1. Eat at the bar during happy hour. SO many restaurants are offering really great happy hour deals because of the recession. Take advantage!
2. Use coupons from the newspaper, mail, or the restaurant web site, which will often have a page for “special offers.” Many readers suggested this, so thanks!
3. Order cheaply. Stick to sensibly-priced entrees and skip the drinks, appetizers and desserts.
4. If you are eating with one other person, split an appetizer and an entree instead of each ordering an entree. Restaurant portions are big enough you will still have plenty to eat.
5. Eat out for lunch instead of dinner. The prices are almost always lower but the portions still as big.
6. Have dinner at home and go out for dessert. Add a glass of wine and your tab will still be lower than eating a full meal out.
7. Buy discounted gift certificates from Restaurant.com, but watch out for tight restrictions on redeeming the certs. The usual deal is $10 for a $25 certificate, but sign up for their email updates and you will get coupons for 50% to 80% off that $10 rate.
8. Halfoffdeals.com sells gift certificates to restaurants (and a few spas and golf courses) for half price and has many fewer restrictions than Restaurant.com.
9. Buy the Entertainment Book, which is stocked with 2-for-1 offers and 50% off deals at many fast casual restaurants. Check that you enjoy eating at the restaurants that are included. Many chains participate, but the coupons are not good at every single location.
10. Become a member of AAA. The cards will get you 10% to 20% off at select restaurants.