You can still go out for a good meal even with a tight budget; you just have to be very vigilant about sticking to your guns on the pricing and what you are ordering. Every restaurant is set up to get you to spend the most they can, so you may need to come up with a mantra to keep chanting! If they offer smaller portions for less money, this is usually a good deal because the regular portions are very large and anything smaller is usually about right anyways. Don’t order drinks, even cola, just have water with dinner. Most drinks start at $2.00 for the cheap stuff. Split dishes, (if the restaurant doesn’t charge a fee) most times we would all like to try something new anyways.
Another money issue is value. If you live alone or it is just you and a partner and you don’t have all of the fixings for say a favorite salad or other dish, it can be much more of a value for your dollar to order this when dining out. Because restaurants go through food so much faster than an individual can, you don’t have the guilt at throwing out all of fresh veggies or fruits that you know you won’t finish in a week or so. Also, there are some dishes you may just want to make at home and steer clear of in a restaurant, it could be one you like making or doesn’t have a lot of clean up, or is very economical like ramen noodles. Save the fancier and more clean up dishes for when you dine out.
Have it your way. There are times when you see something on the menu and if they would just tweak it a bit you could really go for a certain entree. Most restaurants will gladly work with you up to a point. It really is a pain to hear the person order the “macaroni and cheese, but I don’t want elbow macaroni and I don’t really want the cheese . . .” These days chefs are used of the vegan version, the heavy meat version, the egg but no cheese version, just don’t try to re-invent the wheel, that is for when you cook it yourself at home.
Some of my fondest memories are from when all of my favorite people have gotten together and had a meal at our favorite restaurant. It’s funny, but when I recall these events I usually can remember what I had ordered even!