- Food delivery apps have subscriptions that will save you on delivery fees, or you can pick up your order instead of having it delivered.
- Ordering at the right time of day is a good way to keep your costs down.
- Becoming a regular at your favorite restaurants and using the right credit card are also great ways to get more for your dining dollars.
Takeout doesn't have to be a budget-buster.
Everyone has to eat. And while I enjoy cooking at home, it isn't something I necessarily want to do for every single meal. I love restaurants, particularly the unique non-chain establishments that my small city has in abundance. The COVID-19 pandemic prompted many places to ramp up their takeout and delivery service, as restaurants had to find ways to survive without having patrons eat inside. I was happy to continue patronizing my favorite restaurants in this way, and more than two years on, I'm still a frequent takeout and delivery customer. I've got a tried-and-true set of tips that will help you eat delicious food that you didn't have to cook yourself, and also keep more money in your bank account.
1. Choose the right subscription service
If you have room in your budget and order a lot of takeout and delivery meals, I highly recommend signing up for a food delivery app's premium service. The biggest players in the takeout space, including Uber Eats, Grubhub, and DoorDash, offer a monthly subscription service that can save you money on delivery and service fees that the app collects from casual users who don't subscribe. As of this writing, the cost for the premium service for each of these three apps is $9.99 per month.
FYI, you might be able to score a free trial membership to see how you like it before you sign up for real (make sure you keep track of when that trial ends, and cancel on time, so your credit card doesn't get charged!). If you decide to become a paid member, choose the service that has more of your favorite restaurants on it, so you'll be able to get your money's worth.
2. Don't order for dinner
If you order takeout for breakfast or lunch, rather than dinner, you'll likely save some bucks. Restaurants often post different prices for slightly smaller portions and different foods on their breakfast and lunch menus, while the dinner menu generally has the most expensive offerings. So if you know you want to skip cooking for one of your meals, make it for breakfast or lunch.
3. Get a bigger portion and save half
One way to make your dining dollars go further is to order a bigger meal (again, you might save a little if you choose breakfast or lunch) and save food for a future meal. I do this all the time; for example, if I'm getting a burrito, I'll pay the $4 or $5 upcharge for extra meat, and cut the burrito in half and immediately pack half away for lunch or dinner the next day. I love doing this, because I'm getting two meals for just a little more money than the cost of only one.
4. Become a regular
If there's a restaurant you really enjoy, make it a point to become a frequent customer. I've done this with a Japanese restaurant in my area, and I often receive an extra little goodie, like a free order of vegetable tempura or edamame, in my order, just as a nice thank-you from the staff. A little extra food doesn't cost them much, but they're getting to keep me as a loyal customer. The last two years have seen a lot of restaurant closures, and the profit margin for a small place can be razor-thin, so giving them your business often will help to ensure they can stay open and pay their staff.
5. Opt for picking up over delivery
While food delivery is certainly convenient, it will cost you extra in terms of tips and delivery fees. You can save on the delivery fees by signing up for a subscription service, like I mentioned above, but the tip is one place where you shouldn't skimp. I'm grateful to the nice folks who deliver my food, and I tip as generously as I can, but sometimes that tip money just isn't in my food budget for the week, so I'll opt to pick up my order instead. Some of the delivery apps even offer a little discount in the form of a recurring coupon code when you choose pickup instead of delivery, so definitely check if your preferred app does!
6. Use the right credit card
Another way to save some dough on your takeout orders is to use the right credit card to get cash back on restaurant purchases. Some cards also come with no annual fees and generous sign-up bonuses, and may offer cash back in other categories too, so read the fine print and choose the best card for your needs.
We all have to eat, and if you enjoy takeout as much as I do, try out these ways to save some cash and also consume delicious food.
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