How to Read a Menu to Save Money

Menus are specially designed to get us to spend more when we’re eating out. That means that as a diner, you’ll want to be on guard every time you’re at a restaurant, to make sure that you don’t fall for menu-design tricks that will try to part you from your cash. Your concern with saving money need not interfere with your dining experience, however. Just keep in mind these simple tips, and you’re sure to spend less when you head out.

Look at the Prices First

Menu designers purposely often won’t put the prices lined along the right side of the menu, since that would make it easy for you to scan down and choose the cheapest items. They want you to read through the succulent descriptions of expensive dishes first, so that you’ll be enticed to spend more than you would otherwise. To resist ┬áthose admittedly delicious-sounding descriptions, force yourself to find the prices and to consider them before you decide on what to order. Even if they’re cleverly listed just after the descriptions, or listed without dollar signs, look at them and think about price as you’re making your meal decisions.

Beware the Upper Right Corner

The prize spot in a two-page menu, according to experts, is the upper right corner on the second page. This is where your eyes will fall first, so it’s where the priciest items are likely to be. Yes, you’ll look there first, like everyone else, but resist deciding immediately that you want to order whatever is described in that spot. Check out the whole menu, including the more affordable appetizers, sandwiches, or smaller dishes that might be tucked away in the menu’s far corners.

Know What’s Included

Many restaurants have entrees that don’t include salads or side dishes. Read the menu carefully so you know exactly what you’re getting before you order. That way, you won’t be put on the spot when discovering that your pot roast doesn’t automatically come with mashed potatoes, leading to an impulse purchase. The more you know before you order, the more rational you’ll be when you do.

Don’t be Fooled by Flowery Language

Often, menu designers and writers will use the power of language to make you desire the more expensive items, while offering only a spare description of more affordable fare. Don’t be fooled. If you want a chicken sandwich, order a chicken sandwich.

Menu reading is an art. If you spend some time deciphering this art form, you’ll save enough money to be able to go out as often as you’d like.