It's no secret that going out to eat can be expensive. And actually, there's evidence that dining out is pricier than ever before. Still, who wants to give up going to restaurants?
Besides chowing on tasty food, going out to eat is a go-to way for many people to socialize, and doubles as an easy way to get out of cooking and doing the dishes.
If you're looking for ways to dine out without breaking the bank, we have you covered, at least when it comes to one popular restaurant chain. Check out this list of 10 clever tips that can save you some serious cash at Olive Garden.
Whatever you do, please remember to tip your server. These people work hard for a living and just because you're getting a discount or a freebie doesn't mean they don't deserve a full-price tip.
1. Get a free appetizer or dessert.
A common savings strategy when going out is to skip extras like appetizers and desserts. But let's be real—that kind of takes the fun out of it.
To have your cake and eat it too at Olive Garden, all you need to do is sign up for the Olive Garden eClub. You will receive a coupon for a free appetizer or dessert (up to a $10 value) with the purchase of two adult entrees. Yum!
2. Dine during an off time.
Of course, it's tempting to go during the lunch rush or around a traditional dinnertime, but if you can work your schedule to dine between the hours of 3 and 5 p.m., Monday-Thursday, you can take advantage of Dinner Duos.
This promotion gets you a select entree, along with unlimited soup or salad, plus all the breadsticks you can handle, for just $8.99.
I'm not sure if you've noticed, but Olive Garden actually has a pretty legit wine list. As a bonus, the restaurant allows customers to sample their wines at no charge. These samples are about 1-ounce pour, so you won't get an entire glass. But hey, it's something right?
And, according to The Krazy Coupon Lady, some Olive Garden locations actually let you bring your own wine. This definitely doesn't apply to all locations, however, so you'll want to call ahead first and find out if this applies to your local Olive Garden.
5. Get a free dipping sauce.
Olive Garden Rewards is the restaurant's loyalty program. A part of the program, you accumulate points each time you dine. Eventually you can cash in those points for free items or gift cards. Upon signing up, you'll automatically get 100 points, which scores you a free dipping sauce, such as marinara or alfredo.
6. Go on your birthday.
If you choose to celebrate your birthday at Olive Garden, you can count on a free dessert. Sign up for the eClub to get in on this annual perk.
7. Cut your meal in half before you get it.
Everyone knows restaurant portions give you way more food than you need. If you ask your server to box up half of your meal before it's served to you, you're less likely to go overboard. This way, you'll get two meals for the price of one. Besides, who needs a full meal with all those breadsticks and salad?
8. Stock up on gift cards for the holidays.
Throughout the month of December, and again in mid-April, the restaurant offers a free $10 gift card when you purchase a $50 gift card. Consider your holiday shopping done!
9. Get the never-ending pasta bowl.
OK, so I know I just suggested saving money and calories by cutting your meal in half, but on the other hand, if you're carb-loading for a race (or are just super-hungry—no judgment!) the never-ending pasta bowl is a pretty great deal. Starting at just $9.99, you can fill up on unlimited servings of over 100 combinations of pastas, sauces and toppings.
10. Make copycat recipes at home.
OK, so this one feels like cheating, but it's totally Olive-Garden-approved! Have some fun in the kitchen and save dough at the same time by whipping up some of your favorite menu items with exact recipes provided by the restaurant.