Cheap Eats

Our top 10 eating-out strategies that will save your wallet and your waistline.
Woman in Restaurant

Photo: iStockphoto

By The Clean Eating Team

Clean eaters on a budget don’t have to forgo their favorite restaurants – here’s how to dine on a dime.

Split an appetizer and entrée: The era of nouvelle cuisine, with its dainty but expensive portions, ended a long time ago (thank goodness), and now restaurants tend to pack your plate with too much food. Practice portion and currency control by sharing.

Have a happy hour: Happy hour doesn’t have to mean an unhappy scale. Steer clear of deep-fried fare in favor of shrimp cocktail, chicken skewers, salads and sushi.

Go back to school: Student-run restaurants can mean five-star dining on a two-star budget.

Find a festival: What do San Diego, Denver, Los Angeles, New York City and Washington, DC, have in common? They all play host to Restaurant Week, a food festival where the city’s hippest eateries offer dining deals and sample dishes.

Order the house wine: “House” doesn’t mean it’s sub-par, but it does usually mean it’s cheaper. And as long as it’s red vino, you’ll get the same amount of phytochemicals as with the pricier vintages. Remember, the phytochemicals in red wine have been linked to a reduced risk of heart disease and certain cancers. But stick with one glass of it.

Dine and dash: No, we’re not suggesting you bail on the bill, just skip dessert.

Doggie-bag it: Ask for a takeout container in advance to avoid eating your entire (often oversized) entrée.

Bypass beverages: Skip the soda in favor of zero calorie (and zero cash!) water with lemon.

Surf for savings: Websites like restaurant.com and group buying sites like Groupon.com offer a bevy of bargains.

Clip coupons: Look in the Sunday paper, on restaurant websites and even inthe phone book.

Tip: To stay healthy and lean while dining out, exercise portion control and make wise food choices.