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Eat Out on the Cheap

Can’t cook tonight? Here's how to eat out cheaply without going to a fast-food restaurant.

2 Meals for the Price of 1

Get two meals for the price of one by taking home half of your big restaurant meal. You can even ask your server to only serve you half on the plate and package the other half in a take-out container. This technique works especially well for restaurants that are notorious for serving mammoth-sized meals. The meal may cost you $13.95 or $16.95, but since it’s serving as two meals, it’s really costing $6.98 or $8.48 per meal.

“Do” Lunch or Make It an Early Dinner to Catch the Lunch Prices

Beat the long dinner lines and catch the lower lunch prices by eating an early dinner. You can also enjoy the lower prices by visiting your favorite restaurants around the lunch hour.  Most restaurants stop serving the lunch entrees or offering the lower lunch prices around 5 p.m. You can get there around 4:30 or 4:45 and still order off of the lunch menu. Until 5 p.m., The Cheesecake Factory restaurants offer lunch specials ranging from $7.95 to $12.95 that generally include smaller portions of some of their favorite menu items like factory meatloaf, beer battered fish & chips, orange chicken, or chicken piccata.

Make Every Side Count

If your meal comes with a side dish and you really don’t want it at that moment, choose something that you know you can take home and use later. This might be a baked potato (use it for a breakfast skillet meal the next morning or as a baked potato lunch -- add some cheese and shredded chicken, beans, or broccoli). At a Chinese restaurant, you might go home with an entire container of steamed rice. You can use this to make soup or vegetarian fried rice the next day. If your lunch comes with a green salad that you don’t have room for, take it home and make a nice entree salad later that day.

Today’s Meat Is Tomorrow’s Sandwich

Have you ever ordered a steak or a roasted chicken dinner and were amazed at the amount of meat staring at you when they slid the plate in front of you? Often meat entrees total 10 ounces or more when most of us only want or need to eat around 4 ounces. Look at the size of your hand, not including the fingers. That’s a sensible serving of meat for most adults. Anything more than that can be taken home and shredded or sliced to make a sandwich or entrée salad the next day. Add your leftover meat to enhance pasta or pizza dishes, baked potatoes, stews, or casseroles.

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