BOSTON (CBS) – Eating out is one of America’s favorite past times. And definitely one of mine. So no I am not going to tell you to stop eating out, just do it smarter.

Some restaurants have e-mail newsletters and if you sign up, they will send you coupons. I have a coupon from Not Your Average Joe’s for a free entrée and dessert for my birthday. Olive Garden often sends coupons to their e-mail list.

Some restaurants have loyalty cards, which may get you coupons or you earn points which will get you a discount or a free entrée. Panera Bread and Burtons Grill are two I carry in my wallet.

Also we buy gift cards for our favorite restaurants, but only when they are offering a deal such as a $10 bonus card when you spend $50. That is in essence a 20% discount.

On Father’s Day we were offered a $20 lunch coupon if we would make our lunch reservation after 1 p.m.

Our local high school baseball team had a fundraiser and they sold coupon sheets for $20. There were over $200 in savings if you used all the coupons and all were to local restaurants and attractions. We’ll probably use about half of them.

There are many websites offering deals where you buy a certificate and get 30-50% off your purchase. CBS Local, Groupon,, Dealcatcher, Living Social.

Also the Sunday newspaper and magazines often have coupons for restaurants. Buy one entrée and get the second one free type of deal.

Another good way to save is to have lunch out instead of dinner. Smaller portions with a smaller price tag. One of the best lunch deals I found was a three-course lunch for $3.21 with much larger portions than Weight Watchers suggests at the Fife and Drum restaurant at the North Eastern Correctional Center in Concord. It is open 4 days a week, Tuesday thru Friday, 11:30 to 12:30. (978-371-7941)

And yes, it is in a prison! They train inmates for jobs before they are released. Food is diner style and plentiful and I met many regulars from Concord who eat there several days a week. I have never been disappointed eating there.

Try the early bird specials: I know I can hear you saying that’s for the old folks and maybe it is but you can save money and you avoid the crowds. Eating at 5:30 is the trade-off and often you can get a three-course meal for what you would have spent on one entree.


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