Thursday, February 10, 2011

$100 A Week--dining out on a budget

Just when I think I've got the hang of how to stick to my $100-a-week budget, something else pops up. This month it's Valentine's Day. Of course I love the flowers, the card and chocolates but when a friend recently said, "Aren't you going out?" I realized fine dining doesn't shoehorn into what I consider my tiny food budget. With $100-a-week even casual lattes can crowd out nutritious fruits and vegetables and of course cooking at home is essential.

I can whip up practically anything in my own kitchen, and my Cooking Assistant is happy to the clean bowls, but what if I seriously wanted to or had to eat a meal away from home? How does dining out fit into a small food budget?
For dining ideas for tightwads, I checked my library copy of Vegan on the Cheap by Robin Robertson. I found these tips for frugal dining out:

  • Look for prix fixe menu deals and early bird specials
  • Check ads for 2-for-1 restaurant specials
  • Go for drinks and appetizers
  • Dine out for lunch instead of dinner
  • Share an entree
  • Skip dessert and drinks
  • Skip dinner and go for dessert and drinks or coffee
My favorite restaurant option is dessert and drinks or coffee. We get a seat at a bar much faster than waiting for a table, the price for two is usually under $20 (for one drink and dessert) and we "people watch" while enjoying dessert out. If you want a fancy dinner, you can make a "dream box" like the one I mentioned in this post, where you save a certain amount of money for special dinners at fancy restaurants. But if delayed gratification isn't your thing, check out the humble feast at the Patty Pan Cafe at 2310 E. Madison. It's new, and the first month's offerings include Chicken Stew with Dumplings or a vegan Lentil Shepherd's Pie and Apple Strudel for dessert. Sounds like an incredible humble feast to me. Advance reservations make the dinner $10; at the door the price is $12. I'm making reservations today. Hope to see you there.


Joan said...

What great ideas! The happy hour menu is a fav of ours...easy seats and dinner for way less $$. I love the Madison shopping district but don't remember this cafe! I'll have to check them out...the lentil shepherds pie sounds right up my alley.

ddzeller said...

Hey Joan--the Patty Pan Cafe is relatively new; I think it's been there since December and I just heard this morning the owner is getting a great response for her first monthly 'humble feast."