by Chrysa Smith

Like a good meal, who doesn’t love a good deal, right?
And yes, they can be found for eateries where you don’t have to order your meal by number. Check out these ideas: Next reservation, make it online. It doesn’t even matter if it’s last minute (well, there is a cut-off within maybe an hour or less before the reservation). Just log on, register for an account and start making reservations. Once your dining experience is complete, you will accumulate dining points and probably be asked to fill out a review of your dining experience.Once you collect a certain number of points, when you log on, it will tell you that you have enough to redeem a coupon. Check it off and you’ll receive it in the mail, to spend at any participating restaurant. You save yourself a phone call, while saving toward a ‘free’ meal. Of course, not every restaurant participates in the program, but the selection is quite good in the Philadelphia, New York, New Jersey metro areas. On this site, you can purchase gift cards for restaurants at a discount off face value. So, you could potentially nab a $50 gift card for maybe $30; a $25 card for maybe $15/$20. The catch? They do have expiration dates, but think about this: What a nice gift for the hubby or boyfriend, right? Pick your favorite, buy him a gift card, tell him you saved money and you get to eat more for less. He’ll love you for being so considerate and thrifty. Tricky? Yes, but it’s a win-win all around. There’s also a new feature to sign up for a ‘dinner of the month’ gift—but I haven’t tried that feature.

Bonus Points. Check your AMEX or airline bonus point accounts. If you’re not using those free tickets, we’ve redeemed ours for restaurant gift cards. Now, they’re often for restaurant chains. But there are some quite nice locations for lunchtime eating.

Online Coupons. For the corner deli or bagel bakery, you can often find coupons online. Sometimes they are right on the website; other times, if you sign a guestbook, you’ll get them sent to your email account.

Have you found other ways to foil the economy? Share your money-saving dining out tips with readers. Click on COMMENT below, and leave yours.

Next Dish: An Affair to Remember