Tips to save on takeout and food delivery

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There’s a good chance the answer is yes.

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Americans have an increasingly insatiable appetite for alternatives to home-cooked meals. Sixty percent of Americans order takeout or delivery at least once a week, according to a report by the National Restaurant Association. Those who do order spend about $70 per week on to-go grub.

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Ordering takeout increased dramatically during the pandemic as consumers and restaurants pivoted to food delivery and to-go when dining rooms closed and Americans were told to stay put. The trend hasn’t slowed. The National Restaurant Association found that nearly 70 percent of American adults are now more likely to order takeout than they were pre-pandemic. 

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However, while many of us are hungry to ditch at-home cooked meals and have our dinner dropped at our door or picked up along our travels, it does come at increasing cost. 

 

“As grocery prices soar, costs for restaurant meals and take out climb as well, making your favorite to-go orders pricier than ever,” said Andrea Woroch, author and nationally recognized money-saving expert. “Even more affordable fast food spots are becoming more expensive as chains reduce portion sizes, cut promotions and even hide their value options.”

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The growth and convenience of food ordering platforms and direct-to-consumer delivery options has spared us from home-cooked meal monotony, however when you factor in delivery, service fees and tip, your $10 taco meal is now more like $18. 

 

Then, there’s the cost of food. Prices have continued to rise dramatically over the last year. A recent trip to McDonald’s for two left me with $28 less in my pocket. For two medium-sized meals. Two. And, that was with a coupon of course. 

 

There’s no need to dust off the pans and forgo the convenience and tastiness of takeout if you’d rather not, Woroch said.

 

“You may not be able to control how much food prices rise, but you can control how much you spend on takeout. This doesn’t mean giving up altogether either.” 

 

To save, take advantage of weekly deals at your favorite locally owned restaurant. For instance, every Tuesday Forno Bistro in Saratoga Springs features 10 items to-go for $10 each. Athos Restaurant in Albany features more than a dozen well-priced “dinner packages for four.” Augie’s Family Style Italian Restaurant in Ballston Spa has a satellite location in Saratoga Springs that exclusively offers inexpensive takeout meals to feed two or more.

 

There are other ways to fill your belly without emptying your wallet. Woroch offers these five hacks to save on your next to-go meal:

 

Opt for curbside pickup. Cut the delivery fee altogether by ordering directly with the restaurant and pick it up curbside or their takeout counter. In some cases, you will also save on the actual menu item as well as services like DoorDash, UberEats and GrubHub make you pay more per item than what the restaurant actually charges. 

 

Look for discounts and coupons. This doesn’t mean you have to totally skip delivery though since sometimes it’s just the better and more convenient option. Instead, look for a coupon like a deal aggregator like CouponFollow.com which is offering 50 percent off your first order at UberEats  save $10 off $20 or $20 off $35 at Instacart, 5 percent off at GrubHub and $5 at DoorDash.

 

You can also search for nearby dining deals by using the filter search through Yelp or look for discount gift cards to your favorite fast food places at Raise or GiftCardCastle.com.

 

Buy restaurant gift cards in bulk. Warehouse stores aren’t just a great place to stock up on toilet paper and paper towels in bulk — you can find gift cards to top restaurants at a savings. In fact, these warehouse stores sell bulk packages of nearby and chain restaurants at around 20 to 30 percent off on average. You have to spend more upfront, but that’s a big discount on your meal.

 

Sign up for rewards. Major takeout chains and restaurants offer loyalty programs that give you something back for your regular purchases so if there’s an eatery you visit regularly, make sure you’re signed up to earn rewards. For example, sign up for Dunkin’s “DD Rewards” and you will earn 5 points for every $1 spent and 200 points gets you a free beverage, on top of exclusive bonus-point offers. 

Maximize cash back. Earning cash back on takeout orders can take the bite out of rising prices. So whether you’re dining in or ordering out, use a credit card that will give you maximum back for that purchase. Some credit cards offer special promotions with bonus cash back when you order from a certain food establishment but you have to opt in to qualify so check your account for such deals. Otherwise, get a new credit card like Discover It which gives you 5 percent back in rotating categories each month, one of which includes restaurants. Compare credit card programs at CardRates.com to find the best one for restaurant rewards based on your spending habits..

 

 

Use Restaurant.com as a source for dining deals. The site sells discount restaurant certificates so you can scoop $10 gift cards for as little as $4 or $25 gift cards for more than 50 percent off. And bonus, you can often find coupons to save more on these discounted gift cards. For instance, enter coupon code DRINKUP for an additional $3 off. I always check this site before traveling to see what type of deals I can find for restaurants in the area I am visiting and scoop up a few certificates to help stretch our food budget when on the road. 



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