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Updated: 27 Jan 2022

Six ways to save money on eating out

From joining dining clubs to getting creative with your orders

Dining out is becoming a normal part of life for many once again, but a meal out might be pricier than you're used to.

Inflation soared to 3.2% in August 2021, according to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), partly due to a rise in the cost of dining out.

In August last year diners could enjoy the government's Eat Out to Help Out scheme, which offered customers half-price food and drink (up to the value of £10) between Mondays and Wednesdays - and some restaurants carried on the discounts into September.

While another nationwide discount scheme isn't on the cards this autumn, you can still enjoy a meal out without breaking the bank.

Here are some ways to stay cost-savvy while you head to your favourite restaurants, including tips suggested by our readers.

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1. Join dining clubs

Restaurant discount schemes can save you up to 50% at some chains.

Tastecard and Gourmet Society both have 60-day free trials. This means you could get free restaurant discounts for four months - a third of the year - by trying these out back-to-back before committing to one or the other if you like them.

When your trials are up, Tastecard costs £19.99 for six months or £34.99 for a year. Gourmet Society is £6.99 a month.

2. Seek out vouchers and discount codes

Check for vouchers before you go to any restaurant.

You can find them online via websites like Groupon, VoucherCodes, HotUKDeals, MyVoucherCodes and Wowcher.

Just beware some vouchers may have expired, or have terms and conditions you'll need to meet to use them.

It's also still worth checking newspapers for cut-out coupons just in case.

3. Share your food

Everyone might be handed their own menu, but that doesn't mean each person needs their own separate meal.

Sharing a dish between two is an easy way to cut costs in half. It works well if you're just out for a light bite, or if the restaurant you're in serves large portions. You could even order a couple of extra sides to beef up the meal and still save money.

As Jacqueline told us via Facebook, it's a great way to make the most of one meal.

4. Create your own main

This is another tip that involves getting creative with the menu. Instead of sticking to the prescribed 'starters', 'mains' and 'sides' sections of the menu, you can order starters or sides to make up your own cheaper main course.

5. BYOB to save on drinks

Sometimes when you eat out, the price of alcoholic drinks will make up a large chunk of your bill. You can avoid this by bringing your own alcohol to one of the nation's many BYOB restaurants.

Since alcohol from a supermarket or off-license will likely be much cheaper than in a restaurant, bringing your own could cut your bill significantly.

You can search online for BYOB restaurants near you, or check the Wine-Pages BYOB directory for listings.

Beware that some restaurants will bill you for a 'corkage fee', so it might not be entirely cost-effective.

6. Book your meal online

Many restaurants have started taking online bookings since the start of the pandemic. Sometimes, you'll find 50% offers or free-drinks promotions on booking sites like Opentable, Lastminute and 5pm.

so if you are booking online, it's worth checking for these as you do it.

Keep up to date with Which? money-saving tips

We regularly share tips like these and more in our weekly Money Newsletter. You can sign up for the newsletter here to get it in your inbox each week.

We also have a best ways to save money guide, packed with money-saving tips for everything from buying food to paying for public transport.