No Such Thing as a Free Lunch?


Dining out doesn’t have to empty your wallet, and with the right resources, you can have a five-star quality dinner at a fast food price and maybe even get a free meal.

Plan Ahead

If you’re planning a restaurant outing, offers $25 gift certificates for $10, which could amount to a free meal or help you cover that extra appetizer and dessert.  Just enter your ZIP code to search for restaurants in your area, pay for your certificate and print it out at home. You can search by cuisine or find new listings on the site if you’re looking to try someplace new.  You can even make reservations online at select restaurants.

Plus, if you subscribe to the email list, you’ll receive occasional offers for 50% to 80% off already discounted certificates. . But keep in mind that, depending on the establishment, you may only be able to redeem your gift certificate at certain hours or on certain days and it may not cover alcohol. 

You pay for the certificate and the participating restaurant benefits from free marketing with a profile, photos, directions and links on, plus data on where and when you dined and how much you spent.  And if a restaurant’s cuisine is up to par, it could gain you as a regular customer.

Kids Deals
Although it may be a big production just to get out of the house for a family dinner, you may be able to keep the costs down to the price of a meal for two.  Many restaurants have “kids eat free” deals, but they’re often only advertised by word of mouth. 

Check with the server at your favorite restaurant or search by location at Deals may offer one free kid’s meal for every paid adult meal and be limited to specific days of the week.  Many restaurants also have mailing lists for kids’ clubs and will email you about promotional offers.

Other Cost Cutting Options
Many restaurants are also offering recession specials that include a basic entrée, side and a drink. And don’t forget to ask about early bird specials and senior discounts.  You may also be able to get a discount at local restaurants through your company, union or other organization.

And with some restaurants serving portion sizes that are four times what you should be eating, it couldn’t hurt to stick to an appetizer.



—For the best rates on loans, bank accounts and credit cards, enter your ZIP code at

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