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Take the Bite Out of Dining Out

Americans are dining out more and more. Here's how to do it for less

Breakfast is the most important (and cheapest) meal of the day. Particularly when traveling, consider eating a hearty breakfast. It is usually the least expensive meal you can eat in a restaurant, and having a big repast in the morning will help you eat less throughout the day. Also, keep an eye open for restaurants that serve breakfast all day long for some tasty values.

Try lunch bars for a carry-out dinner. Self-serve lunch bars — where you buy hot and cold foods by the pound — are all the rage these days among office workers. In the late afternoon, many lunch bars mark down the food they have left, since they're not open for dinner. Consider grabbing some for a bargain-priced carryout.

Kids eat free. Check out Mykidseatfree.com for a nationwide directory of thousands of dining establishments where children can eat for free or at a discount when accompanied by an adult.

Ask for a doggie bag. Thank Heaven, the days of being too embarrassed to take your restaurant leftovers home with you are long gone. Letting food go to waste is so last millennium. Make it a point to eat your leftovers within 24 hours.

Make home cooking faster than fast food. The key to reducing how much you spend on fast food and carryout is to make eating at home more convenient. Cook meals ahead of time in batches, and always have some simple-to-make meal ingredients on hand. That way, eating in will be easier than eating out.

When you do dine out, please don't give us cheapskates a bad name. Remember to always tip accordingly, and base the gratuity on the total value of your meal, before any coupons or other discounts.

Jeff Yeager is the author of The Ultimate Cheapskate's Road Map to True Riches and The Cheapskate Next Door. His website is www.UltimateCheapskate.com and you can friend him on Facebook at JeffYeagerUltimateCheapskate or follow him on Twitter.

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