Do You Split Meals At Restaurants?

posted by Andrea | 02/29/2012

{splitting a Chinese meal at our local mall}

Dave and I don’t go out to eat all that often — and when we do, we always try to use coupons and gift cards to reduce our out-of-pocket expense. We also have pretty inexpensive taste as Dave’s favorite restaurant is Culver’s and mine is either Fazoli’s or the Chinese place in our local mall!

Another thing we often do to reduce the expense of eating out is splitting one meal. We love going to places like T.G.I.Friday’s, Applebee’s, or Chili’s when they have their special 3-course meals because we’ll split the appetizer, main meal, and dessert. We both get plenty of food, we aren’t overly stuffed, we don’t have to worry about boxing up the leftovers, and we save a bunch of money.

And even though we ALWAYS tip the waitress based on the cost of two full meals, I still sometimes feel super cheap when we split a meal!

However, if we don’t split a meal, we both end up taking leftovers home and we both feel overly stuffed when we leave the restaurant. Plus we end up spending twice as much… it just doesn’t make sense.

I’m assuming Dave and I aren’t the only couple splitting meals at restaurants, so I’d love to hear your thoughts on the issue.

Do you regularly split meals when you eat out? Or do you each get your own meal and take leftovers home? Do you tip the waitress based on the cost of two meals? And do you have any other ways to save money while eating out?

What are your thoughts on splitting meals at restaurants?

Oh, and if you’re interested, here are a few more ways to save money at  restaurants.

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35 comments

  1. cassie

    02/29/2012

    Another thing I do is order the kids meal, especially at Culver’s. Smaller burger and fries, and you get an ice-cream for reduced price and it’s enough for me! My husband can eat a whole meal, so this is a better option for me!

    [Reply]

    dorothyd Reply:

    We do that at Culver’s, too! We all order the kids meal. It’s plenty of food for everyone (even my teenager!) and everyone gets a custard for dessert. I’ve never thought twice about it being “cheap”–it just seems practical.

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  2. Cathy

    02/29/2012

    As you cutie pie little girl gets older–don’t get her hooked on kid’s meals! They are usually very unhealthy–I read an article that said the grilled cheese at applebee’s has the fat caloric intake of an entire week.
    We’ve always just shared our meals with her.

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  3. Amanda @ Newlywed Trek

    02/29/2012

    Splitting meals doesn’t work for us, only because we have different tastes in food. My husband is VERY picky, so when we go out, it’s a chance for me to eat things I don’t get to fix at home, like mushrooms, shrimp, or spicy food. I love to get Chinese food at the mall, but he’ll go for Italian or Chick-fil-A. We do split desserts though!

    [Reply]

    Jen Reply:

    Same for us, Amanda. My husband hates onions, mushrooms, peppers…well, basically flavor and texture. It’s really annoying, actually. So unless I want to settle for cheese ravioli with basic red sauce every single time, it’s best for me to get my own meal.We just don’t go out to eat very often.

    I would love if we could split meals, though! It’s a great idea.

    [Reply]

  4. JD

    02/29/2012

    We don’t split meals. I am not a very large eater and my husband eats like a lumberjack. The few times that I get more food than I am able to consume he generally polishes that off after finishing his meal.

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  5. Ericka

    02/29/2012

    We often split meals. We love to eat the Steak Gorgonzola Alfredo at Olive Garden, but we find that one meal is sufficient to fill us up since it includes salad and breadsticks.

    [Reply]

    Sarah Reply:

    What does Olive Garden charge to supply the “all you can eat” part of one meal (salad & bread) to two people? That would be one awkward part of splitting meals at some restaurants.

    Another way to eat light is to order an appetizer for your meal, depending on the choices.

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  6. Tammy Skipper (@Tammy_Skipper)

    02/29/2012

    We ordered delivery last night but did the exact same thing: split two meals among four of us (two teens might as well be two more adults). We still had leftovers! I think the other reason it makes sense besides money is the waistline. Portions are huge and I cannot imagine how many calories we’d have consumed if we’d each eaten a whole meal.

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  7. Heidi of Operation Organization

    02/29/2012

    It really is a great idea to split meals from a health standpoint as well because serving sizes are SO huge. :)

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  8. Mary Ann

    02/29/2012

    We split meals a lot of times but not always. Chinese restaurants, Olive Garden and then some others where we can get a larger meal that also comes with a salad are where we usually split. I don’t feel bad for doing it and we always tip on 2 meals since the server is serving both of us. Many times, they’ll go ahead and split the food for us in the kitchen and bring it out ready to go.

    We use coupons and gift cards wherever possible and also sometimes will do the 2/$20 deals that some of the restaurants are featuring now where you can get an appetizer, 2 entrees and sometimes even a dessert for $20.

    Since changing our eating habits, we find that eating out is a bit more expensive as sandwiches aren’t in our eating plan. We have been pleasantly surprised at some of the healthier sides that some restaurants are offering now though! But we still look for ways to save when eating out, which is usually about twice a month.

    Oh and we almost always drink water which is free!

    I know some folks love bringing leftovers home and eating them the next day and we do that on occasion too. But I always think “why spend extra on 2 separate meals that we know we’re not going to be able to finish when we can eat at home so much cheaper anyways?”

    [Reply]

  9. Juel

    02/29/2012

    Thank you for pointing out that tipping for two meals is important. If two of you are at a table or both the server is attending to both individuals and should be compensated fairly.

    [Reply]

  10. Angie

    02/29/2012

    The number one thing that adds to my bill at a restaurant is when I order a drink! Sodas are over $2 nowadays, ridiculous! I order just water (free and healthier). It takes some getting used to (I love my diet coke!) but its better for my body and my pocketbook!

    love your blog by the way, organizing is cathartic, no? :)

    [Reply]

  11. HighDesertGal

    02/29/2012

    We almost always split meals. MUCH better for our waistlines and general health. Note: Just don’t try this in France, they get offended.

    [Reply]

  12. HighDesertGal

    02/29/2012

    I found your blog today through pinterest and I think you have many ideas that I will use. Thank you. Following on RSS feed.

    [Reply]

  13. Lisa

    02/29/2012

    We both buy our own meals, but eat the left overs from lunches for 2 days after.

    :)
    Lisa

    [Reply]

  14. L.

    02/29/2012

    how do u get gift cards to resturants?

    [Reply]

  15. Katie

    02/29/2012

    It really depends on where we are going for the meal. If it’s better dining, I typically order a side salad and appetizer, while my husband will order a small steak and small side. Not really to save money, but because I’ll eat it if it’s there, so I choose not to have a big entree. For more casual dining, we do end up splitting an entree, though typically we both will get a side salad or soup to start. Many restaurants charge a split plate fee in our area, so we may end up paying an additional $2-4 to split an entree. And we always tip 30% (or more, depending on the service) for good service, 20% for fair-poor service. In this economy, we simply choose to not eat out as much; but our gratuity percentage stayed the same when we do.

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  16. Christelle

    02/29/2012

    We often split meals, because the portions are usully so huge. At fancier restaurants, we might order either a starter or a main, not both. We tip around 15% of the bill.
    If we don’t finish all, and itt’s suitable, we take takeaways. There was a radio program on this issue a while ago (I’m in South Africa) and while the etiquette gurus said it is not to be done, the chefs mostly agreed that it is a huge compliment for them if someone wants to take the leftovers home for the next day.

    [Reply]

  17. Liz C

    02/29/2012

    We don’t tend to eat out often, but when we do, sharing is typical. We don’t order from kid menus (our kids like *real* food!), but often two children will share one entree, or we’ll put together a selection of appetizers, etc. When we travel, we’ll sometimes do one fast-food meal, and then it’s very normal to get individual sandwiches, but share two orders of fries among the six of us. Everyone gets plenty, but there’s no pressure to “finish it all.” We do tip well, though!

    [Reply]

  18. Jill

    02/29/2012

    We usually go during happy hour and get discounted appetizers as our meal. Between my husband and myself, along with our two toddlers, appetizers are plenty to fill us up. If we aren’t at our favorite restaurant we will each order our own meal and share with the kids. This fills up four people and there are usually leftovers for lunch the following day.

    [Reply]

  19. Nessa

    02/29/2012

    I love splitting meals. We do it to get an appetizer and dessert all the time. I think that if the restaurant minded they would charge a “plate charge” for sharing a meal. Also, places with to-go trays never count.

    You have me craving Chinese.

    [Reply]

  20. Jessica @ Budget For Health

    02/29/2012

    Dave & I will usually split meals when we go out since a $40 entertainment allowance won’t get two people far. If we go out with friends, we usually eat beforehand and just get a small appetizer to split…or dessert :) We just got Chinese food last week and got our own, but it lasted for 3 more meals because they give you so much!

    [Reply]

  21. Jessi

    02/29/2012

    We are horrible at eating leftovers later, we almost never do it, so we definitely split meals if it’s going to be more than we can eat. But my husband can eat a pretty good amount, so sometimes we each get meals and he finishes his whole meal plus half of mine!

    [Reply]

  22. Karla

    02/29/2012

    I live in Canada and I can tell you from traveling to the States often that portion sizes are much larger in the States than in Canada. If my husband and I tried to split the meal we’d both still be hungry. Maybe that’s why there is a smaller percentage of overweight people in Canada?

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  23. Debbie

    02/29/2012

    We don’t split meals but I almost always leave about half my meal to take home for leftovers. We definitely don’t mind eating leftovers so I look at it as getting at least 2 meals out of 1 when we go out. My husband can eat alot, but now I’ve got him thinking about eating less and saving part of his meal for another one the next day…better for the waistline and wallet! I’ve read somewhere that some people even put half of their meal in a takeout box when they FIRST get their meal for portion control and to ensure they save some for another meal.

    [Reply]

  24. jan

    03/01/2012

    Having just visited the US for the first time we were overwhelmed with the portion sizes and how much was packed up ‘to go’. Shared meals make so much sense but her in Australia our meals and drinks are much smaller and it is not common to share, nor is it allowed in many places to take food home incase of mishandling and ensuring health issue and potential litigation. Food here is also much more expensive however we do not have a tipping system.

    So vouchers , 2 for 1 deals, savvy ordering and buffet style is usually the way to go….and or maybe a kids eat free night…

    [Reply]

  25. Julia

    03/01/2012

    I think splitting a meal is awesome! The amount of food we are served at a sit down restaurant is double the portion size your body should require. Did you know this is because they want you to take home the left overs so you will think about their food the next day so they can lure you back. I also like the idea of asking for a box at the beginning of your meal and taking half of the food and putting it in the take home box. This does two things-gives you a meal for the next day as well as keeping your bacteria out of the leftovers for the next day! Two meals for one price….:)

    [Reply]

  26. Barb

    03/01/2012

    My husband & I almost always split meals in nice restaurants when we do go out to eat. We both aren’t picky eaters so it’s easy for us to like what the other one does. Sometimes, we will order separately and then take “to go” boxes for leftovers, which are wonderful! We feel like it’s not wrong to split meals since it can be expensive and by the time you tip, it really adds up, but trying to eat all that food (if you order separately) is not healthy for you and the pounds like to add on.

    [Reply]

  27. Dee@ Small House Life

    03/01/2012

    Hmmm.. well it depends on if we want to take the leftovers home.. because we definitely can’t eat a full meal ourselves.

    Sometimes we each have a salad and then split the entree.

    I don’t know that we actually aim to pay for two meals.. but we generally tip 25-30% unless it’s horrible service.. and then I like to tip 0-10% altho my husband insists we give about 12%

    dee

    [Reply]

  28. Lana

    03/01/2012

    We’ve been splitting meals for at least the last 25 years! Long ago when my husband’s job moved us and our two small children to Denver and paid us per diem to eat out every meal for four months while we lived in a motel, we bought kids’ meals at nice restaurants plus entrees for us — a few times. We very soon realized we didn’t need that much food! And the “splitting” habit was born. We still split meals when we go out and even with our grown-up girls — and usually the little bitty granddaughters also eat off our plates! Son-in-law doesn’t share our interest for sharing meals, however.

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  29. Meredith

    03/04/2012

    Not usually. If the case presents itself we do but that’s rare. The coupons we have in our area are typically Bogo or you have to buy two entrees to get the meal. If we do share, it has to be at a place where you can get a big plate of meat and veggies to go with rice…think thai or chinese. We used to share a lot and I noticed that I was always getting stuck with the smaller portion or eating one French fry at a time while my hubby was eating three to four at a time. I loved him too much not to complain and now we just go to places we all can afford!

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  30. Heidi Gail

    03/07/2012

    We never split meals although we used to feed our toddlers off of our plates. It just seems too cheap (and many restaurants here charge an extra plate charge.) What we do is wait for the BOGO coupons in the mail or newspaper, then we take any extra food home.

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  31. Tina

    03/13/2012

    We share, and so do our kids. We don’t let our 4 kids order off the kid menu because it’s so expensive. We order them a regular meal, and they split it. By ordering off the regular menu, they also get a better selection. I refuse to go out and pay for them to eat mac and cheese or pizza at a restaurant too!

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  32. Melissa

    06/26/2013

    My friend and her husband always share and I think it’s a good way to keep their budget and their waists trim. I think that my husband and I should try it but he likes to eat different things than I do. I do love tapas restaurants, we’ll order three small plates and share everything. When we went on vacation with our daughter and nephews, it was a lot cheaper to order one adult sized chicken strip and fries meal for all four of them, especially because two are under two years old and really don’t eat much yet.

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