Finances & Money How we get a lot of food for little money

If you live in a moderately urban area, near or in a big city, you may be interested in For years, I kept ignoring the emails and advertisements for until one day a friend of my wife brought her family down for a visit to D.C. from PA. They always hear us talking about Ethiopian food (which is awesome here in the D.C. area), and since they are very frugal, they decided to investigate deals on any Ethiopian restaurants near us so they can try it out. That’s when they emailed us a coupon code for 80% off a $25 gift certificate for our favorite Ethiopian restaurant (Langano in Silver Spring, MD).

I read up on all the fine print and decided it was a good deal, so I actually purchased two gift certificates for $2 each: one to use with our guests and one to use for ourselves another time. I haven’t yet figured out how 80% off of $25 got it down to $2 each, but I took it anyway. Weird math.

Using Our Gift Certificate

Each restaurant that participates in must agree to honor the gift certificate, but they can opt for a number of restrictions. In the case of Langano, we had to purchase $35 worth of food to use the $25 gift certificate. With 4 people and a toddler, we could easily do that. That means we would spend a minimum of $12 ($35-$25+$2) for the meal. Not bad for 4.5 people!

Additionally, drinks weren’t included in the $35, and we couldn’t use it for specials or with other coupons, and they would add an 18% gratuity onto the order. We were fine with all this as we always just order water anyway, and I understand why they add gratuity onto the original bill: so people don’t skimp and tip on the discounted amount. Normally, though, I give 20% tip at this restaurant, so they’re actually losing out a bit, but I just chipped in a couple more bucks.

One thing we didn’t realize before using the coupon was that you need to present it before ordering. The main reason is that it takes time to run it through the verification and they don’t want you to wait till it’s time for your check to go through the whole process. A minor snafu that we corrected the next time we used a certificate.

All in all, we were happy with the gift certificate, since I think we spent under $20 in the end for all of us to eat an Ethiopian feast (which is a LOT of food, contrary to what you might think).

More about Certificates

One downside of the coupons is if it’s just one or two of you, you might not easily get up to the $35 limit for the $25 gift certificate. We used it for another restaurant in Virginia and we had to buy $9 worth of desserts at the end to get up to the desired amount. Luckily we took the desserts to a party later and everyone enjoyed it, but I recommend planning out your meal beforehand to make sure you’re not going to be spending needlessly. The proprietor really did require us to hit $35 or more before using our certificate.

As for who the site is good for, if you live in at least a semi-metropolitan area, you have a very good chance at finding a wide array of restaurants that participate. Here in D.C., there are literally hundreds within 20 miles of our home or work. It’s a great opportunity to try more expensive menu items for a deeply discounted price, or tack on that dessert you’ve always craved but could never justify the price.

Some more things to note:

  • There are always discount codes, so you should never have to spend the full $10 for the $25 certificate. See the end of this article for the current offers, or just search online for “ coupon code”.
  • While they call them gift certificates, they’re really coupons as there are restrictions you have to meet.
  • Often, though, you can easily meet the restrictions with some planning. When you add the certificate to your cart, you can see the restrictions. Some of the restrictions might include:
    • Minimum purchase amount
    • Minimum number of entrees
    • Exclusion of certain purchases toward this minimum, like drinks, tax, tip, etc.
    • Restriction as to which hours of the day, or days of the week
    • Mandatory tip of X% on the pre-discount amount
    • Dine-in only
    • Cash only
    • One certificate per month max
  • There is the possibility that the restaurant could drop out of the program in between the time you buy the certificate and when you go to redeem it. Always call ahead to make sure they’ll accept it, and if they don’t you can redeem it for credit on to buy a different certificate. That’s something you can’t do with Entertainment Book coupons.
  • Watch out for third-party offers when you checkout on Some of these offers result in monthly charges, while is a one-time purchase.

Overall, I’m happy with my experience, and even bought 5 more certificates to other area restaurants we’ve never tried when they had a 90% off sale (again, how does 90% off $25 cost only $1 each?). Tonight we’re going to try a restaurant in Frederick, MD that we never knew existed if it weren’t for!

Current Coupon Codes for

I’ll try to keep these up to date, but take note of the offer expiration date before you click through or try to use the coupon code:

(Note that the banner below is for Washington, D.C., but it’s just a localized banner I grabbed. All major cities have participating restaurants):

About the author

Clever Dude


  • I am kicking myself for not buying a ton of these back on September 9th. They had a 90% discount so a “coupon” was only $1.

    Next time you and the wife are worried about hitting the minimum purchase amount, give me a call. I will gladly help out!

  • I LOVE! I love to use it when people invite us to dinner and choose the place – I look up the place and feel a huge score when they have the restaurant there

  • @TJ, it was an Ethiopian restaurant called Tajitu on E. Patrick:

    Eventually I’ll write reviews of all the Ethiopian restaurants I’ve tried in this area since I always rave about them, but as for Tajitu, I’d say it’s about middle-of-the-pack on my list. The food wasn’t greasy (wife liked that), but it’s probably the most expensive Ethiopian restaurant we’ve ever been to, at least as expensive as Zed’s in Georgetown, DC. But with the gift certificate, our $50 bill (after tip/tax) was knocked down to about $24. That was 1 appetizer and 2 entrees (I got a soda and I think she included it in the overall price).

    The wife got the veggie combo (you choose 5 of the veggie items) and she enjoyed it as it had a couple items we hadn’t seen before, or cooked in ways we hadn’t tried.

    And me, well I got the Kitfo which is a raw beef dish. I’ve gotten it at 2 other restaurants and Tajitu’s was less juicy, but just as flavorful and tender, and with no fat. They mixed the chili pepper into the meat rather than serve on the side like the other places. I’d only recommend it if 1) you’re adventurous and 2) you love meat. Otherwise, go for a meat sampler to try a number of items.

  • I met the founder of a little while back and was struck by his smarts about web design and usability. has a lot of great deals…and it’s also pretty easy to navigate the site.

  • I know someone at work that did this. He paid $10 for something like $200 in restaurant cash. He hasn’t gone to any of them yet though — I’ll be eager to hear what he thinks.

  • If you buy the certificates throgh then you gat cashback through paypal…’s usually 20% cashback and it can add up!! I love for my family of 6. We use them on road trips and eat at nice places for the price of fast food!!

  • I’ve had use and thought it was great until just recently. I purchased 4 certificates at for one of my local resturant and they no longer honor them. I thought I would contact customer service and see if I can exchange. No responses to my email or no return calls. Aliittle disappointed, I just would be very careful on the quantities of the certificates. A few dollars can add up.

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