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Food & Drink

14 tips to maximise all you can eat buffets

Never have the money to eat out as a student? Try all you can eat buffets instead – maximum food for minimum cash.

woman with pizza in buffet

Credit: rybarmarekk (background), ShotPrime Studio (foreground) – Shutterstock

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 ways to guarantee you're actually getting a good deal on eating out.

We've got a fair bit of experience of all you can eats across the Save the Student team (we like to think of it as a result of our commitment to 'research'). And now we're ready to impart that wisdom to you, lucky readers.

Note: We'd just like to point out that we are in no way advocating that you should eat so much it makes you ill. We just want you to get your money's worth...

How to master 'all you can eat' buffet meals

These are the best ways to approach all you can eat buffets in restaurants so that you can spend less and eat more:

  1. Find buffets with the best deals

    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 food, price and value.

    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. We're here to save money on food!

    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.

  2. Choose buffets that suit your food tastes

    buffet trays with different foods

    Credit: Ezume Images - Shutterstock

    The Indian buffet place down the road might do an amazing offer on their top-notch food, but remember that 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.

  3. Aim for restaurants with a varied cuisine

    Variety is the spice of life, or so they say, and having lots of different options to eat at your buffet will help you get through the tough times when you just don't think you can face another morsel.

    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. Or you can opt for a 'round the world' buffet which should have a bit of everything.

  4. Have a buffet meal for 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.

    It's a super-easy way to save money while eating out, as sometimes lunch prices last right up to 5pm. 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 lunchtime is that you have more time to work it off before you go out later... or, if we're being totally honest, before you pass out in bed.

  5. Eat breakfast before going to a buffet

    Eating a healthy breakfast in the morning should set you right up for the buffet later. It should boost your energy levels and help you to avoid snacking before the big meal.

    Buffet experts recommend something light and high in fibre, like a bowl of cereal, as your body processes these meals quickly.

  6. Dress appropriately for a huge meal

    There's no point in turning up in a pair of jeans you can barely breathe in, never mind consuming your week's worth of calories in one sitting.

    Joey Tribbiani was on to something with those Thanksgiving pants – get your elastic-waisted trousers on and prepare to fill them.

  7. Exercise before going to an all you can eat buffet

    Runner tying trainer shoelaces

    A quick gym session 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 get your blood pumping and give your metabolism a kickstart, meaning you'll be more ready than you've ever been by the time you eat.

  8. Drink plenty before the meal

    No, we're not suggesting you have pre-drinks before heading to the buffet.

    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 is a natural heartburn preventative.

  9. 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.

    They'll often display the most expensive food in smaller portions to encourage you to take less, but keep in mind they'll probably have more in the kitchens.

    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) – which brings us to our next tip.

  10. Don't overfill your plate as you can have seconds

    As well as breaking up the monotony, having smaller portions has the added benefit of helping you serve up plates of food that you'll be able to finish.

    With the option to go back for seconds, don't risk getting more food than you can actually eat. That will just lead to you feeling uncomfortable and the leftover food going to waste.

  11. Start with expensive food options

    lobster with ice and garnishes

    Credit: Alexander Raths - Shutterstock

    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, get stuck in.

    Focus on protein rather than carbs, which will just fill you up and often aren't as expensive.

    Good examples would be king prawns or salmon, which are usually some of the most expensive things on restaurant menus. If you're not a fan of seafood, meat joints are also a pricey treat.

    If there's a set order to the buffet, they often put the expensive stuff near the end (when your plate is nearly full) – don't fall into this trap! Make a beeline for them first.

  12. Use multiple plates for your buffet food

    Think tactically and use a few different plates for optimum meal curation. Think about it. Do you really want hot meat juices to mix with your coleslaw?

    Try using one plate for hot food and one for cold, or splitting everything up into separate courses.

  13. Avoid fizzy drinks

    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 guzzling down too much liquid as drinks will fill you up.

    Fizzy drinks especially should be avoided at all costs, as they'll make you feel like you're about to pop.

  14. Lessen discomfort with post-buffet damage control

    Once you've finished the big eat, the only thing left is damage control.

    Peppermint tea is great for aiding digestion, as well as soothing your stomach and reducing bloating.

    When you think you can just about pull yourself up from your chair, take yourself for a steady walk, as the fresh air and gentle exercise will help you perk back up. And if you're using one of the apps that pay you to walk, it's a win-win.

    Then sit back, relax, and reflect on your great work. We're proud of you.

And remember, buffet doggy bags make a great filler for the freezer.

Laura Brown

WRITTEN BY Laura Brown

Laura Brown, Head of Editorial at Save the Student, is an award-winning writer with expertise in student money. She project manages influential national student surveys and has presented findings to MPs in Westminster. As an expert on student issues, Laura has been quoted by the BBC, the Guardian, Metro and more.
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