10 Restaurant Hacks to Beat Rising Food Costs

·7 min read

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It’s no secret that inflation is running rampant right now. People across the nation are feeling its effects on many necessities like utilities, shelter, and food. According to the latest Consumer Price Index Summary, the cost of groceries has actually risen almost 5% more relative to the price of eating out. So oddly enough, you could actually save more money by dining at a restaurant.

In addition to that, frugal food fans on the web have finessed many creative ways to get more for their money at many popular establishments. If you want to cut costs without cutting calories, these are 10 restaurant hacks to keep both your stomach and wallet full.

1. Chipotle: 2 for 1 Burritos

burrito bowl and burrito
Slickdeals/Chipotle

The Mexican fast food chain is well-known for crafting some hefty burritos. But if you got two mouths to feed, there is a cheaper way to do so than ordering two or splitting one in half.

For this hack, you will want to order a bowl instead. Pack it with all your favorite ingredients and ask for two tortillas on the side. Hopefully, you get one of the more generous scoopers behind the counter. Then you just dump half your bowl in each tortilla and wrap it yourself. Voila! You have two burritos for almost the price of one. I say “almost’ because the tortillas on the side are no longer free. Each one will run you 25 cents, but that sure beats paying full price for a second burrito.

2. Chipotle: Get a Bowl for Less Than Half the Price

Chipotle taco and bowl
Slickdeals/Chipotle

If you don’t need a massive bowl to fill up, then this hack is perfect for you. For this one, you will have to order online or through the Chipotle app.

Start by selecting Tacos from the entree choices. The next menu will ask you the quantity and here you will select One Taco. Then choose Soft Flour for your tortilla choice. This ensures that you’ll get the most ingredients out of this hack. Pick your protein in the next step. If you want to save the most, the cheapest option is chicken which is $3.25 for one taco. And now, we get to the clever part.

You can add rice, beans, and other toppings for no additional cost. If you are using the app, just swipe right on each ingredient and select Extra. The result is one taco-sized tortilla with a mountain of ingredients on top, wrapped in aluminum foil. When you get to the restaurant, just ask for an empty bowl. Unload the contents into it and you got yourself a burrito bowl for fraction of the price!

3. Five Guys: 2 for 1 Burgers

Five Guys cheeseburger
Unsplash

There’s no doubt that this hack drew some inspiration from the Chipotle one. Five Guys Burgers & Fries is on the expensive side so this trick really helps you save big.

To start, get one of the burgers (bacon cheeseburger is my favorite) with an extra patty. Then choose your selection of toppings, all of which are free at Five Guys, and ask for them on the side. What they don’t want you to know is that you can actually get an extra bun for free as well. With the additional bun, double patties, and loads of topping, you can build out two delicious burgers for roughly the price of one!

4. Burger King: Frings

Burger King fries and rings are Frings
Slickdeals/Burger King

Life can be full of incredibly hard decisions, like choosing between fries or onion rings. Fortunately, at Burger King, you don’t have to pick one or the other. The next time you have a hankering for both, just ask for Frings. It doesn’t matter what size you get, they can accommodate you with half fries and half onion rings. Now you don’t have to order one of each when you are craving both and that is money well saved.

5. Chick-fil-A: Budget Chicken Sandwich Combo

Chick-fil-A kids meal and bag
Slickdeals/Chick-fil-A

An often overlooked value play at fast food restaurants is the kids meal. One of the best places to get one is Chick-fil-A. The portions may seem smaller and the toy may not interest you, but you can actually get a cheap, full-fledged meal by making some customizations.

This hack utilizes the chicken tender kids meal. While ordering, you can add a bun, add pickles on the side, choose a drink, and swap the toy out for an ice cream cone. Once you get your food, you can make your own Chick-fil-A sandwich by combining the bun, chicken tenders, and pickles. Don’t forget to ask for sauces to make it even better. Not only do you save a couple of bucks with this method, but you get a dessert as well!

6. McDonald’s: 2 Items That Hit the Same for Cheaper

Big Mac and fries
Unsplash

McFlurry

On the topic of dessert, don’t spend extra for the McFlurry just because it has a crazy spoon! Instead, order a hot fudge sundae and ask to add M&Ms or crushed Oreos on top. Mix it yourself and you’ve essentially got a McFlurry at a 15% discount.

Big Mac

For nearly half the price, you can enjoy the taste of a Big Mac by making some substitutions to a McDouble. Instead of ketchup and mustard, ask for Big Mac Sauce and lettuce on the burger. The iconic middle bun will be missing, but it is worth the sacrifice to save a couple of dollars.

7. Taco Bell: Quench Your Thirst During Happier Hour

Baja Blast Freeze
Taco Bell

Happy Hour isn’t just exclusive to higher-end dine-in restaurants, Taco Bell has one too. From 2 pm to 5 pm every day, you can get a Baja Blast Freeze or any regular freeze for just $1. This discount also applies to medium fountain drinks.

From time to time, some food items may also go on sale during Happier Hour. Previously, Taco Bell’s Loaded Grillers were part of the fun at a dollar each. So keep your eyes out for any items they may add to the daily event.

8. There’s An App for That

Chipotle app
Chipotle

Every fast food chain has an app nowadays and they also offer incentives for downloading it. This is probably the easiest way to get free food. Beyond the initial freebie, their apps are one of the best places to find deals and coupons.

Many of these restaurants also feature loyalty programs so you can be rewarded for your patronage. Keep track of your points so you know when you’re due for some more freebies! Each establishment will differ in their calculations for rewards. For instance, McDonald’s has something for you to redeem at every $15 spent whereas Chipotle’s first reward is just chips after hitting $30 worth of points.

9. Discounts Delivered

Uber Eats delivery
Unsplash

Delivery apps such as DoorDash, UberEATS, and Grubhub run promotions all the time. These discounts can be quite large. In the past, they’ve had all sorts of crazy deals, especially for new customers.

Some of the savings were up to 75% off and there were even “On Us” promos that got you a free meal up to $30. Getting your meal delivered through these apps can be expensive. But with the right discount, you’ll still come out ahead even after the fees and tip. To avoid delivery fees and such, there is a pickup option but many times the big coupons only apply to delivered orders.

Many restaurants on these delivery apps also offer deals of their own. This can come in the form of a BOGO, money back when you spend a certain amount, or free items. There are lots of ways to save on these delivery apps so don’t sleep on them!

10. Gift Card Sales

Panera gift cards
Panera Bread

One of the best ways to save on food is to use a gift card. You can find them frequently on sale either online or in stores. Like currently, Panera Bread is offering a 20% discount when you reload a gift card. This means that $12 gets you $15, $20 gets you $25, $40 gets you $50, and so on. Since it is treated like cash at the restaurant, you can combine them with any other deal that you have. This is the ultimate play in the couponeer’s repertoire.

Gift card sales may not be easy to come across, so make sure to set up a Deal Alert for them. The next time one appears, you’ll be notified instantly!