If you're going to eat out, don't ruin your financial planning to do it. This is my meal-plan for MAXIMUM savings when I have to - or want to - buy my food.

  • The best way to make the most of eating out is to purchase options that are more than one meal.
  • When that is not an option, go for a combination of quality and quantity.
  • And by all means, go with a restaurant chain. There is no shame in consistent pricing, satisfaction guarantees, and the potential refund if things go wrong.

Order A Pizza ~ $10

This is one of my go to options when I am at home. As your resident dairy allergy girl, I have one reason for this top suggestion. One box of pizza is at least two meals (at ~$5 each). To save the most money:
1. Order Carry Out - if you're low on cash, forget about tip money and pick it up yourself
2. Buy According to Promotions/Coupons
3. Load Up on Toppings - Go for a pizza you'll actually get full on
4. Refuse to eat it all in one sitting - then pack the other half for lunch

Chipotle ~ $11

Chipotle Mexican Grill(Source)

There's no shame in eating at this popular "Mexican" grill. That's right, "Mexican." I am from Texas. No fronting here. Chipotle burritos or burrito bowls can guarantee you one large meal or two meals if you play your cards right.
1. You can have extra rice, beans, fajita, corn, lettuce, salsa, and a tortilla on the side of a bowl for free at most restaurants.
2. If you go at an off-peak time, you're likely to get bigger non-meat portions.
3. You get less overpriced guac for your money if you ask for it on the side, but you'll have the option of eating the rest of your food later

Sandwiches / Subway ~ $6-15

The receipts don't lie. Most Subway restaurants have some sort of promotional lunch or meal that will land you a sandwich and drink for $6. Subway is also home to the most seriously underrated cookies.
Of course, if you find that Subway doesn't have enough pizzazz for you, try a local sandwich shop or (my favorite) a chain like Potbelly. You can get a great sandwich, chips, and a drink for $13
1. If you're going to eat, get full. Load up on veggies for your sandwiches.
2. If possible, get a larger sandwich even if you only want half. Sae the rest for later.

Asian Take Out ~ $13

Dumplings as a low cost food (Source)

Dumplings, Rice, Noodles, Noodle Soup, you name it. Every neighborhood has at least one Asian-American food place. The trick here is to scour your locale. I always ordered from the same place until my sister visited one spring break. She stumbled on a place to get 6 dumplings for $2. Life changed.
1. Carry Out - even if there is free delivery. The tip is 15-25% extra.
2. Order Soup - Usually the soups are super cost effective. Fill yourself up for $5
3. Order enough for two meals - economize to save time and effort here.

Treat Yo Self

Parks and Reck Treat Yo Self(Source)

Okay, fancy. There will be days where you just feel like you've earned a special meal. Maybe your friends are grabbing a bite and you wanna tag along, or you snagged an extra shift and want to commemorate the extra income. For my fellow NYC dwellers I have a treat:

Check out Refinery29's list of cheap eats. These are some amazing and cost-effective places to step up your restaurant game.