How to Save Money at Restaurants

Food Republic

This week’s post is another in our TravlMor series on how to live a minimalist lifestyle so you can afford to travel more often. If you enjoy this article, please see the links at the bottom of this post for more in this series.

How much food do you throw away? If you are the average American, you probably trash about 400 pounds of food per year. How many actual dollars do you intentionally throw away? My guess is none. But if you are wasting that much food, you are throwing away dollars every week that you could be using to go visit Borneo.

FriedRiceWhen I was growing up, I heard the same thing from my mother that most people my age heard from theirs, “Eat everything on your plate. There are starving kids in Africa/China/India that don’t have any food.” At the time, to be completely honest, Africa/China/India was such a nebulous concept that this line of reasoning did not really work for me. My world was my family, school, neighborhood and friends. I had no idea what kids in other countries were like and did not think about them much.

The point of this post is not to talk about starving children. The point here is to do what your mother told you and eat all of the food on your plate. Every time.

So how do you do this without getting to be 400 pounds yourself? Have you seen the portion sizes that restaurants give you? How can someone eat all of that food in one sitting?

A couple of years ago, Sara and I noticed that when we go out to restaurants and order food for ourselves and our kids, we ended up not eating everything on our plates virtually every meal. There was a bunch of food leftover and we would sometimes bring it home, but usually it was all of the vegetables, or rice, or beans. Certainly stuff that would sit in the fridge until it went bad and then we would throw it out.

It’s funny, sometimes I would catch myself checking the leftovers in the refrigerator to see if they had gone bad. A lot of times, they were on the very edge of spoiled. You could maybe get away with eating them and maybe not. So what would I do? I would put them back in the fridge for a couple more days until I was sure they were bad and then I could throw them out without any guilt. Pretty smart, eh?

Milk Tea and Watermelon Juice

Not really. Finally, though, Sara and I did get smarter about our restaurant habits. We noticed that our little one almost never ate all of her food. We also noticed that certain restaurants always give a lot of food on a typical plate. What we found works really well is if we order either two adult meals and share with our little one, or one adult meal and one kid’s meal, split the adult meal and then I typically finish off the kid’s meal.

This has dramatically reduced our restaurant bills as well as the amount of food that we waste. Now, instead of all of those veggies getting thrown out, we eat every bit of them. Most of the time it is plenty of food for the three of us.

Now this sometimes falls apart when we are all really hungry as we are ordering. These are times that we usually overorder, so we really try to control ourselves. Nobody’s perfect, though, so occasionally we do bring home leftovers. Sara is our leftover machine. She tries very hard to either eat them, or assign them to one of us for lunch.

There are naturally some problems with this overall plan. The biggest is the question if you and your significant other like the same food. I would suggest that this is not as big a problem as you might first believe. The key, of course, is to find a choice that you both like. If you are both sufficiently motivated to save money, then it should not be too big of a problem. If one of you is on the fence about the whole thing, then this could become the shootout at the OK Corral.

The thing to keep in mind is that each meal that you eat is only one meal in a lifetime of many. It is not going to kill you to compromise on your meal this one time. And you take it one meal at a time. Over the course of a year, if you save $12 per meal and eat out once a week, you will save around $700 if you include taxes.

Sara is a vegetarian and I am not. We still share meals almost every time we go out to eat. It’s not that difficult when you have a higher goal in mind.

To sum it up, share as many meals as possible to not only save money, but also not waste so much food. You will end up eating all of the healthy items as well as the “good” items on the plate, instead of throwing away the veggies.


This is one set of food. We all shared it. Bumbu Bali Restaurant.


TravlMor Series

How to Develop a Minimalist Mindset (TravlMor 1)

How to Get Rid of Your Stuff - The Extreme Method (TravlMor 2)

How to Get Rid of Your Stuff - The Ease-Into-It Method (TravlMor 3)

Minimalism and Family Life (TravlMor 4)

How to Save Money at Restaurants (TravlMor 5)

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