Saturday, 12 July 2014

Eating Out For Less

Despite my love for cooking, dining out is something I could never completely remove from my life in London. Being a melting pot of culture, the variety of food in London is endless. From my favourite Penang delights to an exotic African meal, you name it and London probably has it; okay may be not the weird fried insects found in Thailand and Cambodia night markets.

Eating out can be expensive especially with the rising cost of living in London. As a student, I find it difficult to have much to spend on dining out but at the same time, trying out new restaurants, meeting up with friends or having a catch up meal is hard to brush aside. So, here’s how I manage to reduce the damage.

1. Sign Up for Free Dining Discount Card Trials

Taste Card, Gourmet Society, Hi-Life Diners and a few other dining cards offer a great discount on thousands of restaurants. Most of these cards offer a free trial. The free trial period mostly last for 1 month but with special codes, they can stretch up to 2 months or longer. With the right planning, it is actually possible to have at least one active discount for an entire year.

For the past year, I’ve managed to get 2-months Taste Card trial, 1-month Time Out Card and a 6-months Hi-Life Diners Club trial for free. Plus, a 4-months Gourmet Society trial for £1.99. Although all the trial is only valid once per user, there are promotions which gives existing user another chance at the trial. Earlier in May, Taste Card had a competition offering 1-year of free membership even to those who had previously taken up the free trial. Those who didn’t win could get a free 2-months membership trial. So, there’s another 2- months  Taste Card trial!

With thousands of participating restaurants, there is bound to be something worth trying. Although most participating restaurants are mediocre, I’ve managed to find a few which serves an exquisite fair. If having the discount card is a must, never get them on full price! Most of the time, there are promotions on the 1-year membership. The Taste Card which cost £79.99 could go as low as £29.99. So, waiting for an offer on the membership actually acquire more savings.

The only downside is the discounts mostly do not apply on Fridays and Saturdays. Oh well, beggars can’t be choosers.

*For those who love grabbing a quick bite on the go in train stations, sign up for a BITE card! With offers for fast food joints like Burger King, Upper Crust and The Pasty Shop, there’s a little saving for each purchase. BITE card is free so sign up and keep it handy whenever needed.

2. Student Discount

One thing that I would definitely miss after graduating! Most places offers student discount. There’s always no harm to ask for student discount. Even the not-so-friendly restaurants in Chinatown offers student discount. Four Season which is famous for their roast duck offers a student discount in their Wardour Street joint. If you prefer the Gold Mine roast duck instead (like me!) and happen to be a student in selected London universities, there’s a student discount too!

Just be ready to flash your student card when ordering and enjoy a little saving. Remember that only cash is accepted in Four Seasons and Gold Mine when student discount is applied, so flash the cash too.

Those high street joints like ASK Italian, Pizza Express etc also offers a great discount for student. Subscribing to student dedicated websites like Student Beans and Student Money Saver is a great way to be in the loop for the latest student deals and discounts.

Though the student discounts are a minute amount, it could mount into a large sum if frequently used.

3. Subscribing to Mailing List

Despite the promotional spam on its way, there are attractive discounts when signing up for the mailing list. My favourite being Loch Fyne. With a £10 off £30 spend voucher, that’s a whooping maximum discount of 33%. So grabbing a friend along for a meal and ordering cautiously up to £30 comes with great savings.

Some other restaurants offer a buy 1 free 1 or free wine when signing up for their mailing list.

4. Discount Days

Similar to the happy hour in pubs, there are things like Happy Mondays (or whichever day) offering discounts up to 50% on food. Slug & Lettuce has Happy Monday promotions which reduces all the food to half price. Located only 5 minutes from my campus, it was a favourite haunt on Mondays. As all Londoners would know, the amazing Dutch pancake joint, My Old Dutch has pancakes for only £5 every Monday (except Bank Holidays)!

So, why pay more when you can have the same thing for less on these days!

5. Discount Vouchers

There’s a great variety of discount voucher website out there. Voucher Codes, Voucher Clouds etc has some discount deals for dining out. Either printed or using the smartphone app, the vouchers are easily accessible.

Groupon, Living Social and Amazon Local are other amazing place for eating out for less. Taking time to check out the dining out deals, there could be great hidden deals. Amongst those amazing money-worthy deals that I’ve tried were Lobster with Seafood Noodles for 2 for £30, half kilo gelato from Venchi for £7, and £40 to spend in See Sushi for £20. Selecting the right deals could result in massive savings and a satisfied tummy!

You may now officially call me a cheapskate :P

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