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Eating out can be expensive, but it doesn’t have to be.
There are plenty of great places to eat that offer good food at an affordable price.
So if you are looking for a great meal that won’t break the bank, here is a list of the best cheap eats in town.
Whether you are looking for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, you have options.
And after you see the list of cheap places to eat out, use the tips listed to lower your bill even more.
Table of Contents
21 Cheap Places To Eat Out
Chick-Fil-A offers a couple of ways to save money eating out.
First, their prices are competitive with other fast-food restaurants while offering a higher quality of food.
This isn’t to say eating at Chick-Fil-A is healthy, but it is better than some of the other options on this list.
In addition to low prices, they offer a rewards program.
Joining this free program allows you to earn points for free menu items, and the points you need for a free entree or side aren’t out of reach.
Finally, local franchises offer special rewards to frequent customers.
The Chick-Fil-A I eat at offers a free drink, treat, or side once a month.
It’s not a huge saving, but it lowers dining out costs.
McDonald’s is well known for its hamburgers, french fries, and chicken McNuggets.
The issue is that over time, McDonald’s prices have increased, making it less affordable.
To combat this, McDonald’s introduced a Dollar Menu where everything on it was $1.
Unfortunately, the Dollar Menu was short-lived and replaced by the Value Menu.
Here you will find items for $1, $2, and $3, allowing you to build a meal that doesn’t break the bank.
Additionally, McDonald’s now offers a rewards program.
Like Chick-Fil-A, the McDonald’s rewards program offers free menu items after you collect enough points.
While the points you need for a free meal are higher than Chick-Fil-A, it is still a way to lower your costs if McDonald’s is your favorite restaurant.
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#3. Burger King
Burger King is another restaurant that has low-priced offers to choose from.
Their most popular is the Your Way Meal, where you get a burger, chicken nuggets, fries, and a soft drink for $6.
Another way to save is to download the BK app and participate in Royal Perks.
You get ten crowns per dollar spent and can redeem crowns for free food.
The app also allows you to upsize a fry or beverage for free once daily.
And on your first digital order, you get a free Whopper.
Finally, keep an eye out for coupons in your mail from local franchises to save more money.
Sticking with the fast food burger theme brings us to Wendy’s.
They don’t officially have a dollar menu, but they offer their Right Price Right Size menu.
This menu has smaller food portions ranging from $1-$2.
And you can join their loyalty program and earn 10 points per $1 spent that you can use on free food.
As with Burger King, you get free food after your first digital order.
IHOP is a sit-down restaurant but offers much better prices than most of its competitors.
You can find pancakes for $0.99 and other entrees under $12.
And they don’t just serve breakfast either.
You can order lunch and dinner items here as well.
It’s not fast food, but the prices are still low enough to make it affordable to eat out.
Additionally, IHOP offers a loyalty program where you earn points for free food.
The only downside is the rewards aren’t as easy to earn as with other restaurants’ loyalty programs.
You can also find coupons in the mail and online to help lower your costs even more.
#6. Local Diner
Here is the first of the non-chain restaurants on the list.
It is also the first of the healthy cheap restaurants too since it’s not fast food and you can eat vegetables here.
If you are looking for a sit-down restaurant with even lower prices, look no further than your local diner.
Diners are known for their low prices and large portions.
You can find entrees under $15, and some offer a senior discount.
In many cases, they offer specials each night of the week.
These specials save you money too. They aren’t a ploy to get you to buy a dish thinking it is a good deal.
Finally, some local diners have a loyalty program where you can earn points for free food.
While most people think of Ikea as a place to buy furniture, there are some cheap meals you can get at their restaurant or to-go bistro.
For example, the Swedish Meatball Plate has two sides for only $5.99.
Granted, the menu options are somewhat limited, but this is an under-the-radar place for cheap eats.
#8. Olive Garden
Olive Garden is a popular Italian restaurant chain.
While the prices are higher than other restaurants on this list, they offer some excellent deals.
First, visiting Olive Garden at lunch offers a smaller portion for a competitive price.
Second, you can order family-style meals and end up with a lot of food at a good price.
Just make sure to take any leftovers home so you don’t waste any food.
Many people are also familiar with the never-ending pasta bowl deal where you can get unlimited pasta and sauce.
However, this deal has not been around since 2019 and the CEO recently said they are not sure if they will bring this deal back.
#9. Local Deli
Stop by your local deli if you are in a hurry but still want a good meal.
Most offer daily specials and combo meals that include a drink and chips.
A deli is a great option if you are on the go but need something more substantial than fast food.
#10. Taco Bell
Taco Bell is another popular fast food chain with a dollar menu.
Their Cravings Menu has items that are all $0.99.
The best deals on this menu include the Triple Layer Nachos, Spicy Potato Soft Taco, and Cheesy Bean and Rice Burrito.
You can also find combo meals for under $5, two meals in one.
Taco Bell also offers a loyalty program where you can earn points for free food.
Additionally, they have a mobile app that often has coupons and deals to save even more money.
#11. Little Caesars
Depending on your pizza tastes, Little Caesars could be a diamond in the rough or the worst pizza you’ve ever had.
Luckily, more people enjoy their pizza than criticize it, so chances are you will like it too.
It is by far the cheapest restaurant that offers pizza.
The chain restaurant offers $6 large pizzas, and they are Hot N Ready between 4 pm and 8 pm, meaning you can just walk in and buy without waiting.
They also offer sides and combo meals that are value-priced if you are serving to a family.
#12. Panda Express
Panda Express isn’t the lowest cost option on this list, but when you compare the amount of food you get for the price, it is one of the better options.
They offer many menu choices, from a la carte to various-sized plates and family meals.
The quality of the food is always excellent too.
If you are looking for quick and cheap Chinese, check out Panda Express.
#13. Local Chinese Restaurant
If you don’t have a Panda Express in your area or want another option, look into your local Chinese restaurant.
They typically have lunch specials that are steals.
I get a smaller version of Kung Pao Chicken at our local restaurant with a side of broccoli for $8.
Even though it is a smaller size, it fills me up.
Some will advertise in local newspapers in the mail where you can get 10-20% off a meal.
Subway is a great place to go if you want a quick and healthier meal.
They have a variety of sandwiches, salads, and other items on their menu.
You can also customize your sandwich to fit your dietary needs.
Many locations offer combo meals that include a drink and chips for under $15.
They also have a rewards program, where you earn four tokens per $1 spent.
Earn 200 tokens for a $2 off coupon.
#15. Jimmy John’s
Similar to Subway is Jimmy John’s.
This sandwich shop is comparable in price and options with its competitor, but many people prefer these sandwiches over Subway.
Jimmy John’s also has a loyalty program, and you earn a free sub after your first order, making it one of the more rewarding programs out there.
When it comes to cheap Mexican food, Chipotle is not at the top of the list.
But their portion sizes are larger, so you essentially get free meals when you order there.
For example, you can order a bowl with everything and end up with so much food you can’t eat it all in one sitting.
So you end up with leftovers.
The same could be said about many of the other options on their menu as well.
As with other restaurants, Chipotle offers a rewards program to earn free food.
Finally, there are some additional hacks you can use to lower the cost of eating at Chipotle.
#17. Dairy Queen
You might not think of a full meal when you think of Dairy Queen, but they have some excellent combo meals, including hot dogs and chicken fingers.
Of course, all meals come with a tasty frozen treat as well.
And before you dismiss this option, they offer delicious meals at an attractive price.
There are a few ways to save money when fining at Applebee’s.
To start, you have their Late Night Appetizer offer, where most apps are half-priced.
This special is in addition to offering a happy hour during weekdays.
They also allow you to mix and match some appetizers and make a meal out of two or three, which costs you a little less than buying an entree.
Finally, kids eat free at any Applebee’s on certain days.
Domino’s is one of the best restaurants for cheap pizza.
Not only do they have national deals, but also local deals as well.
They also have a rewards program that allows you to earn free pizza.
#20. Local Pizza Shop
If chain pizza isn’t your thing, consider your local pizza shop.
They can be more expensive than the national chains, but the quality is usually better.
And since they are a small business, you can likely find coupons in addition to daily specials to help lower your costs.
#21. Local Grocery Store
You probably don’t think of your grocery store as a cheap restaurant.
But it is.
Many grocery stores have started including food bars to increase profits.
They typically offer basic foods, like chicken fingers, french fries, pizza, salads, lemon chicken, mashed potatoes, and more.
Instead of a price per item, they charge you based on the weight of your food.
Usually, there is a flat price per pound.
This pricing is where things get tricky.
Some grocery stores offer a low price, making it a great place to eat out cheap.
When our daughter was little, we would grab dinner at Wegman’s, then go grocery shopping.
But some grocery stores charge a high price making this option a waste of money.
And some grocery stores have eliminated their food bars in the last year.
Still, it’s an option if you have one in your local supermarket.
Best Tips To Save Money Eating Out On A Budget
Now that you know the best places to eat out, here are some ways to save money when you do visit these restaurants.
Using these tips can slash your bill by 25% or more!
#1. Drink Water
Ordering soft drinks can quickly increase the cost of your meal, so you are better off ordering water instead.
Now you can enjoy your savings or order more food for the same price as if you ordered a soft drink.
- Read now: Find out what opportunity cost is
#2. Don’t Order Alcoholic Drinks
While soft drinks are expensive, they are nowhere near as expensive as drinking alcohol.
If you are going out for a special occasion, skip the alcohol.
Or better yet, eat at a BYOB, where the bottle of wine you bring will be significantly cheaper than buying a bottle at a restaurant.
- Read now: Learn how to save money on alcohol
#3. Eat Dinner Early
When you go out to eat early, you can take advantage of early-bird specials.
These specials have affordable prices on many items that are full price later in the day.
#4. Find A Happy Hour
Same idea as above with having an early dinner.
Many restaurants offer a happy hour where you can get food and drinks on special.
Most times, happy hour runs from 4 pm – 6 pm during the week and not on the weekends.
#5. Share Appetizers
Another trick to lower your costs is to share appetizers.
Combine this with happy hour, and you save a lot of money.
The reality is most appetizers are enough food for one meal by itself.
You can easily share a couple and never order a full meal.
#6. Split A Meal
Most restaurant meals are oversized based on the portions we should be eating.
So why buy two meals when you can share one meal?
Depending on where you are dining, you could even order one of the combo meal deals and split this, saving you money.
#7. Only Eat Half
An adult meal portion is much larger than the portion you need to eat in one sitting.
So instead of eating the whole thing, eat half and take the other half to go.
Now you have lunch for tomorrow.
#8. Order Off The Kids Menu
An alternative to the above tip is to order off the kid’s menu.
A kid’s meal is smaller in size and price.
You accomplish both eating less and saving money with this tip.
#9. Find Where Kids Eat Free
Many local and chain restaurants offer free kid’s meals on certain nights.
Your job is to determine which restaurants offer a free kids meal and when, and then choose to eat out on those days.
#10. Eat Lunch Out
The easiest way to save money is to dine out for lunch.
You get the same meal as you would if you went at dinner, only you pay the lower lunch prices.
#11. Join Loyalty Programs
Most restaurants now offer some form of program to reward loyal customers.
Most programs allow you to earn points for every dollar you spend.
Earn enough points, and you earn a free sandwich.
Sometimes, you can just keep collecting points until you have enough for a free meal.
#12. Follow On Social Media
Many restaurants have social media accounts that offer discounts to fans.
If you are not following the brand online, you miss out on this simple way to save money.
So make it a point to follow your favorite restaurants on social media.
#13. Pay With A Credit Card
A different way to save money eating out is to pay with a rewards credit card.
Here you earn points or cash back every time you pay.
Then you can use these rewards to save on other vacations or other interests you have.
However, make sure you stick to your budget and pay your bill in full. Otherwise, the interest you pay will offset any rewards you earn.
#14. Use Savings Apps
More and more mobile apps are partnering with restaurants and offering discounts on the price of a restaurant meal.
This discount doesn’t reduce the price you pay, instead, you earn cash back for eating there.
Two popular apps, Upside and Dosh, offer this free service.
Download the free app, find some local eateries that are partners and eat there using a linked credit card.
Upside is the #1 app for saving money on gas. Save $0.25 per gallon on your first fill up. Be sure to use the promo code AFF25 to get this bonus. And when you dine out, be sure to use Upside and get up to 25% cash back on your bill.
The cashback is deposited into the app after you pay.
You can withdraw the cash via PayPal and spend it however you like.
#15. Look For Coupons
Paper coupons are still a thing, and if you pay attention, you can find some decent deals this way.
Usually, coupons will show up in the newspaper or your mail.
Valpak is one popular place to look, so when you get these coupons in your mail, make sure you look through them.
#16. Order Off The Special Menu
Many restaurants offer a secret menu that only the most dedicated customers know about.
While not everything on the menu is a deal, some things are.
For example, at Chipotle, you can order a single taco.
So figure out where you want to eat and see if there is a menu you didn’t know existed.
#17. Get Your Food To Go
Here is an overlooked idea.
Instead of in-person restaurant dining, order to go and either eat at home or go to a park.
How does this save you money?
When you dine in, you have to tip 15-20%.
If your bill is $50, that is another $10.
When you order to go, you skip the tip and save money.
- Read now: Here is how much money you should tip
#18. Skip Delivery And Delivery Services
While meal delivery and delivery services are convenient, they cost a lot of money.
Not only do you have the delivery fee, but you also have to tip.
These added costs can turn a standard cheap meal into an expensive one.
For example, I chose to have Pizza Hut delivered.
My pizza cost $10.
But with the delivery fee and tip, my total was $22.
Had I just driven there, I would have saved $12 or bought another pizza!
The other downside to delivery is that sometimes the food arrives cold or you get the wrong order.
#19. Be Careful With Specials
People often think the daily specials are low-priced options they can save money by ordering.
But not all deals are real deals.
In most cases, the restaurant has a large dish inventory and is promoting it to sell before it goes bad.
For example, they might offer a special on a pesto chicken dish because the chicken is getting close to spoiling.
In some cases, the special can be a lower price than usual, but in most cases, it is more about trying to sell an unpopular dish.
#20. Pay With Discounted Gift Cards
One last idea is to buy discounted gift cards.
Many people get gift cards they have no interest in using and sell them.
When this happens, you can buy them for less than face value.
For example, you might be able to buy a $25 for $20, which is essentially getting $5 for free.
- Read now: Learn how to buy discounted gift cards
There are 21 cheap places to eat out.
While the prices of restaurant meals are rising, you don’t have to eliminate enjoying a nice meal out.
You have to plan a little so that your night out doesn’t turn into a hundred-dollar bill.
Eating at these cheap restaurants and using the money-saving tips will allow you to enjoy an affordable meal while sticking to your budget.
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I have over 15 years experience in the financial services industry and 20 years investing in the stock market. I have both my undergrad and graduate degrees in Finance, and am FINRA Series 65 licensed and have a Certificate in Financial Planning.
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