Eating the Entertainment Coupon Book

by Amber on January 12, 2010

There’s nothing I love more than a good bargain. I’m a thrift store junkie and a garage-sale hound. I know just the right hour to visit the farmers’ market when the farmers bag up dozens of fruit and sell them for a mere $3. Yet, when it comes to restaurant coupons, I am often leery. I wonder if there’s a reason the establishment needs to lure customers in with the promise of “free.”
When I first moved to Sacramento more than eight years ago, my husband and I bought our first Entertainment Coupon Book at the suggestion of a colleague. After all, we were fresh out of college and didn’t have much to spend on eating out. Importantly, we didn’t know our way around Sacramento. Trying new restaurants from the coupon book helped us begin to navigate our new city.

That first experience was mixed: some places were great, others lousy. After a while, we developed favorite spots that we visited again and again, so we stopped buying the coupon book. A long time has passed since then.

In this economy, we have cut back our dining adventures largely due to cash flow. Lately, we find ourselves flipping through newspapers on a hunt for coupons before choosing a dining location. So, the coupon book suddenly seemed like a great idea again. After all, if there are only five restaurants in the book that you like, you’ll still save money. Those coupons are all buy-one-get-one-free deals. You make up for the price of the book in your first two or three dinners. Even on a budget, we find ourselves going out a few times per month. In a year, we’ll surely make a dent in that book.

Now that I have the handy coupon book in my possession, I thought it would be an interesting experiment to see how well I can actually eat while using coupons. By eating “well,” I mean eating healthy (except for the occasional pizza splurge).

Realistically, I know I need to make a home-cooked meal to get the most health mileage out of a meal. So, when I eat out, I typically gauge health by whether I’ve had fresh vegetables, a lack of oil and fried foods, that sort of thing. It’s not a perfect system, folks. It’s coupon-eating.

I don’t recommend that anyone try eating at every restaurant in the coupon book. In fact, the first thing I did was to rip out all the fast food joints, the hot dog stands, BBQ spots, and the high-calorie-filled establishments that I know I’ll never attempt to visit. Now, I’m ready for adventure…

Wish me luck!

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