18 tactics to maximise all you can eat buffets
Eating out is a bit of a luxury when you're a student. So if you are gonna splurge, better make sure you get your money's worth!Thanks to their maximum cheapness/minimum fuss factor, 'all you can eat' buffets have won the hearts and stomachs of many a student across the UK.
But only a fool would walk through the door without knowing all the tricks to guarantee you're actually getting a good deal. Go in there unprepared and prepare to walk out there dissatisfied, poorer and just a bit nauseous.
We've got a fair bit of experience of all-you-can-eats across the STS team (we like to think of it as a result of our commitment to 'research'), and now we're ready to impart that wisdom onto you, lucky readers. Call it your Buffet Bible, if you like!
Top tips on 'All you can eat' buffets
Do your research
If you live in a big city, chances are you'll have a few decent buffet restaurants to choose from, and they'll vary in terms of types of food, price and value for cash.
Decide what's most important to you and do some research into where you can get the best deal. No one wants to walk out of a restaurant and see the same meal five quid cheaper on the waddle home.
It's also worth reading the small print about what's included in the all-you-can-eat deal, and what's not. You don't want any nasty surprises on the bill!
Stay true to your tastes
So, the Indian buffet place down the road might do an amazing offer on their top-notch food, but remember it's not an amazing offer if you don't actually like curry.
Don't be swayed by the amazing price-to-food volume ratio if you're not too keen on the cuisine – otherwise you're just signing up to eat a whole load of food you don't like.
Where's the value for money if you end up with your head down the toilet afterwards?
Aim for restaurants with a varied cuisine
Variety is the spice of life, or so they say, and having lots of different option to eat at your buffet will help you get through the tough times when you just don't think you can face another morsel.
But seriously, having a range of food instead of just one type of dish will help you to power through for longer, as well as enjoy the experience more.
Some fusion restaurants will offer a few different angles on a type of cuisine – for example Asian fusion places are likely to offer a selection of Thai/Chinese/Japanese dishes – which will reduce the likelihood of you getting bored quickly.
Make it lunch rather than dinner
Pretty much every buffet restaurant you come across will have a different price for lunch and dinner – and in our experience, the price tends to bump up a few quid in the evenings.
Sometimes lunch prices last right up to 5pm, and normally the food on offer is exactly the same (but be careful as some may limit the lunch menus – do your research).
Another great thing about eating like a pig at lunch time is that you have more time to work it off before you go out later… or, if we're being totally honest, before you hoist yourself into bed.
Don't starve yourself
It might seem counter intuitive to go pigging out before you go pigging out, but the last thing you want to do before tackling the all-you-can-eat challenge is starve yourself.
This is because when you don't eat for a while, the size of your stomach shrinks and as a result you won't be able to eat as much as you want to.
Have a decent sized (normal) breakfast in the morning and it will set you right up for the banquet later.
Buffet experts recommend something light and high in fibre like a bowl of cereal, as your body processes these meals quickly. Which brings us on to our next tip…
So, it's a bit of an *ahem* delicate subject, but in order to put more food in your mouth you need to clear out the old stuff!
Moving swiftly on…
There's no point in turning up in a pair of jeans you can barely breathe in, never mind consume your week's worth of calories in a oner.
Joey Tribbiani was on to something with those thanksgiving pants – get your elastic-wasted trousers on and prepare to fill them!
A quick gym sesh will most certainly be the last thing you want to think about once you've slipped into your self-induced food coma, so make sure to get your daily dose of exercise in early.
A good bit of exercise in preparation for the big event will et your blood pumping and give your metabolism a kick-start, meaning you'll be more ready than you've ever been by the time you sit down to chow down.
Drink lots before you go
We have been known to eat a kebab in a hiccup after a night out, but no – we're not suggesting you get the pre-buffet Jagers in.
Your body needs to be well hydrated to help you process what goes down your gullet, so make sure you sip water throughout the day before you go in.
Having a slice of lemon in your water will help you up your buffet game – as the magical yellow fruit aids digestion, reduces bloating and it a natural heartburn preventative.
Go for small portions…of everything
Rather than going all in on one dish that looks particularly tasty, fill your plate up with a little bit of everything on offer. Variety helps to break up the monotony of tastes and allows you to eat more.
It will also give you the opportunity to suss out what tastes best, then you can go back up for seconds (and thirds, and fourths) – as comes with the joy of buffet dining!
There's no point in piling your plate high of prawn toast slices when you're free to go back as many times as you want.
Start with soup or salad
You might be thinking wasting space on the likes of soup or salad would be wasteful, these will actually prepare your body for the chow down to follow.
It turns out there's a bit of science to the idea of having these dishes as a starter dish, as the high water content makes them really easy for your stomach to process.
Think of it as a warm up!
Remember – slow and steady wins the race!
Don't shovel all your food down at once, you WILL regret it later. Taking your time a bit will make you feel less bloated later, and why not take your time to enjoy the experience?
It's also important that you relax and don't get over excited, otherwise you will see your food again and it won't look half as appetising as it did the first time round.
Take a chocolate break
This might sound a bit weird, but if you're eating lots of savoury food and feeling bit nauseous, then eating a small square of dark chocolate can get you back on track.
Having something sweet, even if it's small, will help rebalance your bloody sugar level and perk you up a bit for the next round – and that's the aim of the game!
Start with expensive options
To really get your money's worth, take a look around to see if there are any dishes that have more expensive ingredients in them, and provided you like what's on offer – batter in!
Focus on getting your protein intake rather than carbs, as these will just fill you up and cost next to nothing.
A good example would be king prawns or salmon, which are normally the most expensive things on the menu.
If you're not a fan of seafood, meat joints are also a pricey treat!
Don't down your drink(s)
Okay, so we know we said earlier that you have to be hydrated, but that's before the meal. While you're in the process of gorging, you won't want to be charging up on too much liquid as will fill you up.
Fizzy drinks should be avoided at all costs, as they'll make you feel like you're about to pop!
Drink peppermint tea
Once you've finished the big eat, the only think left to indulge in is some damage control.
Peppermint tea is great for aiding digestion, as well as soothing your stomach, reduce bloating and cure any nausea you may be battling.
So sit back, relax, and reflect on your great work. We're proud of you.
Walk it off
When you think you can just about pull yourself up from your chair, take yourself for a steady walk.
The fresh air and gentle exercise will help you perk back up and work off some of those extra pounds you put on during your chow down.
Finally, make sure you bring supplies with you to deal with a heartburn-shaped ending to your all-you-can-eat experience.
Bring some antacid tablets with you, so you can fight any indigestion you might've inflicted on yourself. We told you to slow down!
While you shouldn't aim to make yourself ill in the first place, it's best to be prepared.
Use this guide as your buffet bible and you should be able to get more for your money the next time you go to an all you can eat extravaganza.
For more solid advice on how to save money when you are eating out check out our eating out on a budget guide.
If you're a buffet expert with an insider tips to share, let us know in the comments below!