Brian and I, as a rule, don't go out to eat very often. Last month we ate lunch out once when we were in Maryland for a Morris dance event, and we chipped in once for pizza at a game party. The month before that, we didn't eat out at all.
There are a few reasons for this. First, Brian's a pretty good cook, and so a home-cooked meal from his hands is better than the average restaurant meal. Thus, it's not really worth paying for a restaurant meal unless it's way better than average. Home-cooked meals are healthier, too, and it's easier to choose ingredients that meet our ethical standards (free-range meats only, organic produce where possible).
But the main reason we don't eat out more often is, well, we're cheap. And a home-cooked meal isn't just cheaper than a restaurant meal; it's a lot cheaper. Only about 25% of the price of a restaurant meal is for the ingredients; the rest goes to cover labor and other expenses involved in running the restaurant. So if you cook the same meal at home, with the same ingredients, you'll pay only one-quarter as much.
However, even for us, it's nice to eat out once in a while. Sometimes we're just really tired and don't want to cook; sometimes we're in the mood for a particular dish, like sushi, that even Brian can't make; and sometimes we get invited out with friends, and we're willing to pay for a meal for the sake of the company. So it's useful to know, on such occasions, how to go out for a meal and still keep the bill under control.
That's what my latest Money Crashers article is about. It offers tips for saving by choosing the right restaurant, going at the least expensive time, knowing what to order, and getting discounts when you pay. Check it out here: 10 Ways to Save Money Eating Out at Restaurants