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14 Restaurant Meals You’re Wasting Your Money On

Just because the pasta is cheaper than the steak doesn't mean it’s a better deal. Here are the menu items you should never order at a restaurant if you want to get the most out of your money.

Marinated grilled healthy chicken breasts on a stone board,Yuliia Mazurkevych/Shutterstock

Grilled chicken breast

The popular protein might be healthy, but it’s definitely not a good deal. Be wary of any chicken entrée that’s over $25 because chicken only costs the restaurant a few dollars per pound. Plus, in their attempts to prevent salmonella or food poisoning, chefs often tend to overcook chicken, leaving you with a piece of meat that’s as tough to swallow as the amount on your bill at the end of the night. Prepare yourself with these 57 secrets your restaurant server won’t tell you.

Close up Great Burger beefon a wooden tableAndrey Arkusha/Shutterstock

Cheeseburger

Don’t worry, burger lovers. It’s not necessarily the patty itself that’s costing you too much—it’s that slice of American cheese on top. No matter what type of cheese you choose, you’ll likely pay around $1.50 for it, while the restaurant only pays about 29 cents per slice. And sticking to just a plain hamburger when you’re eating out might be better for you anyway.

Homemade Potato Skins with Bacon Cheese and Sour CreamBrent Hofacker/Shutterstock

Appetizers

You might want to pass on those loaded potato skins or fancy hummus plate. Because diners typically choose restaurants based on the prices of their entrées, restaurant owners do their best to keep those prices down. And they make up for that by jacking up the price of other menu items, namely appetizers. In fact, the price of appetizers has risen at a much higher rate than the cost of food in recent years. Check out these 9 gross things restaurants do to save money.

Clay bowl with fresh guacamole, tomatoes, lemon, chips and garlic on wooden table. Diet vegetarian Mexican food avocado.VLADIMIR VK/Shutterstock

Guacamole

Yes, we know guac is extra. But just how much extra is it really? Consider this: It costs Chipotle about 52 cents to make that dollop of guacamole that they’re tacking an extra $2 onto your bill for. Unfortunately, it’s a classic case of supply and demand, and as long as avocado aficionados continue paying that price, it’s not going down anytime soon.

CokeElvan/Shutterstock

Soda

Last time we checked, you could snag an icy-cold 16.9-ounce bottle of Coke for about a buck. But when you go to order the bubbly beverage at a restaurant, you find yourself shelling out over $3 for an eight-ounce glass. And on average, soda at restaurants is marked up about 1,150 percent! Just think about all the money you’d save switching to “I’m fine with just water.” Find out the dirty restaurant secrets that kitchen crews know.

Pasta fettuccine alfredo with chicken, parmesan and parsley on white background close up. Italian cuisine.Elenadesign/Shutterstock

Pasta

Did you know that restaurants usually make more money off of your fettuccine Alfredo order than they do off the 12-ounce ribeye? Which makes sense, given how cheap a box of pasta is at the grocery store and how easy it is to make. The only exception here would be if the pasta is made from scratch, like at an authentic Italian restaurant. To that we say, “Buon appetito!

Homemade Lobster Macaroni and Cheese with Parsley and PepperBrent Hofacker/Shutterstock

Lobster anything

Add “lobster” to any standard dish and you’ll be adding a bunch of bucks, too. Lobster mac and cheese, lobster-stuffed mushrooms, lobster cakes . . . the list goes on and on. And while, yes, lobster is a pricey pick, what you’re usually getting in those menu items isn’t the expensive lobster meat you think you are. It’s often the cheapest claw meat or some type of imitation-meat blend, meaning that you’re way overpaying for the coveted crustacean. Read these 11 strategies for saving money at restaurants, according to people who work there.

colorful cupcakes with different Tastes. Small beautifull cakes on white table top. Close upSabuhi Novruzov/Shutterstock

Dessert

Your stomach may have saved room for dessert, but your wallet didn’t. Desserts are notoriously marked up if you just consider the ingredients. Think about that $6 cupcake you ordered from the gourmet bakery . . . and how a box of cake mix costs about $2 at the store and makes 24 cupcakes. To be fair, a lot of what you’re paying for is the labor from talented pastry chefs. But that doesn’t make it hurt any less when you drop $8 on a slice of red-velvet cake after dinner. Don’t miss these secret menu tricks designed to separate you from your money.

Spanish omelete.Egg dishes.HII_Tokyo/Shutterstock

Eggs

How do you like your eggs? Um, not on the menu of a restaurant, that’s for sure, unless you want to overpay by almost 500 percent. Because if the average egg costs about 19 cents, then in theory, that three-egg omelet you love from IHOP should cost 57 cents, not including labor, sides, or extra ingredients. Yet the menu lists it at $7 (and up)—and that’s just at a lower-cost chain restaurant. Ouch. If you’re also trying to eat healthy, check out these 25 tips for making wise choices at any type of restaurant.

pizzaBrent-Hofacker/Shutterstock

Pizza

You’re spending a lot of dough on that pepperoni pizza you love from your neighborhood joint. And no, we’re not just talking about that crispy crust. While you’re paying upwards of $10 for a large pizza (and often more than that), no single ingredient in a pizza costs more than 15 cents.

Closeup of chicken noodle soup.cobraphotography/Shutterstock

Soup

Chicken noodle soup might soothe your soul, but it’s definitely not making your wallet feel any better. Even a bowl of homemade soup rarely costs a restaurant more than 30 cents to make, yet you’re paying upwards of $6. If you’re really craving a cup of comfort, stick to creamy chowders or stews. These have a lower markup because they’re more expensive to produce. Learn more by checking this list of the 10 most overpriced menu items.

CoffeeAtstock Productions/Shutterstock

Coffee

You might want to think twice before hitting the Starbucks drive-through tomorrow morning on your way to work. Because that grande dark roast you’re spending $2.10 on is only costing the company about 23 cents (and that’s for high-quality beans!). A recent study even revealed that the cup costs more than the coffee itself—32 cents—including the lid and stirrer. If you can’t give up your daily cup of joe, at least take a reusable mug to save some money (and some trees while you’re at it).

Pouring red wine in a glass on a wooden tablerawf8/Shutterstock

Wine

The price of a glass of vino at an upscale bar definitely puts the “whine” in “wine.” After all, you usually end up paying almost as much for one tiny glass (often around $8) as you would for a cheap $12 bottle at the liquor store, which contains four to six glasses. Ironically, the biggest markups are actually on the cheaper bottles, too. The solution? Finding a BYOB restaurant to dine at instead. Check out some of the best restaurant deals around.

Sunny golden-brown pancakes showered with syrup. Butter slowly melts on top of the stack. A dish with tasty breakfast in the foreground.Yuriy Golub/Shutterstock

Pancakes

Whoever thought, “Hey, let’s sell this $1 plate of pancakes for $10” was a genius. Because pancakes are made from some of the cheapest ingredients, like flour and eggs, you know restaurants are making a killing on them. If you want to brunch on a budget, next Sunday morning, try one of these 12 tricks for saving money when you’re eating out.