Saving Money

Save Money With Appetizers For Dinner

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I’m a big fan of eating at home. Comparatively speaking, cooking for yourself is enormously cheaper. But there are situations where a person doesn’t have a choice. Whether you’re in a time crunch, running around town, or away on vacation, sometimes either the meal is at a restaurant, or you simply don’t eat. My wife and I were in just one of these situations as we were out of town this past weekend.

We stopped in the sports bar located inside our hotel for something to drink. Our server informed us that it was happy hour and recited the drink and appetizer specials that were offered for the next couple of hours. We each ordered a drink, deciding at the moment to pass on food. A little while later, a woman sitting at the table next to us asked if we wanted some pizza. She had ordered the happy hour appetizer pizza and could only eat a few pieces. Not being one to turn down anything free, we thanked her repeatedly for her generosity and moved the remaining pizza to our table.

The pizza was delicious.

I picked up the menu to see what the pizza cost. I was surprised to find that the 12 inch happy hour pizza was priced at $5, and the left over pizza we received was more than enough food for the two of us. While $5 may be more expensive than most make at home frozen pizzas, for a meal at a restaurant it was down right miserly.

The experience illustrated an interesting point: Happy hour specials can make for an inexpensive dinner out.

Happy Hour Timing

Happy hours usually coincide with when many people get off of work for the day, and head to a bar to socialize with friends. That also happens to be the dinner time. In an attempt to attract the happy hour crowd, bar and restaurants run happy hour specials on both drinks and food, usually appetizers.

That’s An Appetizer?

When you think of appetizer, you might think of onion rings, cheese curds, or nachos. But many appetizer menus also contain chicken wings, sliders, or pizza. The latter group sounds quite a bit like a meal.

Portion Size

I think we’ve had the fact that American eat way too large of food portions hammered into our brains over the years. Β An appetizer dish can easily be the amount of food that a person should be eating for a meal, many times even more. The pizza my wife and I shared is a perfect example. The woman that originally ordered it could only eat few pieces. My wife and I ate the rest. All three of us got our dinner from a single $5 pizza.

Maybe you’re eating out because of necessity, or maybe you just chose to take the night off from cooking. Finding a place with great happy hour specials can be just what the budget ordered.

Have you ever eaten happy hour appetizer specials for a meal? What was the best value you’ve found?

About the author

Brock Kernin


  • @No – I feel like we didn’t connect on what actually happened, or on the point of my post. My wife and I initially skipped looking at the appetizer specials because we thought we would wait and have a full dinner after a little while. The very generous stranger was only the stimulus for us to take a second look at the the specials and realize that they had some very good deals that could actually serve as a full meal if we were to return to the restaurant (which we did the next day). And yes, it would be cheaper to not go to a restaurant or bar at all, but, as stated in the post, there are times that we either are forced to eat a restaurant due to circumstances….OR there are also times we all just want a night off from cooking. The point of the post is that when those circumstances arise, taking a look at the appetizer happy hour menu may give us a way to eat a great meal, at a relatively inexpensive price.

  • This is definitely an easy way to score inexpensive food, and generally on the quick. My concern would be that it’s mostly comfort or dive food, but if you’re eating out you know it probably isn’t healthy for you. πŸ™‚

    That being said, I’m curious about decent frozen pizzas for less than $5. I’m seriously wondering if our frozen section is overpriced or I’m a frozen pizza snob. Our good frozen pizzas (Dogtown, STL) run $7-8 in the freezer section. Even Freschetta and DiGiorno are at least $5 unless on decent sale.

    Please enlighten me if this is out of whack for what y’all see.

  • Yep, whenever we hit happy hours we load up on appetizers rather than pay for entrees. Even so, some happy hour pricing has gotten a little suspect. I don’t think $7 is a deal for an appetizer. And it means I’m probably in the wrong bar!

  • @Daniel Voyles – I guess it depends upon what you call a “decent frozen pizza.” I like Tombstone, and can pick up one of those for about $4. There’s also a regional pizza called Heggies that will run about $8 or $9. That’s my favorite pizza EVER!

  • @Abigail – $7 does sound a little high for an appetizer, depending upon what it is I guess. the $5 pizza was fairly large – obviously enough to feed two. I call that a pretty good deal…

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