McDonald's prices but get a sit-down meal. Many restaurants have been running specials since people first started cutting back last year, and are taking further steps to reward hungry customers that do come by offering unadvertised specials.
Up until a few months ago, if there was one thing you could count at when you visited a chain restaurant, it was the same items and prices you saw the last time you were there. Now many of these chains are joining family-owned restaurants in offering unadvertised specials. Max & Erma's, for example has recently been offering a $4.99 cheeseburger meal, as well as a rotating special on various cuts of steak, none of which are advertised or on the menu.
Other venues are bringing back the daily specials or offering off-menu specials that lets you eat well without breaking the bank. Many of the local restaurants that have done this are ditching expensive out-of-season food in favor of meals made from items grown closer to home.
My favorite tactic to trim expense is to ask for a lunch portion. With large portion sizes, including salad and bread, you shouldn't go home hungry.
If you don't feel like trying your luck on Saturday night, you can uncover many of these deals just by asking your "in the know" coworker. I've also had good luck searching for specials in online deal forums such as slickdeals.net where frugalistas, who make me look like Thurston Howell, meet up to share their secrets! Remember, saving money on your next meal out is as simple as asking!
Share your favorite specials and off menu deals in the comments.
Also read "How buffets trick you into eating less expensive foods"
Don't forget to ask for the specials when you eat out!