The cost of living in the UK has increased at its fastest rate for four decades, as soaring energy bills puts millions of households under pressure.
Consumer Prices Index inflation rose to 9 per cent in the year to April, up from an already high 7 per cent in March, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.
As we face higher bills – on everything from energy to food shopping – new research from Advertising Week Europe suggests that eating out is one of the first things people will try cut back on, with more than two-thirds of consumers saying this is where they would try make savings.
But many of us are looking for ways to still do the things we love for less. So is it possible to still enjoy eating out, without it costing the earth?
Go al fresco As the weather improves, there’s one really easy way to eat out: going al fresco.
TV presenter, money expert and MoneyMagpie founder Jasmine Birtles (moneymagpie.com) recommends having a picnic, saying: “We may as well use the good weather and all of our parks – plus, it’s great for a date.”
Get into mystery shopping
Having tried it herself, Birtles is a big advocate for mystery shopping.
“You go as a normal customer, but you get your money back for what you’ve spent, and write up a report of the experience,” she explains. “You get a certain amount of money to spend, and a little bit of pay on top of that. It’s a great way to eat out for free.”
Birtles suggests signing up at JKS (jksmysteryshopping.co.uk), but also urges caution as some sites might operate with ‘pay-to-join’ schemes.
Shop around for deals
Shopping around for the best deals and discounts, and picking your days wisely could help you save some cash.
“OpenTable.com has great deals near you, and if you go earlier in the evening you will get a cheaper meal,” says Birtles.
“Voucher sites like Groupon (groupon.co.uk) have special deals if you want to save money while celebrating a special occasion.”
Verena Hallam, money blogger at Surviving To Saving (survivingtosaving.com), also recommends getting bang for your buck at a chain restaurant. “Chain restaurants often offer regular offers, such as 50% off Pizza Express pizzas with their app, so keep an eye out for these deals,” she says.
“Searching for restaurant voucher codes when planning where to go is always a good idea, or you can make the most of dinner clubs such as Gourmet Society or Tastecard, both of which offer free trials, which give you discounts at some chains.”
And don’t forget to ask about any discounts that may come with your occupation.
Hallam says: “If you work for the NHS, you’ll often be given discount if you have a Blue Light Card, or via schemes you can sign up to using your NHS email address – and don’t forget about student discount if you’re still at uni.”
Get dessert out
If you are desperate for an evening out but are a bit tight on money, consider eating dinner at home and going out for ice cream, or another cheaper dessert.
Order tap water or find a BYOB near you Hallam says: “Skipping drinks and asking for tap water is a great way to reduce your bill, and some restaurants will even allow you to bring your own booze – but check in advance whether there is a corkage fee.”