Dining out has been a hobby for my wife and me ever since we first started dating. We look forward to sitting down to a nice meal and enjoying each other’s company. It’s been that way for almost fifty years, and we never get tired of it. Dining out is a main part of every trip or vacation and I’m usually in charge of doing the research.
Dining out does not have to be too expensive. Although we have spent hundreds of dollars in an evening when it’s just the two of us, we are just as comfortable in places that some would call “a dive” or a fast-food establishment. In fact, we thought we were the inspiration for the show Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. Since that show became popular, my research always includes checking out if any place near where we’re going has been featured. We’ve been to about a dozen places that have been featured and they’ve all been good.
The range of our dining out experiences have gone from a lunch with a killer view of the Napa Valley to a food truck in upstate New York and a lot of places in between. We can spend a fortune or stay within our budget. Since our retirement we have pretended that our budget is $100 a day and, while that may or may not be a lot of money for your own situation, it has been our guide for a while. We know that the more cooking at home that we do, the more we can splurge at a restaurant and our dining out experiences have definitely inspired our cooking and recipes. Trying to duplicate something special that we’ve had in a restaurant can be a lot of fun to try at home.
We’ve learned that there are some ways to get the most for your money whenever you’re dining out. You can certainly pay cash and possibly get a discount, but we have found it advantageous to use a credit card to get points for airline miles or hotel rooms. We are careful to pay our balance each month and are pleasantly surprised to see our points add up. There are also some other perks that may be available depending on the card that you have. With our airline card we get extra miles and priority boarding and with the hotel card we get points and a free night. That’s an added benefit to dining out which is something we would do anyway.
We tend not to eat breakfast out because, lately, it seems the prices for breakfast have really escalated with portion sizes that are uncomfortably large for us. We save money by having cereal and toast and we make better coffee at home than they have in most restaurants anyway. That means we can have a late lunch which usually represents a savings over the menu prices at dinner or split a sandwich and have dinner on the early side. Many places have happy hour or an early bird seating with reduced prices, so you’ll see many seniors looking for the same savings that you are. For that reason, we usually make a reservation. Although some places don’t take reservations, it’s a considerate thing to do. Our son works in a restaurant where they encourage reservations and, if you show up without one, you just might be turned away.
We always do research when we are dining out by doing a quick look on the website for what they offer and what the prices are. Many times, you can see a special on the website that is not always too visible when you’re already inside. We also check the local travel guides to see if there are any coupons available. In our hometown there is one restaurant that has a frequent diner club and there are others who have a periodic newsletter that can sometimes include a special offer.
One of the dining out trends that we really like is the small or senior portion options. We find the serving size offered in many restaurants to be extremely large and, while many of our friends love that feature because they can get an extra meal with what they take home, we prefer the smaller size portions. The leftovers are almost never as good the next day. Sometimes, we get appetizers for our dinner. It’s less expensive and there are usually some interesting offerings that are not on the list of entrees (although most places will give you a larger portion if you ask).
If money is tight and dining out is something you really like to do, there are other things that can cut down the size of your check. One way is to drink only water. Drinks, especially alcohol, can add up quickly. You can also skip dessert or go somewhere else for it. Ice cream is a favorite of ours so there’s always some in the freezer. If you like wine with dinner, some restaurants allow you to bring your own bottle, but you should check with the manager first. They may charge a small fee, but it can save you some money overall.
Dining out is something we like to do as often as possible. Getting together with friends can be something you look forward to. Many people do it on a regular basis. There’s a group in our community that goes to breakfast on Sunday after church and they always call ahead with the number to expect. We’ve even met some friends when we’ve been away for the winter. It’s a great way to keep in touch and keep our economy going. Restaurants have a tremendous impact on all phases of our supply chain and are a great source of employment for many people. Dining out helps the restaurant owner, the staff, the delivery people and the farmers who supply the food. Why not stimulate the economy? It’s time to start dining out and Enjoy Retired Life!
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