Friday, 22 August 2008

How to save money on eating out

Eating out is for indulgance, pleasure and the enjoyment of great food. If you really want to save money on eating out, then eat in. Explore your cullinary talents, become adventurous, try out a range of recipes and foods from around the world. Entertain and be entertained.

Many years ago I mixed in a social circle where dinner parties were the thing. We took turns to host dinner parties which happened every one to teo weeks. When it was our turn we splashed out and made some really wonderful meals. The guests usually arrived with a bottle of wine. And the cost? A lavish meal for eight cost about the same as a reasonable meal for two at a half-decent restaurant.

Entertaining in itself is not always the answer. There are many people that will quite happily accept your invitation for dinner but you will wait in vain for a return invitation. What is needed is a group of people that are passionate about food and are willing to put in the time and effort to provide a decent or even a great meal when their turn comes around.

The entertaining group has to become a club. Each member or couple has a turn to provide an out of the world experience. A formal arrangement like this doesn't take the fun out of the wining and dining experience. It ensures continuity and great longterm friendships.

Somehow this all fell away as the children began arriving, but as they grow there is no reason why the dinner club shouldn't be viable.

Trying to save money on eating out is something that does really destroy the fun. The options are to choose the cheapest items on the menu and limit the expensive drinks. A jug of water will do. A bottle of the cheapest wine please - do you have any house wine? Forget about a starter. No desert - just the bill, please. Just a main course and a salad. After all of this you still spend the meal worrying about the bill. Is there a point in eating out? If you cannot eat out and enjoy the meal then why go out at all?

Of course if you customarily choose the most expensive otions on the menu and (of course) only the best wine then there is plenty of scope to save. Experiment with the other items on the menu. The most expensive is not always the best.

Other options are to go Italian rather than French. Italian food often offers very good value. Find a good Italian restaurant and use it.

If you normally eat out once or twice a week, then cut back. Instead of a weekly battle with the budget go out once a month, but make it really special. Choose a better restaurant than you are used to and select a good wine. A really classy meal once a month beats a weekly mediocre experience by miles, and you should still be able to save some money.

Of course if you take a trip to South Africa there are a wide range of restaurants that offer excellent value by international standards. The top restaurant in Cape Town will set you back less than $100 for a meal for two with a good wine, and there many that will cost less than half of that. We recently enjoyed an excellent rump steak with 5 salads and fries with the best wine of the house for a mere $40. The restaurant is a quality Israeli restaurant that serves middle eastern foods. The atmosphere is vibrant and alive. Book your trip now. South Africa is hosting the 2010 Fifa World Cup. Get here some time before that and enjoy a range of restaurants at a third of the price of those in the US and a quarter of the prices of those in Europe.

Looking forward to seeing you. And of course, our dinner party club is open.

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