Eat Like a Prince, Pay Like a Pauper: How to Save Huge Money on Food

Want to slash dietary dollars without going hungry or eating fast food three meals a day? A frugal friend of Money Under 30 serves up some mouth watering money saving ideas.

Want to slash dietary dollars without going hungry or eating fast food three meals a day? A frugal friend of Money Under 30 serves up some mouth watering money saving ideas.

Pot-Luck Parties

Ditch dining out and throw your own party instead! Pot Luck (bring your own) parties are the wallet-friendly way to entertain. I’m more relaxed at pot luck parties than when my friends try to entertain on their own. When everyone brings a dish there’s something for everyone, and the host may get the bonus of leftovers. Going pot luck also means you don’t have to rely on dead-beat friends for beer and pizza “chip ins”. Already do BYOB? Try bringing your own meat for a fun BBQ or your own candy for a Halloween ho-down.

Try Group Cooking

Cooking most meals rather than taking out saves a bundle, but cooking for one or two can be frustrating and even wasteful. In the spirit of the pot luck, invite your friends over the next time you whip up a four- to six-serving meal. You can even get them to help in the kitchen. Make it a weekly event and take turns hosting, or agree in advance to share a few dollars on ingredients. There’s nothing like a home cooked meal with friends for just $3 – $4.

Dining Out Deals

With or without your amigos, hanging around home is only fun for so long. Eating out can pummel your paycheck, but it is possible to dine on the cheap. Wherever you go, ask locals for recommendations. They’ll know the spots that have great food and great prices.

Bars offer crazy food specials to get drinkers in the door. In Boston, for example, several places offer chicken wings from 10 – 20 cents each. A ten-wing meal leaves you bursting for just a buck! There’s also a bowling alley with dollar cheese pizzas, and two places with all-you-can-eat taco bars late at night (no alcoholic drink purchase required – so buy a soda for $1.75). Happy hours almost always come with super cheap food. Of course the key to saving here is to avoid the booze. If you have friends that drink invite them along so the bartender doesn’t notice you only dropped a dollar!

The Frugal Gourmet

Want more than pizza, tacos or wings? Can’t blame you. You can enjoy even the best dining in town for cut rates. In big cities look for “Restaurant Week” events where you pay a fixed price to eat at some of the best restaurants in the city (but watch out for lesser restaurants that join in to make a profit). Special occasion? Some restaurants regularly offer multi-course meals, wine included, with fixed prices that can be a steal. Or try lunch, when the exact same food is often more than half the price of dinner. Some upscale restaurants also offer lunchtime faire at the bar anytime.

Leftover Gold

If you’re going to spend the money to eat out, never be shy about asking for a doggy bag. Even the swankiest of restaurants won’t bat an eye. Portion sizes in American restaurants are so huge these days that one “meal” can be several. The next time you’re dining out, think about what meal will be best for breakfast!

Alternative Eateries

Too lazy to pack a lunch? Scope out college dining halls and other cafeterias for cheaper alternatives to take-out. Colleges and universities often offer vast buffets of food for between $5 and $10. Schools with “stations” (grill, sandwich, salad, etc) may have better, healthier food for fast food prices. Hospitals are another public source of inexpensive meals round the clock.

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Published or updated on September 29, 2006

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About David Weliver

David Weliver is the founding editor of Money Under 30. He's a cited authority on personal finance and the unique money issues we face during our first two decades as adults. He lives in Maine with his wife and two children.


  1. Whiskey’s on Boylston has 10 cent wings Sun-Thur at the bar only.

  2. Having lived in Boston my whole life, I have to say that I haven’t seen the 10 cent wings in about 10 years. I think I’ve seen 20 cent wings, but only at the bar during happy hour. What are the places that are offering it now?

    Along the Boston slant, I hear that Morton’s has free prime rib sandwiches at the bar weekdays from 5-7 (or some similar time). The drinks might cost you a bit, but if you can work free dinner out of it, it’s not terrible.

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