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Nov 11, 2008 06:10 AM

Triangle - Layoff-induced Budget Eating!

Yep, it finally happened - the economic woes hit home and I got the layoff pink slip last week. We're cutting back, obviously, but I don't intend for us to completely become hermits who never treat ourselves to a meal outside of our own kitchen.

Since I'm sure I'm not the only one in this situation - and even for those who are still employed, money's still tight right now - does anyone have any great recommendations for eating out on a budget? Lunches, dinners, whatever - any and all ideas are welcome. Let's eat cheap, folks! :-)

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  1. Sorry to hear about your situation, but it's not exactly rare these days. As a grad. student on a budget, my favorite staple for lunch is Blue Express on Duke's campus. It's in the LSRC building. I can get an entree with side salad and bread there for $6.50. Their daily spread usually includes a pasta dish (yesterday was chicken fettucine), a fish, a meat, and a vegetarian dish (like spinach risotto). One is hard pressed to find a filling meal with fresh ingredients for under that price.

    China Palace in Durham also has a great lunch special. $5.95 gets you an entree with either white or fried rice and an egg roll. It's one of the better if not the best Chinese restaurant around, so at this price it's quite the deal.

    My fallback for dinner a lot of the times is Q-shack in Durham. I think one can get a great 3 veggie plate there for $3.95 or somesuch. Also, they have cheap meat-and-two options that are quite substantial in portion and filling, not to mention salads and baked potatoes.

    Finally, the lunch prices at Pam's Farmhouse in Raleigh just can't be beat. Everything there is made from scratch, and you can get an entree plus two sides with biscuit and hushpuppies for just a little over $6. Here's a photo of a recent meal I had there (with sweet tea and out-of-this-world banana pudding):

    1. Roast Grill in Downtown Raleigh has hot dogs for $2 each, The Food Factory in Cary has daily $5 specials, Havana Grill in Cary gives you a Cuban entre and 2 Cuban veggies for less than $6 at lunch if you select from the days specials on the steam table, La Shish has a design your own platter starting at $6.25 for 2 items and if you are in Pittsboro, Allen and Son has a pretty good burger for less than $3.

      1. Eating out at a taqueria is our treat when the stipend check is low (or non-existent). Loco-Pops or doughnuts from Tasty Bakery in Graham and DiStefanos in Mebane are the dessert of choice (and if you're near Mebane, gas is often 20c/gallon cheaper at that exit than anywhere else in the region, no one can tell me why)

        Ye Olde Country Kitchen (Snow Camp) is where we take people when we're paying but don't have a lot of cash on hand.

        1. So sorry Suzy Q. My household is in the same boat. At least it is easier to cook cheap being home to stir slow stews, etc.!

          Our cheapest "I just have to get out" meals are the $1.50 Polish sausage/drink at Cosco (sauerkraut by request) and the $2.50 banh mi at the Asian Market on Brentwood at Capital Blvd. Snoopies, Tuesdays, $.99 hot dogs, need I say more?

          Moving up a notch or so, at Neomondes we split a shawarma and a sampler plate. Porter's has a 3/$10 small plates that we get at the bar.

          I've also signed up for a number of restaurant newsletter, there have been a few nice specials offered - although we have not been available for most of them.

          The pluses are lunch at nicer places that we were not able to visit during the day. Hoping to try the $9 lunch at The Mint. The $9 options are limited, but it will be a nice way to try them out! Greg Cox on his Epicurean blog (N & O) has a bargain bites segment which is worth watching.

          We are also taking the down time as a chance to eat heartier at lunch, lighter at dinner. We live very close to the greenway and have had some great walks with picnics too. A thermos of hot soup, good bread, cheese & fruit has been perfect in this weather.

          A recent thread on another board mentioned a special at I looked at their Triangle offerings and there are a couple I might do - Blu Seafood in Durham participated.

          Timely topic, looking forward to everyone's suggestions.

          1. We're way past layoff age but enjoy going out to eat often. Here are some of our most recent deals:

            Soup and sandwich lunch last week at 411 West was something like $6 and both were great. I just looked at this week's menu online and don't see it listedl, but perhaps they don't post it online. Or maybe it was just a one time thing. If it's not a regular thing, it should be. We've always liked 411 West for food, service and ambiance.

            Indy last week had Buy One, Get One Free coupon for TGI Fridays. That's not a place we usually go, but their ribs are quite good and two of us could order from their "small portions" menu and get out of there for less than $15 including generous tip. I'll watch for more when I see new Independent.

   offers some good deals. We've tried lots of restaurants that way that we liked enough to return to. Some of them went off the program like An in Cary. Some we thought we'd like but didn't, Le Residence and Blu seafood come to mind, and some were restaurants we visit often, like Tosca. It's nice getting $25 gift certificates for $6 like you can right now, but you need to remember there's a minimum order of (usually) $35 and then adding tip makes it all not as much of a bargain as you think it's going to be. Never the less, it's a wonderful program with some wonderful restaurants on it. We're glad to participate.