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Seeking Value for the Money When Dining Out

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Tex Barry's Coney Island Hot Dogs, Attleboro, Mass. (photo by Eric H.)

Not too long ago, we spent around $80 at a local, popular restaurant for four meals, two cups of soup, two desserts and no adult beverages. That’s ridiculous! As Dee Snider and his Twisted Sister band members once said, “We’re not going to take it anymore!”

At first, we felt like we did something wrong — that maybe we weren’t being mindful of the costs. That’s partially true, as we didn’t take into account that a salad didn’t come with the meal and a soft drink cost more than what you’d pay for a hot dog at the local townie spot. At least this restaurant didn’t charge for bread, water and a lemon the way other local eateries have done to us!

We are living in different times, and it’s virtually impossible for four people to eat for under $50 — the way things used to be. To be fair, it is often not the restaurant’s fault for such high prices. The cost of food and the transportation to deliver it are through the roof — not to mention rising rents, heating and electrical costs. So, as many restaurants struggle to make ends meet, we find it harder to get good value for the money when dining out.

As a result, we might eat out once a month. When we do dine out, we are very careful about what to order. For example, we’ll skip that $7 dessert or just go with the side vegetable instead of an expensive iceberg salad. When a cup (not bowl) of New England clam chowder comes in at over $5, we just clam up and choose something of better value.

I know people some people that have been affected by the tough economy and still eat out several times a month. With all due respect, I think that is irresponsible. Sure, we all need to get out once in a while for a good meal out, but spending $500 a month or so on food and drink is not good financial planning — especially when it is put on a credit card.

We are not saying don’t go out to eat — just be smarter about it. Adjust with the times, realize that some restaurants that were once a good value are no longer, and pray that our economy recovers so maybe we can all go out to eat more. But most importantly so people can just get by on the basics. You wouldn’t believe how many people I talk with that barely have enough left over by the end of the month, Is that you, and has it cut down on dining out?

I know of many ways to save on dining out, locally, and would be interested in hearing your feedback, too. Recently, we bought a coupon from Yelp for the Patriot Diner in Woonsocket, R.I., and saved several dollars at this restaurant that is affordable to begin with. We actually ate out for under $50. Over in Attleboro, you can order a delicious hot dog for around $1.50 at Tex Barry’s Coney Island Hot Dogs. First Sandwich Shop in Walpole, Mass., offers a large cheese pizza for just $5.99. Last Mother’s Day when other restaurants skyrocketed their prices to take advantage of the day, the Eagle Brook Saloon in Norfolk, Mass., cut prices in half for moms. These are the type of restaurants that we will frequent!

You might also want to consider those deal sites. Although you’ll hear varying opinions on these sites, the bottom line is that it will save you money. That’s good enough for us! We recommend checking out LivingSocial, Groupon, and I have seen deals for 50 per cent off or more. How can anyone deny the value of these sites? They are a savior for those of us that like to save money on our occasional meal out.

We’d love to hear from you on restaurants that offer outstanding value for the money. We would also like to hear from you on how much you cut back on dining out. You can comment in the box below. Thanks!

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